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Geoscience Communication An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2018-12
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 25 Jul 2018

Research article | 25 Jul 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Geoscience Communication (GC).

Can seasonal hydrological forecasts inform local decisions and actions? An in-the-moment decision-making activity

Jessica L. Neumann1, Louise L. S. Arnal1,2, Rebecca E. Emerton1,2, Helen Griffith1, Stuart Hyslop3, Sofia Theofanidi1, and Hannah L. Cloke1,4,5 Jessica L. Neumann et al.
  • 1Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 2European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECWMF), Reading, UK
  • 3Environment Agency, Kings Meadow House, Reading, UK
  • 4Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 5Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract. While this paper has a hydrological focus (a glossary is included) the concept of our decision-making activity will be of wider interest and applicable to those involved in all aspects of geoscience communication.

Seasonal hydrological forecasts (SHF) provide insight into the river and groundwater levels that might be expected over the coming months. This is valuable for informing future flood or drought risk and water availability, yet studies investigating how SHF are used for decision-making are limited. Our activity was designed to capture how different water sector users, broadly flood forecasters, water resource managers and groundwater hydrologists, interpret and act on SHF to inform decisions in the West Thames, UK. Using a combination of operational and hypothetical forecasts, participants were provided with 3 sets of progressively skilful and locally tailored SHF for a flood event in 3 months' time. Participants played with their day-job hat on and were not informed whether the SHF represented a flood, drought or business-as-usual scenario. Participants increased their decision/action choice in response to more skilful and locally tailored forecasts. Flood forecasters and groundwater hydrologists were most likely to request further information about the situation, inform other organisations and implement actions for preparedness. Water resource managers more consistently adopted a watch and wait approach. Local knowledge, risk appetite and experience of previous flood events were important for informing decisions. Discussions highlighted that forecast uncertainty does not necessarily pose a barrier to use, but SHF need to be presented at a finer spatial resolution to aid local decision-making. Better communication of SHF that are tailored to different user groups is also needed. In-the-moment activities are a great way of creating realistic scenarios that participants can identify with, whilst allowing the activity creators to observe different thought-processes. In this case, participants stated that the activity complemented their everyday work, introduced them to ongoing scientific developments and enhanced their understanding of how different organisations are engaging with and using SHF to aid decision-making across the West Thames.

Jessica L. Neumann et al.
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Jessica L. Neumann et al.
Jessica L. Neumann et al.
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Short summary
Seasonal hydrological forecasts (SHF) can predict floods, droughts and water use in the coming months, but little is known about how SHF are used for decision-making. We asked 11 water sector participants what decisions they would make when faced with a possible flood event in 6 weeks time. Flood forecasters and groundwater hydrologists responded to the flood risk more than water supply managers. SHF need to be tailored for use and communicated more clearly if they are to aid decision-making.
Seasonal hydrological forecasts (SHF) can predict floods, droughts and water use in the coming...
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