What's your weather? Americans see 300 billion forecasts each year

Weather forecasts "worth" $31.5 billion

US weather map
One way or another nine out of 10 adult Americans get weather forecasts an average of more than three times each day, adding up to 300 billion forecasts each year. And not only that, most people were satisfied with weather forecasts and had fairly high confidence in forecasts with a lead time of one to two days, despite appearances to the contrary. If you lived in the oft-clouded-over Northeast this month, you pretty much hate the weather folks at this point, but that wasn't part of the survey

Those numbers are the result of the first-of-its-kind study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) that looks at the public's perceptions, uses, and values of weather forecasts. In addition to the survey, scientists wanted to quantify the value of placed on forecasts.  While the authors cautioned that it is difficult to put a dollar figure on the value of forecasts, the survey indicated that households place an average value of 10.5 cents on every weather forecast obtained. This equates to an annual value of $31.5 billion.  In comparison, the cost of providing forecasts by government agencies and private companies is $5.1 billion, the scientists said.

"Weather forecasts equate to an enormous volume and multiplicity of information, when you account for the array of forecast providers, communication channels and the size and diversity of the U.S. population," said NCAR scientist and lead paper author Jeffrey Lazo in a release.

Understanding how individuals use day-to-day weather information can help direct the development of more relevant and valuable weather forecasts and warnings by providers like the National Weather Service, Lazo added. Gaining a better understanding of people's attitudes and behaviors toward forecasts also provides valuable information to emergency managers.

 Although the number of forecasts an individual obtains varies from day-to-day, depending on factors like weather events and planned daily activities, the researchers found that on average individuals received forecasts almost 4 times a day.   Of those 85% of respondents said that more than half the time they obtain forecasts simply to know what the weather will be like.

The peak periods for accessing forecasts were the early morning, early evening, and late evening hours. Results also showed the most common source for forecast information came from local television stations: 33.7 times per month on average.

Cable television and radio were the next most popular sources.  Web pages and newspapers were less common sources overall, but both were a daily or more frequent source of forecasts for 27% of respondents.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and will be published this month in a paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Results were extrapolated from 1,465 of the 1,520 individuals who said they used weather forecasts.

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