An Alternative to the “Cone of Uncertainty” that is Flexible, Intuitive, and Desirable for Communicating Hurricane Forecasts
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Description: Materials for Witt, Labe, & Clegg (under review). Abstract: In the United States, the public rely on the National Hurricane Center’s “Cone of Uncertainty” to understand potential future storm hazards. However, these cones are susceptible to misinterpretation and have limited flexibility for displaying compound storm risks. Fundamental problems persist despite efforts to modify the design. Prior work suggests a different form of visualization – animated risk trajectories - have an advantage for conveying potential risk and overcome certain biases related to the cone. The current article explores how animated risk trajectories have an additional advantage from annotations to improve communication of hurricane forecasts, including hazards like storm surge, excessive rainfall, and damaging winds. Validating its potential use, we found that nonexpert observers could accurately perceive risk based on the density of the trajectories and annotations related to size, color, and flicker that were described as signaling various hurricane impacts. By generating hurricane track distributions from statistical or operational forecast output, animated risk trajectories visualizations could be standardized and implemented into existing forecast products and then communicated to the public for decision making. CAPSULE: We explored the utility of a new visualization for communicating hurricane tracks. The Animated Risk Trajectories effectively communicated multiple hazards and solved some shortcomings of the recognizable-but-problematic “Cone of Uncertainty”.