Published: 2011-01-23 23:54:00
Updated: 2011-01-24 02:59:56
Posted January 23, 2011
Updated January 24, 2011
By Nate Johnson
Today was the second full day of activity here in Seattle, but believe it or not, the 91st Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) hasn't even officially started yet! We meteorologists are always working and thinking a couple of days ahead anyway, so that shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
Weather, Climate, and Communication — Working Together
Today provided a relatively "quiet" day, at least as AMS meetings go. That is to say that most of my activities were concentrated in one place for the bulk of the day., but it was far from relaxing! The final day of the workshop on weather, climate, and communication was my focus, starting with a recap of yesterday's presentations and moving quickly into small group discussions. The challenge for the small groups was to come up with one single idea for moving forward. That could be some practical problem that meteorologists and communication scholars and practitioners can collaborate on to solve or some other method to keep the dialog and synergy between our two communities going. The ideas the small groups returned were fantastic and included developing basic communication theory and "best practices" training for meteorologists, climate scientists, and others as well as ideas for communicating risk messages about weather hazards, climate change, and the like in ways that are relevant and meaningful for people. The best news is that the ideas look to be very manageable, and we could see results in a reasonable amount of time.
Communicating When Every Minute Counts
The afternoon session included a rapid fire introduction to the arena of crisis and risk communication, as well as a "tabletop exercise" putting participants in the shoes of a city manager in the midst of a major flood event. Having taking a graduate class in risk communication at NC State, it served as a great review of many of the concepts we learned in class, and the exercise drove it home with a bit of practice. The presenters also discussed the importance of not only the message but how it is communicated — and by whom. The choice of spokesperson in a crisis can make a huge difference: For them to be effective, they have to be trustworthy and empathetic. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was very effective on 9/11 and the days afterward, and potential spokespeople would do well to learn from his example during that dark time in our history.
After the communication workshop, I ducked out to check out WeatherFest. Each year, the AMS hosts an outreach event called WeatherFest. Various groups, agencies, and companies with a weather or climate focus — including local TV stations, the National Weather Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, local high school and college science clubs, and others — set up displays, interactive exhibits, and so forth. It is similar to last year's StormFest at the Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh; I went as much looking for ideas for this year's upcoming StormFest, scheduled for mid-June. Stay tuned for more exciting details!
You may associate Seattle with a certain coffee shop with a green mermaid logo, and you may also think that there is a location of said coffee shop on every block back home. It certainly seems that way here, too, just more extreme. In one building, there are three locations of this coffee shop — and that's just on the first two floors. So, for conference attendees who need a caffeine fix, they are definitely in a target-rich environment!
The Annual Meeting proper begins tomorrow morning with a keynote session on communicating weather and climate, a topic that is clearly close to my heart. I'm looking forward to it — and if I'm going to be on time, I need to get to bed soon!