What IS the PHI-EM experiment and why is it being run?

Since 2015, an ever growing and evolving team of researchers at CIMMS/NSSL have been collaborating with academic researchers from around the country to host annual springtime Emergency Manager (EM) experiments, including the Probabilistic Hazard Information (PHI)-EM experiment.  These experiments were designed to elicit feedback directly from EMs about new technologies under development at the lab. The PHI-EM experiments have specifically focused on gathering feedback about a new technology called Probabilistic Hazard Information.


The PHI developed at NSSL is meant to help all parties in the communication chain make more informed decisions about impending weather threats.  This new PHI includes the probability of a storm to produce tornadoes, severe thunderstorm hazards (including high wind and hail), and lightning in the next hour.  It also updates rapidly, and is most commonly viewed as a plume of probabilities projected ahead of a storm (see picture below). PHI plumes are created by a forecaster using a suite of tools and algorithms.  The forecaster makes decisions about the probabilistic trend of the storm based on his/her tools (e.g., radar, ensemble model data). After creation, PHI plumes are delivered to EMs and Broadcast Meteorologists through the Enhanced Data Display (EDD).  In addition, the EDD offers other useful information about timing, severity, and the anticipated storm track. EMs and Broadcasters then use the PHI plumes to make decisions for their jurisdictions such as sounding sirens or canceling events (EMs), and whether to run a crawl or cut into on-air programming for live coverage (Broadcasters).  


EM feedback is invaluable to the evaluation process.  While PHI may constitute a huge breakthrough on the forecasting end of the chain by conveying richer and very localized forecast information, if the displays are hard to understand or not providing meaningful and needed information on the users’ end of the chain, then more work needs to be done!  Thus, EMs have been brought in as participants to help assess the viability of this new information and product. Specifically, EMs have been asked for their feedback on the types of PHI that have been created thus far as well as the EDD interface to view them. They have been asked to comment on which aspects of PHI are most/least helpful and easy/difficult to use and understand.  Overall, as researchers, we are trying to ascertain the feasibility of the PHI and EDD and move them toward operations!

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