In February I joined colleagues from the Oxford Martin School who research the usability of probabilistic forecasts to visit the joint EA / Met Office Flood Forecasting Centre. We were learning about how the forecast is produced by shadowing shifts and carrying out semi-structured interviews.
While my Leverhulme Fellowship is focussed on global models for humanitarian response, this was a valuable opportunity to experience the world of flood forecasting outside of the academic research bubble. As scientists it is all too easy to envisage a decision-making process where every aspect can be quantified and therefore automated, so it is important to gain some perspective and observe the benefits in terms of trust and understanding of maintaining a conversation between forecasters and forecast users. Many would perhaps be surprised to learn that issuing a flood warning is a collaborative decision making process, not solely determined by model output.