The Pure Taste of Success
Ice cream weather. It’s a familiar expression. But it took on another dimension when the Met Office developed an online game, in collaboration with the Universities of Bristol and Cambridge, as part of the new LWEC-accredited PURE (Probability, Uncertainty and Risk in the Environment) initiative. No fewer than 8000 people tried out the game, assuming the role of mobile ice cream seller who had to decide how much ice cream to buy and where to sell it based on weather forecasts that presented probabilistic information (e.g. ‘an 80% chance of rain’) using combinations of numerals, symbols and colours.
“All kinds of important business and personal decisions are based on Met Office weather forecasts,” says Dr Vera Hazelwood, Director of the PURE Research and Knowledge Exchange Network. “So it’s vital that the information conveyed in them is as detailed and accurate as possible and that users interpret it correctly.”
The results collated from the game will now aid the development of new, more effective weather forecasting products that can benefit decision-makers in all walks of life.
“It’s clearly demonstrated that people make better decisions when presented with probabilistic information”, comments Mark Harrison of the Met Office.
Similarly, across the whole PURE programme, which will conduct a range of groundbreaking scientific research, a key aim will be to pinpoint ways of communicating the results of this often complex work – work frequently bound up with difficult concepts such as risk and uncertainty – in simple language and readily comprehensible ways.
“The potential benefits, in terms of ensuring that decision-makers actually use the research results effectively, really could be enormous,” says Vera Hazelwood.