Nurture Nature Center was founded on the need to educate the public about flood risk, and continues to advance the work of flood outreach, education and social science research. Using social science research techniques, NNC has helped advise National Weather Service on how to improve flood forecast products to better improve public response during flood events. Through education and outreach programs, NNC has partnered with agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and National Weather Service (NWS) to help inform communities about how to be better prepared in the event of coastal or riverine flooding events.
Information about NNC’s social science research and other flood projects can be found below, and in greater detail on our Focus on Floods website.
National Science Foundation: Community Flood Forums In 2009, Nurture Nature Foundation was awarded a grant from National Science Foundation to develop and host a series of flood forums in Lehigh Valley communities, including Easton, Lower Mt. Bethel Township and Allentown, all of which were heavily affected by flooding. These forums, which involved science education and dialogue among community leaders, residents and emergency responders, were highly successful in motivating public audiences to learn the science of flooding, and formed the basis of NNC’s Risk to Resiliency forum model. (Funded via NSF Award Number DRL-0917439, August 1, 2009).
Focus on Floods One of Nurture Nature Foundation’s early projects (2009-2012) was the Focus on Floods awareness campaign, funded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to educate residents in the four states of the Delaware River Basin about the use of various flood forecast products and alerts available through National Weather Service. NNF developed a wide range of multi-media educational resources, including videos, a short animated film, classroom posters and coloring and activity pages, and also hosted professional educational workshops and public events around the topic of regional flooding and preparedness. Focus on Floods materials were disseminated widely throughout the Delaware River Basin and across the country, and the Floods website contains downloadable PDFs, the film, and other resources for teachers and educators. (Funded via NOAA Award Number NA09NWS4670005, September 1, 2009.)
Research Study of National Weather Service Riverine Flood Forecast Products In 2012, NNC was one of four institutions funded by NOAA’s Office of Atmospheric Research (Office of Water and Air Quality) to study decision-making during extreme weather events. NNC’s project, “Flood Risk and Uncertainty: Assessing the Flood Forecast and Warning Tools of the National Weather Service” was a social science research study of NWS riverine flood forecast and warning products, and included focus groups and surveys in Easton, PA and Lambertville, NJ. Recommendations from that study have been operationalized by the National Weather Service. More information is available at socialscience.focusonfloods.org. (Funded via NOAA Award Number NA12OAR4590115, September 1, 2012.)
Research Study of National Weather Service Coastal Flood Forecast Products As a follow-up to NNC’s riverine study, in 2014 NNC was awarded a research grant to study NWS’s coastal suite of flood forecast and warning products, with an emphasis on the use of emergency briefings as a communication tool. That grant, “They Had the Facts, Why Didn’t They Act: Understanding and Improving Public Response to NWS Coastal Flood Forecasts,” was funded through NOAA Sea Grant and the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium and involved focus groups and surveys of New Jersey communities affected by Superstorm Sandy. This study resulted in a redesign and standardization of emergency briefings for the Northeast Region of NWS. More information is available at at socialscience.focusonfloods.org. (Funded via NOAA Award Number NA130AR4830227: R/CSAP-2-NJ, January 2, 2014.)
Research Study of National Weather Service Probabilistic Hydrologic Forecast Products Through a grant to East Carolina University from NOAA’s CSTAR program, Nurture Nature Center in 2016 undertook its third social science research study of NWS Products. This project, “Major Risks, Uncertain Outcomes: Making Ensemble Forecasts work for Multiple Audiences,” used focus groups and surveys with residents and emergency managers in West Virginia and Maryland to understand how NWS’ Hydrologic Ensemble Forecast System works and could be improved for various audiences.(Funded to East Carolina University via NOAA Award NA16NWS468000, May 1, 2016, with subcontract to NNC.)
National Research Study of National Weather Service Probabilistic Hydrologic Forecast Products Advancing NNC’s prior research about how various audiences use and understand probabilistic hydrologic forecast information, NNC and East Carolina University undertook a two-year mixed-methods social science research study of three forecast products to propose improvements to the display and communication of uncertainty and probabilistic information in hydrologic forecasts. Specifically, the team studied how: a) Advanced Hydrologic Prediction System and regional hydrographs, b) outputs from the Hydrologic Ensemble Forecast Service, and c) briefings for impact-based decision support services work together to convey the complexity of certainty and uncertainty in short, medium-term and seasonal hydrologic forecasts. Working with the Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center, the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center and the California Nevada River Forecast Center, as well as local Weather Forecast Offices, NNC used scenario-based focus groups, surveys, and interviews to test and develop prototype demonstrations of forecast uncertainty that can be incorporated into operations. Deliverables include a series of user-tested prototype products, developed in cooperation with operational offices as well as research findings and general recommendations for probabilistic communication. (Funded via NOAA Award Number NA18OAR4590365, October 1, 2018).
National Research Study of Weather Prediction Center’s Winter Storm Severity Index (WSSI) This mixed-methods social science study of the Weather Prediction Center’s Winter Storm Severity Index (WSSI), which is an impact-based forecast product, used situation-based virtual focus groups, surveys and interviews to solicit feedback from professional users about the WSSI, how it would be used in decision-making and how its presentation could be improved to be more useful. Site locations included: Jackson, MS; Grand Rapids, MI; Hanford, CA; Omaha, NE; Boulder, CO; and Boston, MA. (Funded via NOAA Award Number NA20OAR4590355, September 1, 2020).
Research Study of Weather Prediction Center’s Winter Storm Severity Index (WSSI) for Alaska This study will further develop the WSSI suite to include a WSSI product specifically for Alaska. It will involve a mixed method social science study to investigate the unique impacts found in Alaska, and to assess how potential professional users of the WSSI Alaska would use the product. (Funded via NOAA Award Number NA21OAR4590183, August 1, 2021).
Research Study of Communities Vulnerable to Flooding This research advances NNC’s model of focus group and survey testing to reach underserved audiences in various regions across the country, including low-income urban, rural, and tribal communities not previously studied. It looks at a broad suite of probabilistic and other flood forecast tools for both riverine and flash flood risk and includes partnering River Forecast Centers, Weather Forecast Offices, and local community-based organizations to identify and engage with diverse audiences in regions across the country to understand how residents receive, use, and understand flood forecast information to improve the flood products themselves and the communication channels used to share them. In the project, “Expanding Audiences, Removing Barriers, Promoting Action: Addressing the diverse needs of audiences for flood forecast information”, we are conducting focus groups in partner regions across the country, including the Pocatello, ID Weather Forecast Office, Wilmington, NC Weather Forecast Office, North Central River Forecast Center, Missouri Basin River Forecast Center, and Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center areas. (Funded via NOAA Award Number NA22OAR4590170, September 1, 2022).
Research Study of Weather Prediction Center Precipitation Products and Website Our broadest scope of work to date, “Improving Delivery of Weather Prediction Center Precipitation Products” is a multi-phase social science research study that will provide user testing and recommendations for refinement of precipitation products in partnership with the Weather Prediction Center (WPC) at NOAA. NNC will conduct interviews, focus groups, and surveys to test the WPC rainfall products with professional user audiences and to test the prototype of a new Urban Rain Rate Dashboard in several of the thirty largest metropolitan areas in the country. Concurrently, NNC is partnering with Fountain Digital Consulting to perform a web usability study of the WPC website. The study will provide recommendations of 1) changes to precipitation products and their delivery to professional stakeholders, 2) suggested content and design for the URRD based on potential user feedback, and 3) design, structure, and content suggestions for the new WPC website. (Funded via NOAA Award Number NA23OAR4590137, February 1, 2023).
Research Study of Flood Inundation Mapping Flood extent and inundation maps are a common way to communicate flooding risk, but there is little research on such products’ content, design, dissemination best practices, and use in decision-making. The National Weather Service aims to have an operational Flood Inundation Mapping (FIM) for 10% of the US population in 2023 and for 100% of the US population by 2026. NNC will conduct a social science research project about FIM products with focus groups in the Mid-Atlantic River Forecast Center area (State College, PA and Binghamton, NY areas) and the West Gulf River Forecast Center area (Houston area). This research, “Making FIMs Work for Multiple Users: Understanding the Value and Function of Flood Inundation Mapping to Support Decision Support”, will provide critical insight into how FIM products support decision making related to flooding and will collect data from key stakeholders to improve product delivery and design. (Funded via NOAA Award Number NA23OAR4590359, August 1, 2023).
Development of a Longitudinal Flood Survey Working with the University of Oklahoma’s Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, which implements Extreme Weather and Society Surveys on several topics, NNC will develop a new annual flood survey to provide generalizable data on the extent to which members of the US public receive, understand, and respond to extreme weather forecasts and warnings. (Funded via Subaward 2023-78 to NA21OAR4320204 via the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, 2023).
Other Projects: In addition to its work under these grant-funded projects, NNC has also been retained as a subcontractor under contracts funded by federal and state governments, to conduct hazard-related outreach, education and research work. NNC has worked as part of a team to help the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to update its State Hazard Mitigation Plan, has assisted the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on flood-related outreach and education in support of FEMA initiatives, and has worked as part of project teams with various offices within NOAA, including the Weather Prediction Center and National Water Center, on projects to improve products and services.