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Satellites give out-of-this-world view of Arizona monsoon storms

Here is a peek at the new forecast tool the National Weather Service is using to communicate the forecast more clearly to the public.

PHOENIX — Meteorologists are always looking for ways to improve communicating the forecasts to help keep you safe. The National Weather Service in Phoenix is using a new forecast tool that will be especially helpful in protecting you during Monsoon 2022.

When it comes to the forecast, you've heard the phrases, "it's likely, it's possible, there's a chance," but what exactly does that mean? 

Meteorologists are taking the uncertainty out of the forecasts to help protect more lives and property. To make the forecasts easier to understand, meteorologists at the NWS in Phoenix are using probabilistic forecasts.

NWS Meteorologist Jared Heil said probabilistic forecasting - giving those percentages - is a lot clearer. 

Probability is the chance that something will happen, or the likelihood of landing on heads when flipping a quarter. However, forecasts are a bit more complex with more variables and potential outcomes; so we can say that probability is like rolling a dice. 

"We want to attach a number to that possibility," Heil explained. "So instead of saying it's possible that it could rain a half an inch today, there's a 70 percent chance that we could see one half inch of rain today." 

Meteorologists like Heil are now expanding this forecast tool beyond rain chances to effectively communicate life-saving information to the public. Heil explained that making the information easier for the public to understand is also important so folks know what could head their way. 

There's more to a forecast than the one number you see on a seven-day forecast.

The Phoenix NWS said probabilistic forecasts have already done extremely well in their daily use. You may have seen the chances that we'll reach the triple-digits or percentages for wind gust potential. 

Adding percentages to words will help make important monsoon forecasts easier to understand.

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