nually. Between 1980 and 2009 there were 96 major disasters caused by VHI weather events that resulted in losses exceeding 1 billion dollars each (NCDC, 2010). It goes almost without saying that there is a great need for accurate forecasts and warnings of severe, hazardous, and disruptive weather conditions so that the resulting economic and societal impacts can be minimized.
VHI weather can be defined as weather that endangers public health and safety or causes significant economic impacts. VHI weather generally falls into two categories:
severe and disruptive weather hazards—including tropical storms and hurricane-induced extreme winds, rain, and storm surges; severe thunder-storms and tornadoes; lightning; flash floods; ice and snow storms; dense fog; and wildfires—which change rapidly on the timescale of minutes to hours or a few days; and
persistent weather hazards—including long-lasting heat/cold waves; drought; and flooding due to persistent rain events—which occur on longer timescales of days to weeks or even years (e.g., drought).
Advancing the understanding, monitoring, and prediction of VHI phenomena requires improving the accuracy and timeliness of observations, forecasts, and warnings in order to develop an efficient response system that helps minimize and mitigate the impacts of hazardous weather. An expansion in emphasis from weather prediction alone to the prediction of weather and related impacts is warranted. This would necessitate development of new modeling and observational tools, innovative forecast guidance products, and methods of information and warning dissemination to decision makers and stakeholders. Accordingly, new research and R2O priorities for VHI weather need to be established. Also required is the close collaboration of physical and social scientists in setting priorities and developing effective research and implementation programs. Social scientists, especially, will also play a critical role in developing O2R needs and priorities. To facilitate a rapid R2O transition, it is critical to train a new generation of researchers, forecasters, and decision makers in the need for, and use of, a fully integrated forecast and response system.
Weather research over the past several decades has led to many advances in monitoring, understanding, and predicting VHI weather, which