Weather Information

                                "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows!"  
                              Bob Dylan

                                "Siempre olvidé el paraguas
                                antes de ir a buscarte"
                                     Julio Cortázar

All over the world, people need weather information to make plans over different horizons.  In the short term, it could be just a question of an informed decision to bring an umbrella or extra coat to work or school.  In the middle term, it could be about tracking the path of a hurricane.  In the long term, it could be about planning what to plant during the agricultural season.

Satellite photos of Hurricane Mitch approaching Central America in 1998

The appreciation and demand for weather information have increased as the quality and accuracy of weather forecasting have improved with new technologies such as real-time radar and satellite tracking, multiple data collection modes and points, and advanced numerical techniques for modeling atmospheric conditions and climatic changes.  Instead of vagaries such as 'partly cloudy' or '30 percent chance of rain mixed in with snow', you can watch the band of rainfall approaching in real-time.  Today, weather information is now available to consumer through a number of media channels.

We will present some survey data from the TGI Argentina study, a survey of 6,351 persons between the ages of 12 and 75 in Argentina.  This survey was conducted by IBOPE Argentina in 1999.  The four main media categories here are: newspapers, television, radio and Internet.  Among the many items about media usage, we note the following weather-related statistics. 

These figures do suggest that there is considerable overlap among the media (since the 47% represent the percent of people who used either newspapers, television, radio or the Internet), as people will use multiple sources to obtain weather information.  The table below shows the cross-classification of multi-media usage to obtain weather information:

  Those who used
Those who used
Those who used 
Those who used
% Used newspapers 100% 56% 50% 64%
% Used television 41% 100% 45% 47%
% Used radio 33% 41% 100% 42%
% Used Internet   0.7% 0.2% 0.4% 100%

(Source: TGI Argentina, IBOPE Argentina)

The reason why a person has to use more than one medium is that the quality and quantity of weather information differs across these four media types.  

Our next question is: What type of person needs weather information?  The table below shows the breakdown by certain demographic categories.

Demographic characteristic / class % used media to get weather information
Age / Sex
     Male 12-19
     Male 20-24
     Male 25-34
     Male 35-44
     Male 45-54
     Male 55-64
     Male 65-75

     Female 12-19
     Female 20-24
     Female 25-34
     Female 35-44
     Female 45-54
     Female 55-64
     Female 65-75


Socio-economic level


                            (Source: TGI Argentina, IBOPE Argentina)

Insofar as the age/sex demographics are concerned, women are more likely to need weather information and older people are more likely too.

Insofar as the socio-economic level is concerned, the need for weather information decreases with higher socio-economic level.  This probably has plenty to do with the modes of transportation that people from different classes have to utilize.  The table below shows the various modes of transportation that people from different socio-economic levels have used during the previous week for personal or business trips.

Past 7 Days Mode of Transportation by Socio-Economic Level

  ABC1 C2 C3 D1 D2 E
Automobile 68% 66% 48% 35% 24%   7%
Autobus/Coletivo/Micro 45% 52% 53% 54% 57% 43%
Metro/Subte 17% 12% 10%   4%   4%   2%
Walking 48% 54% 54% 60% 61% 67%

(Source: TGI Argentina, IBOPE Argentina)

The upper socio-economic classes travel mainly by private automobile, and are perhaps least concerned by weather conditions.  The lower socio-economic classes do a fair amount of walking, and may be more concerned about weather conditions.

Of course, the importance of the weather information does not lie in the communication media.  The real issue surely has to be about how such information can be useful to people.  At the simplest level, for instance, this helps people decide what to wear before they set out to work or school.  More importantly, it can also help people make plans, such as determining whether their airplane flight is likely to be delayed by snow at the destination city.  It can also save lives and properties, as when people receive tornado or hurricane warnings.  Yet, in some extreme situations, the knowledge of upcoming weather conditions may not be sufficient to prevent disaster from striking, as nothing can withstand the impact of the 75 inches of rain that Hurricane Mitch brought to Central America in 6 days. 



(posted by Roland Soong on 2/09/00)

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