Authors: Ana Lopez, Ph.D; Erin Coughlan de Perez; Pablo Suarez; Bart van den Hurk; Marteen van Aalst
Empirical evidence shows that acting on early warnings can help humanitarian organizations reduce losses and suffering while reducing costs. Available forecasts of extreme events can provide the information required to automatically trigger preparedness measures, while 'value of information' approaches can, in principle, guide the selection of forecast thresholds that make early action preferable to inaction.
We acknowledge here that, for real-world humanitarian situations, the value of information approach accurately estimates the value of forecasts only if key factors relevant for the humanitarian sector are taken into account. First, the negative consequences of acting in vain are significant and must be factored in. Secondly, the "most valuable" forecast thresholds depend on criteria beyond expenses reduction, and this choice must be explicitly considered in funding mechanisms for early warning systems. Two options to guide this selection are examined: a maximizing criterion for cost effectiveness, and a satisficing criterion for loss avoidance. Third, decision-makers must be able to confidently assess whether the forecast threshold they are selecting is robust to all possible cost/loss structures for the action in question.
Based on these considerations, we focus on the selection of forecast attributes (magnitude, probability and lead time) to establish decision criteria that link forecasts with humanitarian actions. Using a basic example of temperature forecasts to prepare for heat waves, we discuss how the valuation approach can be used to select probability thresholds that trigger early action, and some of the generalisations required to make this applicable to a wider range of humanitarian situations.
A Lopez, E Coughlan de Perez, P Suarez, BJJM van den Hurk, M van Aalst. Bridging forecast verification and humanitarian decisions: a valuation approach for setting up action-oriented early warning systems
accepted, Weather, Climate and Society, 2015