Rautenbach, C. and Blair, B.: Marine meteorological forecasts for coastal ocean users – perceptions, usability and uptake, Geosci. Commun., 4, 361–381, https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-4-361-2021, 2021.
The present study aims to address a disconnect between science and the public in the form of a potential misalignment in the supply and demand of information known as the usability gap. In this case, we explore the salience of marine meteorological (metocean) information as perceived by users in two Southern Hemisphere countries: South Africa and New Zealand. Here, the focus is not only on the perceptions, usability and uptake of extreme event forecasts but rather focused on general, routine forecast engagement. The research was conducted by means of a survey, designed around three research questions. The research questions covered topics ranging from forecasting tool ergonomics, accuracy and consistency, usability, institutional reputation, and uncertainties related to climate change (to name but a few). The online questionnaire was widely distributed to include both recreational and commercial users. The study focused on identifying potential decision-making cultures that uniquely impact coastal ocean users' information needs. Cultural consensus analysis (CCA) was used to investigate shared understandings and variations in perceptions within the total group of respondents as well as in sectoral and country-based subgroups. We found varying degrees of consensus in the whole group (participants from both countries and all sectors combined) versus different subgroups of users. All participants taken together exhibited an overall moderate cultural consensus regarding the issues presented but with some variations in perspectives at the country-level, suggesting potential subcultures. Analysing national and sectoral subgroups separately, we found the most coherent cultural consensus in the South African users' cohort, with strong agreement regardless of sectoral affiliation. New Zealand's commercial users' cohort had the weakest agreement with all other subgroups. We discuss the implications from our findings on important factors in service uptake and therefore on the production of salient forecasts. Several priorities for science-based forecasts in the future are also reflected on, considering anticipated climate change impacts. We conclude by proposing a conceptual diagram to highlight the important interplay between forecast product co-development and scientific accuracy/consistency.