Significance Statements

What are Significance Statements?

Significance Statements are optional non-technically written explanations of why the research or development described in an article is important. They should focus on why the work matters and provide additional context for why the work is relevant to science and society. They are written in such a way that educated laypersons can understand the subject without formal training in the atmospheric or related sciences. A significance statement is not a plain-language repeat of the abstract. Significance statements will be peer-reviewed and will appear after the abstract in the published paper. The statements must answer the following questions in 120 words or less, without jargon or technical wording:

  1. What is the purpose of the work?
  2. What are the key findings, and why do they matter?
  3. What follow-up science is suggested by these findings (optional)?

Why Significance Statements?

The American Meteorological Society mission statement specifically calls for advancing ”...the atmospheric and related sciences... for the benefit of society.” Public awareness and support of scientific research is of great potential benefit, both to science and to society. To further the goal of communicating the importance of the science in our publications more widely, AMS is encouraging the inclusion of a "significance statement" in manuscripts submitted to any of the technical journals, and requiring inclusion of a "significance statement" in Article manuscripts submitted to the Bulletin of the AMS (BAMS). A "significance statement" should be written in plain language and aimed at an educated layperson without formal training or education in the atmospheric and related sciences. Significance statements enhance accessibility and impact of your articles, extending their benefit to scientists in other fields, those who fund our research, and society as a whole.

How to Write a Significance Statement

Authors opting to provide a significance statement with their manuscript should include it immediately after the abstract in the manuscript file with an unnumbered section title of "Significance Statement". As stated above, the Significance Statement should explain the relevance of the work in a broad context in plain language so that an educated layperson outside the field of the atmospheric and related sciences can understand. Specifically, this means: 

  • Discipline-specific jargon, equations, and technical terms should be avoided if they wouldn’t be recognized or understood by a layperson
  • Acronyms should be avoided
  • Use of the first person (“I”, “we”) is permissible
  • Quantitative descriptions of the results are encouraged to avoid vague general comparisons (e.g., that the new model “works better” than the old model)

A successful significance statement will provide succinct answers to the questions listed in the previous section. Please see the examples below for both style and content.


Several examples of good significance statements follow below. 

An Idealized Modeling Study of the Midlatitude Variability of the Wind-Driven Meridional Overturning Circulation

The purpose of this study is to better understand how large-scale winds at midlatitudes move water northward or southward, even in the deep ocean that is not in direct contact with the atmosphere. This is important because winds can shift where heat is stored and whether it might be released into the atmosphere. Our results provide a guide on what controls this motion and highlight the importance of large-scale ocean waves and smaller-scale ocean turbulence on the water movement and heat storage.

Taken from Spall, M.A., 2021: An Idealized Modeling Study of the Midlatitude Variability of the Wind-Driven Meridional Overturning Circulation, J. Phys. Oceanogr., 51, 2425–2441, Used with permission.

Synoptic-Scale Environments and Precipitation Morphologies of Tornado Outbreaks from Quasi-Linear Convective Systems in the United Kingdom

We wanted to understand conditions that lead to tornado outbreaks (days with three or more tornadoes) in the United Kingdom. Twenty-two percent of these outbreaks occur with convective storms where heavy precipitation occurs in a line over 100 km long. A south–north-oriented cold front with a strong wind shift produced tornadoes within 2–4 hours after a characteristic precipitation structure called “cores and gaps” develops. A west–east-oriented front with a weaker wind shift produced tornadoes within one hour after core-and-gap formation. These results point the way toward better understanding of the conditions under which tornadoes form, allowing better prediction and warning. Future studies may show that the mechanisms producing tornadoes differ between these two types of storms.

Taken from Buckingham, T.J., and D.M. Schultz, 2020: Synoptic-Scale Environments and Precipitation Morphologies of Tornado Outbreaks from Quasi-Linear Convective Systems in the United Kingdom, Wea. Forecasting, 35, 1733–1759, Used with permission.

Severe Weather Forecasts and Public Perceptions: An Analysis of the 2011 Super Outbreak in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

The tornadoes of 2011 caused hundreds of fatalities during a time in which severe weather forecasting had made great improvements in accuracy. This study aims to understand what the potential gaps are between forecast dissemination and protective action responses. Perceptions of risk from a tornado remain low among participants even with ongoing exposure and confirmed receipt of tornado warning messages. In many cases, participants needed to personalize the threat before protective actions were prompted. These findings suggest an increased need for improved communication of risks. Future work should investigate risk perceptions and protective actions prompts for other severe weather phenomena among diverse populations.

Taken from Sanders, S., T. Adams, and E. Joseph, 2020: Severe Weather Forecasts and Public Perceptions: An Analysis of the 2011 Super Outbreak in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Wea. Climate Soc., 12, 473–485, Used with permission.

Extratropical Transition of Hurricane Irene (2011) in a Changing Climate

Many Atlantic hurricanes transition into extratropical storms, differing in structure but still accompanied by heavy rain, strong winds, and coastal flooding.  While much is known about how hurricanes respond to climate change, few studies have examined how extratropical transition would respond.  We used a numerical model to simulate Hurricane Irene, which affected the eastern US in 2011. We re-ran the model with conditions projected for a future, warmer climate. Averaged over several simulations, the “future” transitioned storm featured rainfall that was >60% heavier, maximum winds that were ~24% stronger, and a transition that took 18 or more hours longer.  These results highlight increased future impacts (e.g., those resulting from heavy rain and strong wind) from transitioning storms.

The above is an envisioned significance statement for the already published article Jung, C. and G.M. Lackmann, 2019: Extratropical Transition of Hurricane Irene (2011) in a Changing Climate. J. Climate, 32, 4847–4871, Used with permission.