The language and tools of risk and uncertainty estimation in flood risk management (FRM) are rarely optimized for the extant communication challenge. This paper develops the rationale for a pragmatic semiotics of risk communication between scientists developing flood models and forecasts and those professional groups who are the receptors for flood risk estimates and warnings in the UK. The current barriers to effective communication and the constraints involved in the formation of a communication language are explored, focusing on the role of the professional's agenda or “mission” in creating or reducing those constraints. The tools available for the development of this discourse, for both flood warnings in real time and generalized FRM communications, are outlined. It is argued that the contested ownership of the articulation of uncertainties embedded in flood risk communications could be reduced by the development of a formally structured translational discourse between science and professionals in FRM, through which process “codes of practice” for uncertainty estimation in different application areas can be developed. Ways in which this might take place in an institutional context are considered.
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Vol. 36 • No. 8