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I. Gómez, S. Molina, J. Olcina, and J. J. Galiana-Merino

Abstract

This quantitative study evaluates how 71 Spanish undergraduate students perceive and interpret the uncertainty inherent to deterministic forecasts. It is based on several questions that asked participants what they expect given a forecast presented under the deterministic paradigm for a specific lead time and a particular weather parameter. In this regard, both normal and extreme weather conditions were studied. Students’ responses to the temperature forecast as it is usually presented in the media expect an uncertainty range of ±1°–2°C. For wind speed, uncertainty shows a deviation of ±5–10 km h−1, and the uncertainty range assigned to the precipitation amount shows a deviation of ±30 mm from the specific value provided in a deterministic format. Participants perceive the minimum night temperatures as the least-biased parameter from the deterministic forecast, while the amount of rain is perceived as the most-biased one. In addition, participants were then asked about their probabilistic threshold for taking appropriate precautionary action under distinct decision-making scenarios of temperature, wind speed, and rain. Results indicate that participants have different probabilistic thresholds for taking protective action and that context and presentation influence forecast use. Participants were also asked about the meaning of the probability-of-precipitation (PoP) forecast. Around 40% of responses reformulated the default options, and around 20% selected the correct answer, following previous studies related to this research topic. As a general result, it has been found that participants infer uncertainty into deterministic forecasts, and they are mostly used to take action in the presence of decision-making scenarios. In contrast, more difficulties were found when interpreting probabilistic forecasts.

Free access
Scott C. Sheridan, P. Grady Dixon, Adam J. Kalkstein, and Michael J. Allen

Abstract

Much research has shown a general decrease in the negative health response to extreme heat events in recent decades. With a society that is growing older, and a climate that is warming, whether this trend can continue is an open question. Using eight additional years of mortality data, we extend our previous research to explore trends in heat-related mortality across the United States. For the period 1975–2018, we examined the mortality associated with extreme-heat-event days across the 107 largest metropolitan areas. Mortality response was assessed over a cumulative 10-day lag period following events that were defined using thresholds of the excess heat factor, using a distributed-lag nonlinear model. We analyzed total mortality and subsets of age and sex. Our results show that in the past decade there is heterogeneity in the trends of heat-related human mortality. The decrease in heat vulnerability continues among those 65 and older across most of the country, which may be associated with improved messaging and increased awareness. These decreases are offset in many locations by an increase in mortality among men 45–64 (+1.3 deaths per year), particularly across parts of the southern and southwestern United States. As heat-warning messaging broadly identifies the elderly as the most vulnerable group, the results here suggest that differences in risk perception may play a role. Further, an increase in the number of heat events over the past decade across the United States may have contributed to the end of a decades-long downward trend in the estimated number of heat-related fatalities.

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Lynda E. Chambers, Roan D. Plotz, Siosinamele Lui, Faapisa Aiono, Tile Tofaeono, David Hiriasia, Lloyd Tahani, ‘Ofa Fa’anunu, Seluvaia Finaulahi, and Albert Willy

Abstract

Traditional calendars document seasonal cycles and the communities’ relationships to their biophysical environment and are often used by communities, particularly subsistence farmers, to synchronize their livelihood activities with the timing of ecological processes. Because the timing of these ecological processes is not always consistent from year to year, the use of traditional seasonal calendars can help communities to cope with climate variability, particularly when biophysical phenomena become less predictable in relation to the Gregorian calendar, as has been observed in relation to climate change. Although the structure and content of seasonal calendars vary across the Pacific Ocean region, for many indigenous communities, knowledge of seasonal calendars can increase their capacity to cope with climate variability and change. To increase the effectiveness of their products and enhance their relevance to and uptake by the community, several Pacific meteorological services are now using traditional seasonal calendars in their climate communication and education, including in forecasts and warnings. The use of a participatory approach resulted in strong relationships and improved dialogues. Local communities appreciated assistance in enabling their knowledge to become available to future generations, and its inclusion in meteorological service products makes these products more accessible and relevant to community members.

Open access
Jeannette Sutton and Laura M. Fischer

Abstract

Online channels for communicating risk frequently include features and technological capabilities to support sharing images of risk. In particular, the affordances found in social media, such as Twitter, include the ability to attach maps, photographs, videos, and other graphical information. The inclusion of visual cues such as colors and shapes and their different sizes are important for making sense of approaching threats, populations at risk, the potential impacts, and ranges of associated uncertainty. The reception of and attention to these visual cues in messages about a potential threat is the necessary first stage to making a decision about protective actions. Understanding what visual features capture individual attention and how attention is directed to visual images of risk on social media has the potential to affect the design of risk communication messages and the protective actions that follow. In this paper we use eye-tracking methods to identify where people allocate attention to a series of tweets and qualitative “think alouds” to determine what features of the tweets people attend to in their visual field are salient to message receivers. We investigate visual attention to a series of tweets that depict an emerging tornado threat to identify areas of visual interest and the properties of those visual cues that elicit attention. We find the use of color, properties of text presentation, and contents of messages affect attention allocation. These findings could help practitioners as they design and disseminate their weather messages to inform the public of emerging threats.

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Rachael N. Cross and Daphne S. LaDue

Abstract

Weather forecasting is not an exact science, and, in regions near the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains, the vastly different types of topography and frequency of rapidly forming storms can result in high uncertainty in severe weather forecasts. NOAA created its VORTEX-Southeast (SE) research program to tackle these unique challenges and integrate them with social science research to increase the survivability of southeastern U.S. weather. As part of VORTEX-SE, this study focused on the severe weather preparation and decision-making of emergency management and, in particular, how uncertainty in severe weather forecasts impacted the relationship between emergency managers (EMs) and weather providers. We conducted in-depth, critical incident background interviews with 35 emergency management personnel across 14 counties. An inductive, data-driven analysis approach revealed several factors contributing to an added layer of practical uncertainty beyond the meteorological forecast uncertainty that impacted and helped to explain the nature of trust in the EM–National Weather Service (NWS) relationship. No- or short-notice events, null events, gaps in information, and differences in perspectives when compared with weather forecasters have led emergency managers to modify their procedures in ways that position them to adapt quickly to unexpected changes in the forecast. The need to do so creates a complex, nuanced trust between these groups. This paper explains how EMs developed a nuanced trust of forecast information, how that trust is a recognition of the inherent uncertainty in severe weather forecasts, and how to strengthen the NWS–EM relationship.

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Risa Palm, Toby Bolsen, and Justin T. Kingsland

Abstract

This study evaluates the impact of exposure to messages that emphasize the need for changes in individual behavior or in public policy to address climate change attributed to a “climate scientist” or to an unnamed source. We implemented a large survey experiment (N = 1915) online through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) platform that manipulated the presence of recommendations for voluntary behavioral changes or the adoption of new laws to mitigate climate change. We found that, regardless of the source of the information, recommendations for behavioral changes decreased individuals’ willingness to take personal actions to reduce greenhouse gases, decreased willingness to support proclimate candidates, reduced belief in the accelerated speed of climate change, and decreased trust in climate scientists.

Free access
Matthew D. Biddle, Ryan P. Brown, Charles A. Doswell III, and David R. Legates

Abstract

Previously published claims of large regional (northern vs southern states) differences in risks of fatality associated with tornadoes in the United States are reexamined. This new study extends earlier claims to include 1) data from a much longer time frame, 2) injuries as well as fatalities, and 3) more precise estimates of meteorological features of tornado events (specifically, a precise calculation of daytime vs nighttime and pathlength). The current study also includes formal mediation analyses involving variables that might explain regional differences. Results indicate that significant increases in the risk of fatality and injury do occur in southern states as compared with northern states. Mediation models show that these regional differences remain significant when meteorological factors of nocturnal occurrence and pathlength are included. Thus, these meteorological factors cannot explain regional differences in risk of fatality and injury, a failure that is unlikely to reflect a lack of data or a lack of precision in the measurement of potential mediators.

Free access
Nicole S. Hutton and Michael J. Allen

Abstract

Maintaining and restoring electricity after a disaster helps to preserve the health and well-being of the elderly who are at increased risk of heat stress and may be dependent upon life-sustaining medical equipment. Mitigation policies altered in reaction to increased public interest without thorough consideration of industry-specific resources may contribute to delays in implementation and unrealized potential for emergency power coverage within individual facilities. The objectives of this research are twofold: (i) to examine the relationship between preexisting conditions of life-safety systems at facilities and date of implementation of emergency power regulation improvements and (ii) to assess the role of interagency connections—such as emergency management, fire safety, health care administration, and electricity providers—in facilitating compliance with safety regulations. A case study regarding the capacity to implement new emergency power regulations was conducted in Florida with 12 nursing homes affected by Hurricane Irma. The proposals to maintain temperatures and life-sustaining equipment under the updated regulations were not consistent among nursing homes within each county or between counties. Facilities with no preexisting life-safety violations were among the first to comply with new emergency power regulations. Those with prior violations often utilized procedural updates and external resources to comply. Nursing facilities that required additional support for remediation prior to the storm had plans approved earlier or without a second review as compared with those relying on internal resources. These results establish a baseline for the conditions associated with timely compliance including the importance of collective agency to mitigate risk.

Free access
Samuel J. Childs, Russ S. Schumacher, and Julie L. Demuth

Abstract

Eastern Colorado is one of the most active hail regions in the United States, and individual hailstorms routinely surpass millions of dollars in crop loss and physical damage. Fifteen semistructured interviews with eastern Colorado farmers and ranchers were conducted in the summer of 2019 to gauge perceptions of the severity and vulnerability associated with hailstorms, as well as to understand how forecasts and warnings for severe hail are received and acted upon by the agricultural community. Results reveal a correspondence between perceived and observed frequency of hailstorms in eastern Colorado and highlight financial losses from crop destruction as the greatest threat from hailstorms. In contrast to the National Weather Service defining severe hail as at least 1.0 in. (25.4 mm) in diameter, the agricultural community conceptualizes hail severity according to impacts and damage. Small hail in large volumes or driven by a strong wind are the most worrisome scenarios for farmers, because small hail can most easily strip crop heads and stalks. Larger hailstones are perceived to pose less of a threat to crops but can produce significant damage to physical equipment and injure livestock. Eastern Colorado farmers and ranchers are avid weather watchers and associate environmental cues with hailstorms in addition to receiving warning messages, primarily via alerts on mobile telephones. Hailstorms elicit feelings of dejection and anxiety in some respondents, whereas others accept hailstorms as part of the job. Increasing awareness of the agricultural perceptions of hailstorms can help the meteorological community direct hail prediction research efforts and improve risk communication to the agricultural sector.

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Claire Cambardella, Brian D. Fath, Andrea Werdenigg, Christian Gulas, and Harald Katzmair

Abstract

Cultural theory (CT) provides a framework for understanding how social dimensions shape cultural bias and social relations of individuals, including values, view of the natural world, policy preferences, and risk perceptions. The five resulting cultural solidarities are each associated with a “myth of nature”—a concept of nature that aligns with the worldview of each solidarity. When applied to the problem of climate protection policy making, the relationships and beliefs outlined by CT can shed light on how members of the different cultural solidarities perceive their relationship to climate change and associated risk. This can be used to deduce what climate change management policies may be preferred or opposed by each group. The aim of this paper is to provide a review of how CT has been used in surveys of the social aspects of climate change policy making, to assess the construct validity of these studies, and to identify ways for climate change protection policies to leverage the views of each of the cultural solidarities to develop clumsy solutions: policies that incorporate strengths from each of the cultural solidarities’ perspectives. Surveys that include measures of at least fatalism, hierarchism, individualism, and egalitarianism and their associated myths of nature as well as measures of climate change risk perceptions and policy preferences have the highest translation and predictive validity. These studies will be useful in helping environmental managers find clumsy solutions and develop resilient policy according to C.S. Holling’s adaptive cycle.

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