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Joshua Ettinger, Peter Walton, James Painter, Shannon Osaka, and Friederike E. L. Otto

Abstract

The science of extreme event attribution (EEA)—which connects specific extreme weather events with anthropogenic climate change—could prove useful for engaging the public about climate change. However, there is limited empirical research examining EEA as a climate change communication tool. To help fill this gap, we conducted focus groups with members of the U.K. public to explore benefits and challenges of utilizing EEA results in climate change advocacy messages. Testing a range of verbal and visual approaches for communicating EEA, we found that EEA shows significant promise for climate change communication because of its ability to connect novel, attention-grabbing, and event-specific scientific information to personal experiences and observations of extreme events. Communication challenges include adequately capturing nuances around extreme weather risks, vulnerability, adaptation, and disaster risk reduction; expressing scientific uncertainty without undermining accessibility of key findings; and difficulties interpreting mathematical aspects of EEA results. On the basis of our findings, we provide recommendations to help address these challenges when communicating EEA results beyond the climate science community. We conclude that EEA can help catalyze important dialogues about the links between extreme weather and human-driven climate change.

Open access
Kelly Helm Smith, Mark E. Burbach, Michael J. Hayes, Patrick E. Guinan, Andrew J. Tyre, Brian Fuchs, Tonya Haigh, and Mark D. Svoboda

Abstract

Drought-related decision-making and policy should go beyond numeric hydrometeorological data to incorporate information on how drought affects people, livelihoods, and ecosystems. The effects of drought are nested within environmental and human systems, and relevant data may not exist in readily accessible form. For example, drought may reduce forage growth, compounded by both late-season freezes and management decisions. An effort to gather crowdsourced drought observations in Missouri in 2018 yielded a much higher number of observations than did previous related efforts. Here we examine 1) the interests, circumstances, history, and recruitment messaging that coincided to produce a high number of reports in a short time; 2) whether and how information from volunteer observers was useful to state decision-makers and to U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) authors; and 3) potential for complementary use of stakeholder and citizen science reports in assessing trustworthiness of volunteer-provided information. State officials and the Cattlemen’s Association made requests for reports, clearly linked to improving the accuracy of the USDM and the related financial benefit. Well-timed requests provided a focus for people’s energy and a reason to invest their time. State officials made use of the dense spatial coverage that observers provided. USDM authors were very cautious about a surge of reports coinciding closely with financial incentives linked to the Livestock Forage Disaster program. An after-the-fact comparison between stakeholder reports and parallel citizen science reports suggests that the two could be complementary, with potential for developing protocols to facilitate real-time use.

Open access
Ross Westoby, Rachel Clissold, and Karen E. McNamara

Abstract

As climate change accelerates, effective adaptation is an urgent and unavoidable priority. Bottom-up approaches such as community-based adaptation have been portrayed as the panacea. Recent studies are, however, highlighting the ongoing and inherent issues with normative “community” conceptualizations that assume a geographically bound, temporally fixed, and harmonious unit. Despite documentation on the negative impact these problematic assumptions can have on adaptation outcomes, adaptation at the community scale remains the preferred option for project delivery in highly exposed places such as the Pacific Islands region. More creative entry points that are less charged with problematic assumptions are needed at the local scale. This paper draws from three examples in Vanuatu to offer compelling alternative entry points for adaptation: 1) a rural technical college embedded within an Anglican mission village, 2) a whole-of-island approach, and 3) the “collective of vendors” at marketplaces. We offer hope by identifying ways to expand on and complement existing, restricted notions of community and, through this, to improve adaptation outcomes.

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Mary McRae, Ross A. Lee, Scott Steinschneider, and Frank Galgano

Abstract

Increases in maximum and minimum air temperatures resulting from anthropogenic climate change will present challenges to aircraft performance. Elevated density altitude (DA) reduces aircraft and engine performance and has a direct impact on operational capabilities. The frequency of higher DA will increase with the combination of higher air temperatures and higher dewpoint temperatures. The inclusion of dewpoint temperature in DA projections will become increasingly critical as minimum air temperatures rise. High DA impacts aircraft performance in the following ways: reduction in power because the engine takes in less air; reduction in thrust because a propeller is less efficient in less dense air; reduction in lift because less dense air exerts less force on the airfoils. For fixed-wing aircraft, the performance impacts include decreased maximum takeoff weight and increased true airspeed, which results in longer takeoff and landing distance. For rotary-wing aircraft, the performance impacts include reduced power margin, reduced maximum gross weight, reduced hover ceiling, and reduced rate of climb. In this research, downscaled and bias-corrected maximum and minimum air temperatures for future time periods are collected and analyzed for a selected site: Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. Impacts corresponding to DA thresholds are identified and integrated into risk probability matrices enabling quantifiable comparisons. As the magnitude and frequency of high DA occurrences are projected to increase as a result of climate change, it is imperative for military mission planners and acquisition officers to comprehend and utilize these projections in their decision-making processes.

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Adam M. Rainear and Carolyn A. Lin

Abstract

When attempting to communicate flood risk, trust in and perceptions toward risk information dissemination as well as individual efficacy factors can play a significant role in affecting risk-mitigation motivation and intention. This study seeks to examine how risk communication, risk perception, and efficacy factors affect evacuation motivation and behavioral intentions in response to a presumed flood risk, as based on a conceptual framework guided by protection motivation theory. An online survey was administered to college students (N = 239) from a region that is subject to sea level rise and storm surges. Path analysis results indicate that, while less information-source trust predicts greater risk perception, greater information-source trust predicts greater mitigation-information-seeking intention, lower self-efficacy, and stronger response efficacy. As lower mitigation-information-seeking intention similarly predicts greater risk perception, greater mitigation-information-seeking intention also predicts stronger response efficacy. Significant predictors of evacuation motivation include lower risk perception as well as greater information-source trust, severity perception, and response efficacy. Implications of these findings are discussed in terms of information dissemination channels, messaging strategies, and recent severe flooding events.

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Morgan E. Gorris, James E. Neumann, Patrick L. Kinney, Megan Sheahan, and Marcus C. Sarofim

Abstract

Coccidioidomycosis, or valley fever, is an infectious fungal disease currently endemic to the southwestern United States. Symptoms of valley fever range in severity from flu-like illness to severe morbidity and mortality. Warming temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns may cause the area of endemicity to expand northward throughout the western United States, putting more people at risk for contracting valley fever. This may increase the health and economic burdens from this disease. We developed an approach to describe the relationship between climate conditions and valley fever incidence using historical data and generated projections of future incidence in response to both climate change and population trends using the Climate Change Impacts and Risk Analysis (CIRA) framework developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We also developed a method to estimate economic impacts of valley fever that is based on case counts. For our 2000–15 baseline time period, we estimated annual medical costs, lost income, and economic welfare losses for valley fever in the United States were $400,000 per case, and the annual average total cost was $3.9 billion per year. For a high greenhouse gas emission scenario and accounting for population growth, we found that total annual costs for valley fever may increase up to 164% by year 2050 and up to 380% by 2090. By the end of the twenty-first century, valley fever may cost $620,000 per case and the annual average total cost may reach $18.5 billion per year. This work contributes to the broader effort to monetize climate change–attributable damages in the United States.

Open access
Chen Su, Jessica N. Burgeno, and Susan Joslyn

Abstract

People access weather forecasts from multiple sources [mobile telephone applications (“apps”), newspapers, and television] that are not always in agreement for a particular weather event. The experiment reported here investigated the effects of inconsistency among forecasts on user trust, weather-related decisions, and confidence in user decisions. In a computerized task, participants made school-closure decisions on the basis of snow forecasts from different sources and answered a series of questions about each forecast. Inconsistency among simultaneous forecasts did not significantly reduce trust, although inaccuracy did. Moreover, inconsistency may convey useful information to decision-makers. Not only do participants appear to incorporate the information provided by all forecasts into their own estimates of the outcome, but our results also suggest that inconsistency gives rise to the impression of greater uncertainty, which leads to more cautious decisions. The implications for decisions in a variety of domains are discussed.

Restricted access
Rachel E. Riley

Abstract

Decision-makers who have little to no formal training in atmospheric science are increasingly accessing and interpreting climate data and information within planning contexts. Many climate decision support tools (DSTs) have been developed to support decision-making across a variety of sectors and scales, but evaluation of such tools has only recently begun to take place. This study conducted a summative evaluation of the utility of a decision-maker-driven climate hazard assessment tool, the Simple Planning Tool (SPT), a climate DST. The SPT was inspired by and codeveloped with emergency managers, planners, and a boundary organization in two south-central U.S. states. The SPT’s target audience was surveyed to assess the tool’s utility, including its saliency, credibility, trustworthiness, and reasons for and impact of information use on decision-making. A high utility was found despite a relatively limited user base at the time of the study. In addition, SPT users represented a range of jurisdictional sizes, geographical scales, and years of experience. Although the small user sample limits generalizability of the study, it is likely a realistic reflection of the number of emergency managers and planners in the two states who are actively and regularly incorporating climate hazards into planning. The data also indicate that climate boundary organizations and climate service providers should work toward utilizing trusted information sources, channels, and procedures within the sectors to which their tool applies to help increase decision-maker awareness and use of their tool.

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Johnathan W. Sugg

Abstract

Americans remain polarized about climate change. However, recent scholarship reveals a plurality of climate change opinions among the public, with nontrivial support for a range of awareness, risk perceptions, and policy prescriptions. This study uses publicly available opinion estimates to examine the geographic variability of American climate change opinions and maps them as regions that share similarities or differences in the character of their beliefs. The exploratory geovisual environment of a self-organizing map is used to compare the support for 56 different climate opinions across all counties in the United States and arrange them into a spatially coherent grid of nodes. To facilitate the exploration of the patterns, a statistical cluster analysis groups together counties with the most similar climate beliefs. Choropleth maps visualize the clustering results from the self-organizing map. This study finds six groups of climate beliefs in which member counties exhibit a distinct regionality across the United States and share similarities in the magnitude of support for specific opinions. Groups that generally exhibit high or low levels of support for climate change awareness, risk perceptions, and policy prescriptions vary in their relative support for specific opinions. The results provide a nuanced understanding of different types of climate change opinions and where they exist geographically.

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Talardia Gbangou, Erik Van Slobbe, Fulco Ludwig, Gordana Kranjac-Berisavljevic, and Spyridon Paparrizos

Abstract

Improved weather and climate forecast information services are important to sustain small-scale crop production in many developing countries. Previous studies recognized the value of integrating local forecasting knowledge (LFK) with scientific forecasting knowledge (SFK) to support farmers’ decision-making. Yet, little work has focused on proper documentation, quality verification, and integration techniques. The skills of local and scientific forecasts were compared, and new integration approaches were derived over the coastal zone of Ghana. LFK indicators were documented, and farmers were trained to collect indicators’ observations and record rainfall in real time using digital tools and rain gauges, respectively, in 2019. Dichotomous forecasts verification metrics were then used to verify the skills of both local and scientific forecasts against rainfall records. Farmers use a diverse set of LKF indicators for both weather and seasonal climate time-scale predictions. LFK indicators are mainly used to predict rainfall occurrence, amount of seasonal rainfall, dry spell occurrence, and onset and cessation of the rainy season. The average skill of a set of LFK indicators in predicting one-day rainfall is higher than individual LFK indicators. Also, the skills of a set of LFK indicators can potentially be higher than the forecasts given by the Ghana Meteorological Agency for the Ada District. The results of the documentation and skills indicate that approaches and methods developed for integrating LFK and SFK can contribute to increasing forecast resolution and skills and reducing recurring tensions between the two knowledge systems. Future research and application of these methods can help improve weather and climate information services in Ghana.

Open access