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Maria Carmen Lemos, Kimberly S. Wolske, Laura V. Rasmussen, James C. Arnott, Margaret Kalcic, and Christine J. Kirchhoff

Abstract

Scholarship on climate information use has focused significantly on engagement with practitioners as a means to enhance knowledge use. In principle, working with practitioners to incorporate their knowledge and priorities into the research process should improve information uptake by enhancing accessibility and improving users’ perceptions of how well information meets their decision needs, including knowledge credibility, understandability, and fit. Such interactive approaches, however, can entail high costs for participants, especially in terms of financial, human, and time resources. Given the likely need to scale up engagement as demand for climate information increases, it is important to examine whether and to what extent personal interaction is always a necessary condition for increasing information use. In this article, we report the results from two experimental studies using students as subjects to assess how three types of interaction (in-person meeting, live webinar, and self-guided instruction) affect different aspects of climate information usability. Our findings show that while in-person interaction is effective in enhancing understanding of climate knowledge, in-person interaction may not always be necessary, depending on the kinds of information involved and outcomes desired.

Open access
Susan Joslyn and Raoni Demnitz

Abstract

Despite near unanimous agreement among climate scientists about global warming, a substantial proportion of Americans remain skeptical or unconcerned. The two experiments reported here tested communication strategies designed to increase trust in and concern about climate change. They also measured attitudes toward climate scientists. Climate predictions were systematically manipulated to include either probabilistic (90% predictive interval) or deterministic (mean value) projections that described either concrete (i.e., heat waves and floods) or abstract events (i.e., temperature and precipitation). The results revealed that projections that included the 90% predictive interval were considered more trustworthy than deterministic projections. In addition, in a nationally representative sample, Republicans who were informed of concrete events with predictive intervals reported greater concern and more favorable attitudes toward climate scientists than when deterministic projections were used. Overall, these findings suggest that while climate change beliefs may be rooted in partisan identity, they remain malleable, especially when targeted communication strategies are used.

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JungKyu Rhys Lim, Brooke Fisher Liu, and Michael Egnoto

Abstract

On average, 75% of tornado warnings in the United States are false alarms. Although forecasters have been concerned that false alarms may generate a complacent public, only a few research studies have examined how the public responds to tornado false alarms. Through four surveys (N = 4162), this study examines how residents in the southeastern United States understand, process, and respond to tornado false alarms. The study then compares social science research findings on perceptions of false alarms to actual county false alarm ratios and the number of tornado warnings issued by counties. Contrary to prior research, findings indicate that concerns about false alarm ratios generating a complacent public may be overblown. Results show that southeastern U.S. residents estimate tornado warnings to be more accurate than they are. Participants’ perceived false alarm ratios are not correlated with actual county false alarm ratios. Counterintuitively, the higher individuals perceive false alarm ratios and tornado alert accuracy to be, the more likely they are to take protective behavior such as sheltering in place in response to tornado warnings. Actual country false alarm ratios and the number of tornado warnings issued did not predict taking protective action.

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Thomas W. Corringham and Daniel R. Cayan

Abstract

This paper quantifies insured flood losses across the western United States from 1978 to 2017, presenting a spatiotemporal analysis of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) daily claims and losses over this period. While considerably lower (only 3.3%) than broader measures of direct damages measured by a National Weather Service (NWS) dataset, NFIP insured losses are highly correlated to the annual damages in the NWS dataset, and the NFIP data provide flood impacts at a fine degree of spatial resolution. The NFIP data reveal that 1% of extreme events, covering wide spatial areas, caused over 66% of total insured losses. Connections between extreme events and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) that have been documented in past research are borne out in the insurance data. In coastal Southern California and across the Southwest, El Niño conditions have had a strong effect in producing more frequent and higher magnitudes of insured losses, while La Niña conditions significantly reduce both the frequency and magnitude of losses. In the Pacific Northwest, the opposite pattern appears, although the effect is weaker and less spatially coherent. The persistent evolution of ENSO offers the possibility for property owners, policy makers, and emergency planners and responders that unusually high or low flood damages could be predicted in advance of the primary winter storm period along the West Coast. Within the 40-yr NFIP history, it is found that the multivariate ENSO index would have provided an 8-month look-ahead for heightened damages in Southern California.

Open access
Travis M. Williams and William R. Travis

Abstract

Weather index insurance is a popular means of mitigating agricultural risks. Drought is a significant cause of lost agricultural production, and so precipitation index–based plans are common. Simple “percent of normal” indices are often used because they are easy to calculate and communicate to policyholders. However, the ability of such indices to reflect production losses is limited, reducing the ability of insurance to efficiently mitigate risk. This is especially true in rangeland livestock production given the cumulative effects of rainfall and other factors on range production and the complex relationships between range and livestock weight gain, which is the rancher’s main product and source of income. More sophisticated drought indices incorporate the complexities of drought into their design and would, in theory, serve as more appropriate payment triggers. This study uses a suite of drought indices to test correlation with production and the behavior of insurance based on those indices. Payout patterns based on each index were simulated within the actuarial framework of a precipitation-based insurance program aimed at livestock producers. Results were compared with the program’s precipitation index, showing that drought indices have higher correlations with range production, a tendency to incentivize growing-season protection, more even geographic distributions of risk, reduced policyholder ability to seek higher payments through strategic coverage choices, and increased provider ability to adjust payment patterns to reduce the risk of nonpayment given loss.

Open access
R. H. Moss, S. Avery, K. Baja, M. Burkett, A. M. Chischilly, J. Dell, P. A. Fleming, K. Geil, K. Jacobs, A. Jones, K. Knowlton, J. Koh, M. C. Lemos, J. Melillo, R. Pandya, T. C. Richmond, L. Scarlett, J. Snyder, M. Stults, A. M. Waple, J. Whitehead, D. Zarrilli, B. M. Ayyub, J. Fox, A. Ganguly, L. Joppa, S. Julius, P. Kirshen, R. Kreutter, A. McGovern, R. Meyer, J. Neumann, W. Solecki, J. Smith, P. Tissot, G. Yohe, and R. Zimmerman

Abstract

As states, cities, tribes, and private interests cope with climate damages and seek to increase preparedness and resilience, they will need to navigate myriad choices and options available to them. Making these choices in ways that identify pathways for climate action that support their development objectives will require constructive public dialogue, community participation, and flexible and ongoing access to science- and experience-based knowledge. In 2016, a Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) was convened to recommend how to conduct a sustained National Climate Assessment (NCA) to increase the relevance and usability of assessments for informing action. The FAC was disbanded in 2017, but members and additional experts reconvened to complete the report that is presented here. A key recommendation is establishing a new nonfederal “climate assessment consortium” to increase the role of state/local/tribal government and civil society in assessments. The expanded process would 1) focus on applied problems faced by practitioners, 2) organize sustained partnerships for collaborative learning across similar projects and case studies to identify effective tested practices, and 3) assess and improve knowledge-based methods for project implementation. Specific recommendations include evaluating climate models and data using user-defined metrics; improving benefit–cost assessment and supporting decision-making under uncertainty; and accelerating application of tools and methods such as citizen science, artificial intelligence, indicators, and geospatial analysis. The recommendations are the result of broad consultation and present an ambitious agenda for federal agencies, state/local/tribal jurisdictions, universities and the research sector, professional associations, nongovernmental and community-based organizations, and private-sector firms.

Open access
Scott E. Kalafatis, Jasmine Neosh, Julie C. Libarkin, Kyle Powys Whyte, and Chris Caldwell

Abstract

Climate scientists are increasingly called upon to collaborate with policy makers to develop climate science–informed policy decisions. However, there are concerns that existing professional and cultural boundaries will remain persistent barriers to fulfilling the potential promise of these collaborations. The perception that scientists will be learning by doing while pursuing these efforts does little to assuage these concerns because more research is needed into how scientists actually learn to collaborate more effectively. Using interviews with 18 individuals identified by their peers as particularly successful participants in collaborations between Native American Tribes and climate science organizations, this paper offers suggested practices and examines learning processes underlying the development of these suggestions. The development of the list of suggested practices highlights the extent to which having the right attitude, taking the right actions, and cultivating the right processes are intertwined factors associated with success in these collaborations. Analysis of the learning processes underlying interviewees’ suggestions for suggested practices offered five sources of information that frequently led interviewees to reflect on their experiences and gain new knowledge from them. Despite these common trends, each interviewee described a reflection system that they had cultivated to continually monitor and enhance their work in collaborations that was personalized and distinctive from those the other interviewees used. Increased attention to these tailored reflection systems offers a path forward for understanding how experiential learning can most effectively enhance climate change decision support.

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Brooke Fisher Liu, Michael Egnoto, and JungKyu Rhys Lim

Abstract

Mobile home residents experience higher fatality rates from tornadoes than “fixed home” residents. Yet, research on how mobile home residents understand and respond to tornado warnings is lacking. Such research can help meteorologists and their partners better communicate tornado risk. We conducted four surveys with residents of the southeastern United States. This region has the highest concentration of tornado fatalities and killer tornadoes, in part because of the high density of mobile homes. Findings reveal that today’s tornado warning system inadequately prepares mobile home residents to respond safely to tornadoes. The study offers recommendations for how to improve tornado communication for mobile and fixed home residents.

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Saeideh Maleki, Saeid Soltani Koupaei, Alireza Soffianian, Sassan Saatchi, Saeid Pourmanafi, and Vahid Rahdari

Abstract

Negative impacts of climate change on ecosystems have been increasing, and both the intensification and the mitigation of these impacts are strongly linked with human activities. Management and reduction of human-induced disturbances on ecosystems can mitigate the effects of climate change and enhance the ecosystem recovery process. Here, we investigate coupled human and climate effects on the wetland ecosystem of the lower Helmand basin from 1977 to 2014. Using time series climate-variable data and land-use changes from Landsat time series imagery, we compared changes in ecosystem status between the upstream and downstream regions. Results show that despite a strong and prolonged drought in the region, the upstream region of the lower Helmand basin remained dominated by agriculture, causing severe water stress on the Hamoun wetlands downstream. The loss of available water in wetlands was followed by large-scale land abandonment in rural areas, migration to the cities, and increasing unemployment and economic hardship. Our results suggest that unsustainable land-use policies in the upstream region, combined with synergistic effects of human activities and climate in lower Helmand basin, have exacerbated the effects of water stress on local inhabitants in the downstream region.

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Maaz Gardezi and J. Gordon Arbuckle

Abstract

Cover crops are grown between periods of regular crop production or planted into crops with the primary purpose of protecting and improving soil health. These crops possess several resilience-enhancing properties that are well suited to help farmers adapt to climate change. Through an “adaptive capacities framework,” we examine how farmers’ adaptive capacities—contextualized within institutional and environmental conditions—can influence their decision to use cover crops. We use generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs) to examine the relative importance of (i) “internal” variables—farmers’ perceived capacity to act; (ii) “external” or “objective” resources—assets and entitlements; and (iii) contextual variables—the institutional and environmental context within which adaptation occurs, as predictors of farmers’ use of cover crops. Our results suggest that several objective and perceived adaptive capacities are positively associated with farmers’ decisions to use cover crops, and formal institutions such as risk management subsidies are correlated with lower use of cover crops.

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