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Dana R. N. Brown, Todd J. Brinkman, David L. Verbyla, Caroline L. Brown, Helen S. Cold, and Teresa N. Hollingsworth

Abstract

Subsistence harvesters in high latitudes rely on frozen rivers for winter access to local resources. During recent decades, interior Alaskan residents have observed changes in river ice regimes that are significant hindrances to travel and subsistence practices. We used remote sensing in combination with local observations to examine changes in seasonality of river breakup and freeze-up and to assess the implications on travel for subsistence harvesters. Spring and autumn air temperatures, respectively, were found to impact timing of breakup (−2.0 days °C−1) and freeze-up (+2.0 days °C−1). Spring air temperatures have increased by 0.2°–0.6°C decade−1 over the last 62–93 years, depending on study area and time period. Local observations indicate that the breakup season has advanced by about 6 days over the last century. Autumn air temperatures have not changed over the long term, but have been generally warmer over the last 15 years. Over various time periods throughout the last century, we found no change in freeze-up timing for some communities, whereas other communities showed delays of 1.0–2.1 days decade−1. The length of time the river was unsafe for travel during the freeze-up season was 2 to 3 times greater than during breakup. The duration of river ice cover for safe travel has declined over the last century and is expected to decline further as the climate continues to warm, thereby presenting new challenges to accessing subsistence resources and necessitating community adaptation.

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Lawrence C. Hamilton, Mary Lemcke-Stampone, and Curt Grimm

Abstract

Public acceptance of the reality of human-caused climate change has risen gradually in the United States, reflecting cumulative impacts from scientific research and communication, and perhaps also from experienced manifestations such as extreme weather or change to familiar seasons. In the rural North Country of northern New England, a key manifestation of climate change has been warming winters. A 2017 survey asked North Country residents whether they thought that recent winters have been warmer compared with earlier decades. Winter warming, which in this historically snowy region has broad impacts ranging from the economy to everyday life, was recognized by a majority of residents young and old, male and female, with little or much education—but not by the most conservative. Although our winter question does not mention climate change, responses followed patterns similar to a subsequent question about human-caused climate change. Moreover, the partisan gradient in response to both winter and climate questions is steepest among people reporting that most of their friends belong to the same political party. Partisan constraints on perception of a mundane physical reality could limit the scope for weather or climate experiences to alter beliefs among those whose political/social identity favors climate-change rejection.

Open access
Jason A. Otkin, Tonya Haigh, Anthony Mucia, Martha C. Anderson, and Christopher Hain

Abstract

The evolution of a flash drought event, characterized by a period of rapid drought intensification, is assessed using standard drought monitoring datasets and on-the-ground reports obtained via a written survey of agricultural stakeholders after the flash drought occurred. The flash drought impacted agricultural production across a five-state region centered on the Black Hills of South Dakota during the summer of 2016. The survey asked producers to estimate when certain drought impacts, ranging from decreased soil moisture to plant stress and diminished water resources, first occurred on their land. The geographic distribution and timing of the survey responses were compared to the U.S. Drought Monitor and to datasets depicting anomalies in evapotranspiration, precipitation, and soil moisture. Overall, the survey responses showed that this event was a multifaceted drought that caused a variety of impacts across the region. Comparisons of the survey reports to the drought monitoring datasets revealed that the topsoil moisture dataset provided the earliest warning of drought development, but at the expense of a high false alarm rate. Anomalies in evapotranspiration were closely aligned to the survey reports of plant stress and also provided a more focused depiction of where the worst drought conditions were located. This study provides evidence that qualitative reports of drought impacts obtained via written surveys provide valuable information that can be used to assess the accuracy of high-resolution drought monitoring datasets.

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Xialing Lin, Adam M. Rainear, Patric R. Spence, and Kenneth A. Lachlan

Abstract

Humans often prefer representations that are cognitively easier to store, and these representations are easier to retrieve later to make judgments about events. Exemplification theory draws on evolutionary logic and argues that simple, iconic, concrete, and emotionally arousing depictions of events (exemplars) are favored and thus more likely to be stored and used than are abstract, inconsequential depictions or representations. This study examined exemplified aspects of storm warnings in a Twitter feed. A three-condition study was completed, and variables examined included storm severity, susceptibility, hazard, outrage, and willingness to change or engage in specific behaviors. Results suggest the possibility of a sleeper effect impacting perceptions of severity. Results are discussed in theoretical and practical applications along with the consideration of other theories to be applied to future research.

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Philippe Weyrich, Anna Scolobig, David N. Bresch, and Anthony Patt

Abstract

Bad weather continues not only to inflict damage on property but also to kill and injure people, despite significant advances in the predictive power of meteorological warnings. There is evidence that people tend to underreact to weather warning information, to a large extent because of insufficient understanding of the impacts that severe weather events can have, as well as to demonstrate the appropriate response behavior. A growing number of experts are suggesting that standard warning information should be augmented with additional information about these factors, but this has so far largely failed to take place. Past research studies have shown possible advantages of including impact-based warnings (IBWs) and behavioral recommendations (BRs) into the warning information, but the results are in part ambiguous, due to a failure to have tested for effects of the two kinds of information separately and in combination. Based on quantitative results from a survey experiment in Switzerland, this knowledge gap is addressed. Results of the research reported here indicate significant benefits from providing both sets of information together, in terms of improving both perception and understanding of warning and intended behavioral responses. When only one piece of information is given, BRs have a significant effect on both perception and intended response, whereas IBWs have a significant effect only on intended response. These findings offer empirical justification for the added expense and time associated with the more detailed hazard warnings.

Open access
Chengcheng Xu, Chen Wang, and Pan Liu

Abstract

The study presented in this paper investigated the combined effects of environmental factors and real-time traffic conditions on freeway crash risks. Traffic and weather data were collected from a 35-km freeway segment in the state of California, United States. The weather conditions were classified into five categories: clear, light rain, moderate/heavy rain, haze, and mist/fog. Logistic regression models using unmatched case-control data were developed to link the likelihood of crash occurrences to various traffic and environmental variables. The sample size requirements for case-control studies and the interaction between traffic and environmental variables were considered. The model estimation results showed that the light rain, moderate/heavy rain, and mist/fog significantly increase freeway crash risks. The interaction between light rain and upstream occupancy was also found to be statistically significant. Bootstrap analyses were conducted to quantify the interaction effect between these two variables. The crash risk model was compared to a reduced model in which environmental information was not included. It was found that the inclusion of environmental information improved both goodness of fit and prediction performance of the crash risk prediction model. The inclusion of environmental information in crash risk models improved the prediction accuracy of crash occurrences by 6.8% and reduced the false alarm rate by 1.3%. It was also found that the inclusion of environmental information had minor impacts on the prediction performance of the crash risk model in clear weather conditions.

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Meaghan Daly and Suraje Dessai

Abstract

Over the last 20 years, Regional Climate Outlook Forums (RCOFs) have brought together scientific experts and stakeholders to produce regional-scale climate information products for society. This article examines the goals and practices of RCOFs, with a focus on user engagement, in order to draw out practical lessons for future implementation of RCOFs. Analysis of literature and documents (n = 72), interviews with key informants (n = 25), and participant observation were used in this research. Results show that approaches to user engagement in the RCOFs vary significantly from region to region and have been shaped by differences in the priority placed on user engagement relative to the other goals of the RCOFs, the role of RCOFs in the broader climate services delivery chain, the landscapes of potential users and institutions, and views about what the role of users can and should be. Findings indicate that approaches to user engagement necessarily reflect the regional context. This research suggests that more reflexivity about the current framing of RCOF goals is needed, including how users can and should be involved within RCOFs and how the benefits and value of RCOFs are conceptualized, assessed, and communicated in the future.

Open access
Gabrielle Wong-Parodi and Irina Feygina

Abstract

Climate-related disasters are on the rise, with a 44% increase between 1994 and 2013, and the population at risk is ever growing. The need to help people protect their well-being, families, and homes is of utmost importance. We surveyed individuals impacted by Hurricane Matthew in real time in October 2016 to explore the role of mental health, self-efficacy, social support, and evacuation and attitudinal factors on disaster response. We asked, “How much do 1) evacuation-relevant factors (reported evacuation zone, awareness of risk, and source of warning); 2) attitudes (climate- and environment-related perceptions and intentions); and 3) psychosocial factors (mental health, self-efficacy, and social support) contribute to engagement in protective behaviors (evacuation and preparation)?” We found 1) greater immediate exposure to risk increases protective behaviors; 2) climate and environmental concern increase preparation, but not evacuation; and 3) people with greater mental health and self-efficacy respond in ways commensurate with risk, taking protective actions if they live within a reported evacuation zone and not if they are not at risk, while those with lower mental health and self-efficacy do not respond in line with risks. These findings paint a complex picture of disaster response and suggest that preparedness efforts need to go beyond simple policy prescriptions (e.g., mandated evacuations) or improved messaging toward a focus on developing comprehensive programs that build human capital and provide people with psychological and social resources in advance of, during, and after an extreme weather event.

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Stephen M. Strader and Walker S. Ashley

Abstract

Research has illustrated that tornado disaster potential and impact severity are controlled by hazard risk and underlying physical and social vulnerabilities. Previous vulnerability studies have suggested that an important driver of disaster consequence is the type of housing affected by tornadic winds. This study employs a Monte Carlo tornado simulation tool; mobile home location information derived from finescale, land-parcel data; and census enumerations of socioeconomic vulnerability factors to assess the tornado impact probability for one of the most wind hazard–susceptible demographics in the United States: mobile home residents. Comparative analyses between Alabama and Kansas are employed to highlight regional (i.e., Southeast vs Great Plains) differences in mobile home tornado risk, exposure, and vulnerability. Tornado impact potential on mobile homes is 4.5 times (350%) greater in Alabama than in Kansas because Alabama, in comparison to Kansas, is represented by 1) a greater number of mobile homes and 2) a more sprawling mobile home distribution. Findings reveal that the Southeast’s mobile home residents are one of the most socioeconomically and demographically marginalized populations in the United States and are more susceptible to tornado impact and death than illustrated in prior research. Policy makers, engineers, and members of integrated warning teams (i.e., National Weather Service, media, emergency managers, and first responders) should use these findings to initiate a dialogue and construct interdisciplinary actions aimed at improving societal and individual resilience before, during, and after hazardous weather events.

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Robert Munroe, Burrell Montz, and Scott Curtis

Abstract

Storm surge has been identified as a dangerous and damaging coastal hazard that is expected to be exacerbated by rising sea levels. However, storm surge research and applications are relatively new and poorly understood compared to other storm-related hazards. This survey-based research of emergency support personnel across eastern North Carolina aims to connect ongoing research with the needs of storm surge users. Results indicate that emergency managers and other emergency support functions depend on storm surge information to assess and communicate risk, to educate the public, to evacuate the public, or for long-term resilience and recovery planning. They were generally satisfied with the type and timing of currently available surge information, but desired additional types of surge information (i.e., timing) and longer lead times.

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