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Victoria A. Johnson, Kimberly E. Klockow-McClain, Randy A. Peppler, and Angela M. Person

Abstract

Residents of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area are frequently threatened by tornadoes. Previous research indicates that perceptions of tornado threat affect behavioral choices when severe weather threatens, and as such are important to study. In this paper, we examine the potential influence of tornado climatology on risk perception. Residents across central Oklahoma were surveyed about their perceptions of tornado proneness for their home location, and this was compared to the local tornado climatology. Mapping and programming tools were then used to identify relationships between respondents’ perceptions and actual tornado events. Research found that some dimensions of the climatology, such as tornado frequency, nearness, and intensity have complex effects on risk perception. In particular, tornadoes that were intense, close, and recent had the strongest positive influence on risk perception, but weaker tornadoes appeared to produce an “inoculating” effect. Additional factors were influential, including sharp spatial discontinuities between neighboring places that were not tied to any obvious physical feature or the tornado climatology. Respondents holding lower perceptions of risk also reported lower rates of intention to prepare during tornado watches. By studying place-based perceptions, this research aims to provide a scientific basis for improved communication efforts before and during tornado events, and for identifying vulnerable populations.

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Ronald L. Holle, William A. Brooks, and Kenneth L. Cummins

Abstract

National park visitors travel primarily to view natural features while outdoors, however visits often occur in warmer months when lightning is present. This study uses cloud-to-ground flashes from 1999-2018 and cloud-to-ground strokes from 2009-2018 from the National Lightning Detection Network to identify lightning at the 46 contiguous United States national parks larger than 100 km2. The largest density is 6.10 flashes km-2 y-1 within Florida’s Everglades, and the smallest is near zero in Pinnacles National Park.

The six most-visited parks are Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, Zion, Yosemite, and Yellowstone. For these parks, lightning data are described by frequency, location and time of year and day. The four parks west of the Continental Divide have most lightning from 01 July to 15 September, and 1100 to 1900 LST. Each park has its own spatial lightning pattern dependent on local topography.

Deaths and injuries from lightning within national parks have the same summer afternoon dominance shown by lightning data. Most casualties occur to people visiting from outside the parks’ states. The most common activities and locations are mountain climbing, hiking, and viewing canyons from overlooks.

Lightning Fatality Risk, the product of areal visitor and CG flash densities, shows that many casualties are not in parks with high Risk, while very small Risk indicates parks where lightning awareness efforts can be minimized. As a result, safety advice should focus on specific locations where lightning-vulnerable activities are engaged by many visitors such as canyon rims, mountains and exposed high-altitude roads.

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Maqsooda Mahomed, Alistair D. Clulow, Sheldon Strydom, Tafadzwanashe Mabhaudhi, and Michael J. Savage

Abstract

Climate change projections of increases in lightning activity are an added concern for lightning-prone countries such as South Africa. South Africa’s high levels of poverty, lack of education and awareness, as well as a poorly developed infrastructure increases the vulnerability of rural communities to the threat of lightning. Despite the existence of national lightning networks, lightning alerts and warnings are not disseminated well to such rural communities. We therefore developed a community-based early warning system (EWS) to detect and disseminate lightning threats and alerts in a timeous and comprehensible manner within Swayimane, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The system comprised of an electrical field meter and a lightning flash sensor with warnings disseminated via audible and visible alarms on-site and with a remote server issuing short message services (SMSs) and email alerts. Twelve months of data (February 2018-February 2019) were utilized to evaluate the performance of the EWS’s detection and warning capabilities. Diurnal variations in lightning activity indicated the influence of solar radiation, causing convective conditions with peaks in lightning activity occurring during the late afternoon and early evening (between 14h00 and 21h00) coinciding with learners being released from school and when most workers return home. In addition to detecting the threat of lightning, the EWS was beneficial in identifying periods that exhibited above-normal lightning activity with two specific lightning events examined in detail. Poor network signals in rural communities was an initial challenge delaying data transmission to the central server until rectified using multiple network providers. Overall, the EWS was found to disseminate reliable warnings timeously.

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Abdulrahman Khamaj, Amin G. Alhashim, Vincent T. Ybarra, and Azham Hussain

Abstract

Communicating weather forecasts from the public perspective is essential for meeting people’s needs and enhancing their overall experiences. Due to the lack of cited work on the public’s behavior and perception of weather data and delivery sources in Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia (KSA), this study employs a cross-sectional questionnaire to fill the gap and apply the Protective Action Decision Model to non-Western individuals. The questionnaire examined respondents’ opinions about 1) the importance of weather forecast accessibility, 2) crucial weather features, and 3) available features on existing smartphone weather applications (apps) in KSA. The results showed that nearly all participants reported that their decisions of daily lives and activities were highly dependent on weather forecasts. Most participants thought weather forecast features are necessary. Though the most commonly used source for weather forecasts in KSA was smartphone apps, many participants responded that these apps were lacking specific weather functionalities (e.g., giving weather alerts to their exact location). Regression analyses found that KSA individuals who do not believe that weather forecasts are important are predicted by 1) not wanting any new features added to weather applications and 2) that weather forecasts do not impact lives nor property. This study’s findings can guide governmental and private weather agencies in KSA and other Middle Eastern or developing countries to better understand how to meet and communicate people’s weather needs.

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Daniel Leppert, Tobias Dalhaus, and Carl-Johan Lagerkvist

Abstract

Extreme heat events cause periodic damage to crop yields and may pose a threat to the income of farmers. Weather index insurance provides payouts to farmers in the case of measurable weather extremes to keep production going. However, its viability depends crucially on the accuracy of local weather indices to predict yield damages from adverse weather conditions. So far, extreme heat indices are poorly represented in weather index insurance. In this study, we construct indices of extreme heat using observations at the nearest weather station and estimates for each county using three interpolation techniques: inverse-distance weighting, ordinary kriging, and regression kriging. Applying these indices to insurance against heat damage to corn in Illinois and Iowa, we show that heat index insurance reduces relative risk premiums by 27%–29% and that interpolated indices outperform the nearest-neighbor index by around 2%–3% in terms of relative risk reduction. Further, we find that the advantage of interpolation over a nearest-neighbor index in terms of relative risk reduction increases as the sample of weather stations is reduced. These findings suggest that heat index insurance can work even when weather data are spatially sparse, which delivers important implications for insurance practice and policy makers. Further, our public code repository provides a rich toolbox of methods to be used for other perils, crops, and regions. Our results are therefore not only replicable but also constitute a cornerstone for projects to come.

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Meaghan L. Guckian, Ezra M. Markowitz, Clay S. Tucker, Elsita Kiekebusch, Toni Klemm, Lindsey Middleton, Adrienne Wootten, and Michelle D. Staudinger

Abstract

Online science communities can serve as powerful platforms for advancing scientific knowledge, capacity, and outreach by increasing collaboration and information sharing among geographically distant peers, practitioners, and the public. Here, we examine the value and role of the Early Career Climate Forum (ECCF), a climate-focused online science community that is based in the United States and is dedicated to training and providing support to the next generation of climate scientists. In a survey of community users and contributors, we find that the ECCF played a unique role in providing users access to career resources as well as climate-related research and insights. Respondents also indicated that the ECCF provides them with a strong sense of community and a sense of hope for the future of climate science research. These findings highlight the importance of online science communities in shaping and supporting the next generation of scientists and practitioners working at the science–management interface on climate change issues.

Open access
Stephen M. Strader, Alex M. Haberlie, and Alexandra G. Loitz

Abstract

This study investigates the interrelationships between National Weather Service (NWS) county warning area (CWA) tornado risk, exposure, and societal vulnerability. CWA climatological tornado risk is determined using historical tornado event data, and exposure and vulnerability are assessed by employing present-day population, housing, socioeconomic, and demographic metrics. In addition, tornado watches, warnings, warning lead times, false alarm warnings, and unwarned tornado reports are examined in relation to CWA risk, exposure, and vulnerability. Results indicate that southeastern U.S. CWAs are more susceptible to tornado impacts because of their greater tornado frequencies and larger damage footprints intersecting more vulnerable populations (e.g., poverty and manufactured homes). Midwest CWAs experience fewer tornadoes relative to Southeast and southern plains CWAs but encompass faster tornado translational speeds and greater population densities where higher concentrations of vulnerable individuals often reside. Northern plains CWAs contain longer-tracked tornadoes on average and larger percentages of vulnerable elderly and rural persons. Southern plains CWAs experience the highest tornado frequencies in general and contain larger percentages of minority Latinx populations. Many of the most socially vulnerable CWAs have shorter warning lead times and greater percentages of false alarm warnings and unwarned tornadoes. Study findings provide NWS forecasters with an improved understanding of the relationships between tornado risk, exposure, vulnerability, and warning outcomes within their respective CWAs. Findings may also assist NWS Weather Forecast Offices and the Warning Decision Training Division with developing training materials aimed at increasing NWS forecaster knowledge of how tornado risk, exposure, and vulnerability factors influence local tornado disaster potential.

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Sally Potter, Sara Harrison, and Peter Kreft

Abstract

Warnings about impending hazards help to minimize the impacts and reduce the risk of the hazard through encouraging an appropriate and timely behavioral response. Many hydrometeorological agencies are moving toward impact-based forecast and warning (IBFW) systems, as encouraged by the World Meteorological Organization. Yet little research has been conducted on such systems from the perspectives of agencies who are or would be involved in their implementation. We investigated the challenges and benefits of IBFW systems as perceived by participants from agencies internationally and within New Zealand. Interviews and workshops were held with meteorologists and weather forecasters, flood forecasters and hydrologists, and emergency managers. We found that the benefits of implementing IBFW systems included a perceived increase in the understanding of the potential impacts by the public, added awareness of antecedent conditions by forecasters, a possible reduction in “false alarms,” and increased interagency communication. Challenges identified by the participants included whether the system should be designed for individuals or society, a lack of impact data, verification of warnings based on impacts, a conflict with roles and responsibilities, the potential for conflicting messages, and the increased burden on agencies providing information to forecasters with a perception of little benefit in return. We argue that IBFWs could be designed for individual members of the public, with an increased focus on understanding vulnerability and capacities, and that more impact data need to be collected and stored to inform future warnings. Increased interagency coordination would assist with rapid decision-making and the success of IBFWs.

Open access
Vikram S. Negi, Shinny Thakur, Rupesh Dhyani, Indra D. Bhatt, and Ranbeer S. Rawal

Abstract

Mountains are important global sites for monitoring biological and socioecological responses to climate change, and the Himalaya has some of the world’s most rapid and visible signs of climate change. The increased frequency and severity of climate anomalies in the region are expected to significantly affect livelihoods of indigenous communities in the region. This study documents the perceptions of indigenous communities of climate change in the western Himalaya of India. The study highlights the power of knowledge and understanding available to indigenous people as they observe and respond to climate change impacts. We conducted a field-based study in 14 villages that represent diverse socioecological features along an altitudinal range of 1000–3800 m MSL in the western Himalaya. Among the sampled population, most of the respondents (>95%) agreed that climate is changing. However, people residing at low- and high-altitude villages differ significantly in their perception, with more people at high altitudes believing in an overall warming trend. Instrumental temperature and rainfall from nearby meteorological stations also supported the perception of local inhabitants. The climate change perceptions in the region were largely determined by sociodemographic variables such as age, gender, and income as well as altitude. A logistic regression, which exhibited significant association of sociodemographic characteristics with climate change perceptions, further supported these findings. The study concluded that the climate change observations of local communities can be usefully utilized to develop adaptation strategies and mitigation planning in the Himalayan region.

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Carol R. Ember, Ian Skoggard, Benjamin Felzer, Emily Pitek, and Mingkai Jiang

Abstract

All societies have religious beliefs, but societies vary widely in the number and type of gods in which they believe as well as their ideas about what the gods do. In many societies, a god is thought to be responsible for weather events. In some of those societies, a god is thought to cause harm with weather and/or can choose to help, such as by bringing needed rain. In other societies, gods are not thought to be involved with weather. Using a worldwide, largely nonindustrial sample of 46 societies with high gods, this research explores whether certain climate patterns predict the belief that high gods are involved with weather. Our major expectation, largely supported, was that such beliefs would most likely be found in drier climates. Cold extremes and hot extremes have little or no relationship to the beliefs that gods are associated with weather. Since previous research by Skoggard et al. showed that greater resource stress predicted the association of high gods with weather, we also tested mediation path models to help us evaluate whether resource stress might be the mediator explaining the significant associations between drier climates and high god beliefs. The climate variables, particularly those pertaining to dryness, continue to have robust relationships to god beliefs when controlling on resource stress; at best, resource stress has only a partial mediating effect. We speculate that drought causes humans more anxiety than floods, which may result in the greater need to believe supernatural beings are not only responsible for weather but can help humans in times of need.

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