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Benjamin S. Orlove, Kenneth Broad, and Aaron M. Petty

This article analyzes the use of climate forecasts among members of the Peruvian fishing sector during the 1997/98 El Nino event. It focuses on the effect of the time of hearing a forecast on the socioeconomic responses to the forecast. Findings are based on data collected from a survey of 596 persons in five ports spanning the length of the Peruvian coast. Respondents include commercial and artisanal fishers, plant workers, managers, and firm owners.

These data fill an important gap in the literature on the use of forecasts. Though modelers have discussed the effects of the timing of the dissemination and reception of forecasts, along with other factors, on acting on a forecast once it has been heard, few researchers have gathered empirical evidence on these topics.

The 1997/98 El Niño event was covered extensively by the media throughout Peru, affording the opportunity to study the effect of hearing forecasts on actions taken by members of a population directly impacted by ENSO events. Findings of this study examine the relationships among 1) socioeconomic variables, including geographic factors, age, education, income level, organizational ties, and media access; 2) time of hearing the forecast; and 3) actions taken in response to the forecast. Socioeconomic variables have a strong effect on the time of hearing the forecast and the actions taken in response to the forecast; however, time of hearing does not have an independent effect on taking action. The article discusses the implications of these findings for the application of forecasts.

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Benjamin S. Orlove, Kenneth Broad, and Aaron M. Petty
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Kenneth Broad, Anthony Leiserowitz, Jessica Weinkle, and Marissa Steketee

This article reviews the evolution, communication, and differing interpretations of the National Hurricane Center's “cone of uncertainty” hurricane forecast graphic. It concludes with a discussion of this graphic from the perspective of risk communication theory. The 2004 hurricane season, in which five named storms struck Florida, demonstrated that hurricane forecast graphics, despite admirable attempts by the forecast community to make user-friendly products, are still subject to misinterpretation by many members of the public. This exploratory analysis draws upon interviews with key government officials and media figures, archival research of Florida newspapers, analysis of 962 public comments on the National Hurricane Center's cone of uncertainty graphic, a separate multiagency study of2004 hurricane behavior, and relevant risk communication literature, to identify several characteristics of this graphic that likely contribute to public misinterpretation. Forecast providers should consider more formal, rigorous pretesting of forecast graphics, using standard social science techniques, in order to minimize the probability of misinterpretation.

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Robert J. Meyer, Jay Baker, Kenneth Broad, Jeff Czajkowski, and Ben Orlove

Findings are reported from two field studies that measured the evolution of coastal residents' risk perceptions and preparation plans as two hurricanes—Isaac and Sandy—were approaching the U.S. coast during the 2012 hurricane season. The data suggest that residents threatened by such storms had a poor understanding of the threat posed by the storms; they overestimated the likelihood that their homes would be subject to hurricane-force wind conditions but underestimated the potential damage that such winds could cause, and they misconstrued the greatest threat as coming from wind rather than water. These misperceptions translated into preparation actions that were not well commensurate with the nature and scale of the threat that they faced, with residents being well prepared for a modest wind event of short duration but not for a significant wind-and-water catastrophe. Possible causes of the biases and policy implications for improving hurricane warning communication are discussed.

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