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Minding the Weather

The Measurement of Weather Salience

Alan E. Stewart

Weather salience is a construct that pertains to the psychological value, significance, and attunement that people have for the weather and its changes. In this article the author describes the construct of weather salience and a measure that was created to assess it, the Weather Salience Questionnaire (WxSQ). The author evaluates the measure's psychometric properties, its relationship to owning and using a thermometer, and its relationship with prior hurricane evacuations and having experienced the effects of severe weather using a convenience sample of 946 undergraduate students. The WxSQ measurement model exhibits a good fit to the data following a maximum likelihood factor analysis of the items. The results of other analyses reveal that the WxSQ possesses acceptable psychometric properties (Cronbach's α = 0.83, test-retest reliability coefficient of 0.91). Weather salience was related to the ownership and use of a thermometer and also to being able to correctly distinguish between weather watches and warnings. Differences in weather salience scores also were observed, especially for men, between those students who had (versus had not) evacuated because of a hurricane and between those who had (versus had not) experienced weather-related property damages. The limitations of the study due to the use of an undergraduate sample are discussed along with some possible applications of the WxSQ.

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Alan E. Stewart

Abstract

Most people do not realize that hurricane destructiveness increases nonlinearly with increases in storm intensity. Three studies were conducted to examine people’s perceptions of hurricane destructive potential and their likelihood of evacuation. In the first study, undergraduate students (n = 349) provided damage ratings of hurricanes in each Saffir–Simpson category. A majority (84%) of students produced only linearly increasing damage profiles by hurricanes. In the second study, a simple random sample of Gulf Coast residents (n = 402) who participated in a telephone survey when a tropical storm was affecting the U.S. east coast revealed that a majority (77%) thought hurricane damages increased linearly with hurricane category and hence underestimated the damage major hurricanes could produce. In the third study, a simple random sample (n = 396) of Gulf Coast residents participated in an experiment over the telephone during an active phase of the 2008 hurricane season. One-half of the sample received information about the nonlinearly increasing damage potential of hurricanes; the other half received the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale category alone. The group in which hurricane damages were framed nonlinearly reported significantly greater self-reported likelihood of evacuation than residents who received the Saffir–Simpson hurricane category information. Studies 1 and 2 suggest that the public needs to learn more about the nonlinear relationship between hurricane intensity and the corresponding damages that may result. Study 3 suggests that framing possible storm damages in the nonlinearly increasing multiples of damages produced relative to a minimal hurricane may increase compliance with evacuation orders.

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Alan E. Stewart, John A. Knox, and Pat Schneider

Abstract

Weeklong weather science and safety workshops were conducted with 66 teachers of kindergarten through eighth grade (K–8) in three Georgia counties using the American Red Cross (ARC) Masters of Disaster (MoD) curriculum. The workshop goals included building teacher interests in the MoD, increasing teacher knowledge about the MoD curriculum, increasing and evaluating its use by teachers, disseminating information about it to other teachers, evaluating students’ weather science and safety knowledge, and evaluating students’ and families’ weather safety behavior. Workshop participation produced significant increases in teachers’ knowledge about the MoD curriculum, their general knowledge of weather science and safety, and self-efficacy in teaching their students about severe weather. In the year following the workshops, at least 32 teachers from the workshops delivered 178 MoD lessons to 2,465 students in K–8. In a sample of 291 students whose teachers delivered an MoD lesson on lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, or floods, students obtained a mean of 60% correct responses on a comprehensive postlesson follow-up test. In a follow-up study with a subsample of 94 parents whose children received instruction from the MoD curriculum, 71% of the families indicated that they had developed safety plans and took additional steps (e.g., assembled safety kits, identified evacuation routes, and/or gathered supplies) to prepare for severe weather. This project is thought to be the first of its kind to demonstrate systematically the effectiveness of weather science and safety education for teachers, their students, and the students’ parents.

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Alan E. Stewart, Jeffrey K. Lazo, Rebecca E. Morss, and Julie L. Demuth

Abstract

The authors used data from a sample of 1465 adults living in the United States to perform a confirmatory factor analysis on the Weather Salience Questionnaire (WxSQ), a 29-item instrument designed to measure the ways in which weather is psychologically significant for people. The original measurement model of the WxSQ was confirmed in the present sample. Additional work also was performed to create a WxSQ short form consisting of seven items. The authors then examined the relationship of weather salience with the respondents’ climate zones of residence and several other weather-related attitudes and behaviors that were assessed in the national sample. People residing in continental and temperate climates expressed significantly more weather salience than those living in dry climates. Further, weather salience was significantly and positively related to the following: 1) the frequency with which people sought weather information and forecasts, 2) the frequency of seeking weather information during the day, 3) the frequency of using forecasts to plan daily activities, 4) seeking weather information for wider geographic areas, and 5) the use of precipitation and temperature forecasts. Weather salience also was significantly and positively related to the confidence people expressed about National Weather Service forecasts and to the perceived importance of these forecasts. The results imply that peoples’ level of weather salience, at least in part, affects their uses of weather information and their confidence in it. These results support the validity of the WxSQ and also reveal some of the psychological bases of people’s perceptions and uses of weather information.

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Alan E. Stewart, Castle A. Williams, Minh D. Phan, Alexandra L. Horst, Evan D. Knox, and John A. Knox

Abstract

Prior surveys of the public indicated that a variety of meanings and interpretations exist about the probability of precipitation (PoP). Does the same variety of meanings for the PoP exist among members of the professional atmospheric science community? What do members of the professional community think that the public should know to understand the PoP more fully? These questions were examined in a survey of 188 meteorologists and broadcasters. Meteorologists were observed to express a variety of different definitions of the PoP and also indicated a high degree of confidence in the accuracy of their definitions. Differences in the definitions stemmed from the way the PoP was derived from model output statistics, parsing of a 12-h PoP over shorter time frames, and generalizing from a point PoP to a wider coverage warning area. In this regard 43% of the online survey respondents believed that there was no or very little consistency in the definition of PoP; only 8% believed that the PoP definition has been used in a consistent manner. The respondents believed that the PoP was limited in its value to the general public because, on average, those surveyed believed that only about 22% of the population had an accurate conception of the PoP. These results imply that the atmospheric science community should work to achieve a wider consensus about the meaning of the PoP. Further, until meteorologists develop a consistent conception of the PoP and disseminate it, the public’s understanding of PoP-based forecasts may remain fuzzy.

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Matthew C. Lacke, John A. Knox, John D. Frye, Alan E. Stewart, Joshua D. Durkee, Christopher M. Fuhrmann, and Sarah M. Dillingham

Abstract

A 44-yr climatology of nonconvective wind events (NCWEs) for the Great Lakes region has been created using hourly wind data for 38 first-order weather stations during the months of November through April. The data were analyzed in terms of the two National Weather Service (NWS) criteria for a high-wind watch or warning: sustained winds of at least 18 m s−1 for at least 1 h or a wind gust of at least 26 m s−1 for any duration. The results indicate a pronounced southwest quadrant directional preference for nonconvective high winds in this region. Between 70% and 76% of all occurrences that satisfied the NWS criteria for NCWEs were associated with wind directions from 180° through 270°. Within the southwest quadrant, the west-southwest direction is preferred, with 14%–35% of all NCWEs coming from this particular compass heading. This directional preference is borne out in five out of six stations with high occurrences of cold-season NCWEs (Buffalo, New York; Dayton, Ohio; Lansing, Michigan; Moline, Illinois; Springfield, Illinois). Given the geographic spread of these stations, a nontopographic cause for the directional preference of cold-season NCWEs is indicated. The connection between NCWEs and low pressure systems found in this climatology and in case studies suggests that midlatitude cyclone dynamics may be a possible cause of the directional preference.

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Sid-Ahmed Boukabara, Vladimir Krasnopolsky, Stephen G. Penny, Jebb Q. Stewart, Amy McGovern, David Hall, John E. Ten Hoeve, Jason Hickey, Hung-Lung Allen Huang, John K. Williams, Kayo Ide, Philippe Tissot, Sue Ellen Haupt, Kenneth S. Casey, Nikunj Oza, Alan J. Geer, Eric S. Maddy, and Ross N. Hoffman

Capsule Summary

Current research applying artificial intelligence to the Earth and environmental sciences is progressing quickly, with emerging developments in terms of efficiency, accuracy, and discovery.

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