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G. M. B. Dobson

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G. M. B. DOBSON

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G. M. B. DOBSON

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G. M. B. DOBSON

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G. M. B. DOBSON

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G. M. B. DOBSON
,
D. N. HARRISON
, and
J. LAWRENCE

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O. V. Wilhelmi
,
B. C. Chamberlain
,
R. E. Morss
,
J. L. Demuth
,
H. D. Walpole
,
J. Boehnert
,
J. M. Gambill
,
H. Lazrus
, and
J. G. Dobson

Abstract

Geovisualizations play a central role in communicating hurricane storm surge risks to the public by connecting information about the hazard to a place. Meanwhile, people connect to places through meaning, functions, and emotional bond, known as a sense of place. The mixed-method approach presented in this paper focuses on the intersection of sense of place, geovisualization, and risk communication. We explored place meaning, scale of place, and place attachment in the coastal communities in Georgia and South Carolina. We conducted cognitive mapping focus groups and developed a series of geovisualizations of storm surge risk with varying representations of place. We then investigated people’s ability to connect visual storm surge information to a place and understand their risk by testing these geovisualizations in a large population survey (n = 1442). We found that a 2D regional-scale map displayed together with a 3D abstract representation of a neighborhood was the most helpful in enabling people to relate to a place, quickly make sense of the information, and understand the risk. Our results showed that while the geovisualizations of storm surge risk can be effective generally, they were less effective in several important and vulnerable groups. We found substantial impacts of race, income, map-reading ability, place attachment, and scale of place on how people connected the storm surge risk shown in the visual to a place. These findings have implications for future research and for considering the way weather forecasters and emergency managers communicate storm surge information with diverse audiences using geovisualizations.

Significance Statement

Weather forecasters and emergency managers often use geovisualizations to communicate hurricane storm surge risks and threats to the public. Despite the important role that geovisualizations play, few studies have empirically investigated their effectiveness in hazardous weather risk communication. With the overarching goal of understanding how geovisualizations enable coastal residents to understand and respond to risk, we use an interdisciplinary approach to create new knowledge about the effectiveness of geovisualizations in storm surge risk communication. Our results show substantial impacts of sociodemographic factors across many of the measures that enable people to connect to a place through visualizations. These findings have implications for communicating geospatially varying risk to diverse audiences.

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