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Jessica Bolson and Kenneth Broad

Abstract

Seasonal climate forecasting skill has improved over the past decades, accompanied by expectations that these forecasts, along with other climate information, will be increasingly used by water managers in certain regions of the United States. Most research efforts focus on why adoption does not occur; however, the important question of why adoption does occur has received little attention. Barriers to the use of climate information by this sector frequently identified include risk aversion, institutional constraints, and low forecast reliability. Relatively fewer researchers have focused on the identification and analysis of cases of adoption of climate information in the water management sector. Relying upon the results from observations and semistructured interviews conducted between 2006 and 2010 in South Florida, this research identifies the characteristics that enabled the early adoption of climate information by the South Florida Water Management District, one of the largest water management organizations in the United States. The findings herein are analyzed in relation to existing theories on technology transfer and innovation diffusion. Lessons from this specific case are situated in the context of the broader U.S. water management landscape. The research finds that the existence of in-house climate expertise, innovative agency culture, social networks linking water and climate science researchers, and serendipitous policy windows were critical factors enabling adoption. Additionally, models and information, including a long-range hydrologic model and a national government–issued seasonal climate forecast were readily available and could be incorporated into preexisting and trusted decision-support tools. Implications for climate services in the U.S. water sector are discussed.

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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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Todd A. Crane, Carla Roncoli, Joel Paz, Norman Breuer, Kenneth Broad, Keith T. Ingram, and Gerrit Hoogenboom
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Barbara Millet, Andrew P. Carter, Kenneth Broad, Alberto Cairo, Scotney D. Evans, and Sharanya J. Majumdar

Abstract

Increasingly, the risk assessment community has recognized the social and cultural aspects of vulnerability to hurricanes and other hazards that impact planning and public communication. How individuals and communities understand and react to natural hazard risk communications can be driven by a number of different cognitive, cultural, economic, and political factors. The social sciences have seen an increased focus over the last decade on studying hurricane understanding and responses from a social, cognitive, or decision science perspective, which, broadly defined, includes a number of disparate fields. This paper is a cross-disciplinary and critical review of those efforts as they are relevant to hurricane risk communication development. We focus on two areas that, on the basis of a comprehensive literature review and discussions with experts in the field, have received comparatively little attention from the hazards community: 1) research concerning visual communications and the way in which individuals process, understand, and make decisions regarding them and 2) the way in which vulnerable communities understand and interact with hurricane warning communications. We go on to suggest areas that merit increased research and draw lessons or guidance from the broader hazards/social science research realm that has implications for hurricane planning and risk communication, particularly the development and dissemination of hurricane forecast products.

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Todd A. Crane, Carla Roncoli, Joel Paz, Norman Breuer, Kenneth Broad, Keith T. Ingram, and Gerrit Hoogenboom

Abstract

During the last 10 yr, research on seasonal climate forecasts as an agricultural risk management tool has pursued three directions: modeling potential impacts and responses, identifying opportunities and constraints, and analyzing risk communication aspects. Most of these approaches tend to frame seasonal climate forecasts as a discrete product with direct and linear effects. In contrast, the authors propose that agricultural management is a performative process, constituted by a combination of planning, experimentation, and improvisation and drawing on a mix of technical expertise, situated knowledge, cumulative experience, and intuitive skill as farmers navigate a myriad of risks in the pursuit of livelihood goals and economic opportunities. This study draws on ethnographic interviews conducted with 38 family farmers in southern Georgia, examining their livelihood goals and social values, strategies for managing risk, and interactions with weather and climate information, specifically their responses to seasonal climate forecasts. Findings highlight the social nature of information processing and risk management, indicating that both material conditions and value-based attitudes bear upon the ways farmers may integrate climate predictions into their agricultural management practices. These insights translate into specific recommendations that will enhance the salience, credibility, and legitimacy of seasonal climate forecasts among farmers and will promote the incorporation of such information into a skillful performance in the face of climate uncertainty.

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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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