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Lawrence C. Hamilton

Abstract

Beliefs about climate change divide the U.S. public along party lines more distinctly than hot social issues. Research finds that better-educated or informed respondents are more likely to align with their parties on climate change. This information–elite polarization resembles a process of biased assimilation first described in psychological experiments. In nonexperimental settings, college graduates could be prone to biased assimilation if they more effectively acquire information that supports their beliefs. Recent national and statewide survey data show response patterns consistent with biased assimilation (and biased guessing) contributing to the correlation observed between climate beliefs and knowledge. The survey knowledge questions involve key, uncontroversial observations such as whether the area of late-summer Arctic sea ice has declined, increased, or declined and then recovered to what it was 30 years ago. Correct answers are predicted by education, and some wrong answers (e.g., more ice) have predictors that suggest lack of knowledge. Other wrong answers (e.g., ice recovered) are predicted by political and belief factors instead. Response patterns suggest causality in both directions: science information affecting climate beliefs, but also beliefs affecting the assimilation of science information.

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Lawrence C. Hamilton and Mary D. Stampone

Abstract

A series of polls provides new tests for how weather influences public beliefs about climate change. Statewide data from 5000 random-sample telephone interviews conducted on 99 days over 2.5 yr (2010–12) are merged with temperature and precipitation indicators derived from U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) station records. The surveys carry a question designed around scientific consensus statements that climate change is happening now, caused mainly by human activities. Alternatively, respondents can state that climate change is not happening, or that it is happening but mainly for natural reasons. Belief that humans are changing the climate is predicted by temperature anomalies on the interview day and the previous day, controlling for season, survey, and individual characteristics. Temperature effects concentrate among one subgroup, however: individuals who identify themselves as independent, rather than aligned with a political party. Interviewed on unseasonably warm days, independents tend to agree with the scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change. On unseasonably cool days, they tend not to agree. Although temperature effects are sharpest for just a 2-day window, positive effects are seen for longer windows as well. As future climate change shifts the distribution of anomalies and extremes, this will first affect beliefs among unaligned voters.

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Lawrence C. Hamilton, Mary Lemcke-Stampone, and Curt Grimm

Abstract

Public acceptance of the reality of human-caused climate change has risen gradually in the United States, reflecting cumulative impacts from scientific research and communication, and perhaps also from experienced manifestations such as extreme weather or change to familiar seasons. In the rural North Country of northern New England, a key manifestation of climate change has been warming winters. A 2017 survey asked North Country residents whether they thought that recent winters have been warmer compared with earlier decades. Winter warming, which in this historically snowy region has broad impacts ranging from the economy to everyday life, was recognized by a majority of residents young and old, male and female, with little or much education—but not by the most conservative. Although our winter question does not mention climate change, responses followed patterns similar to a subsequent question about human-caused climate change. Moreover, the partisan gradient in response to both winter and climate questions is steepest among people reporting that most of their friends belong to the same political party. Partisan constraints on perception of a mundane physical reality could limit the scope for weather or climate experiences to alter beliefs among those whose political/social identity favors climate-change rejection.

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Wanyun Shao, Barry D. Keim, James C. Garand, and Lawrence C. Hamilton

Abstract

Two series of national survey datasets (2001–10), supplemented with monthly temperature and precipitation data and unemployment data, are used to examine how weather and climate, economic performance, and individuals’ sociodemographic backgrounds and political orientations affect public perceptions of global warming. Consistent with previous studies, political orientations play a key role in determining public perceptions of global warming. Democrats and liberals are more likely than Republicans and conservatives to see global warming as an immediate and serious problem. Sociodemographic characteristics are also shown to be significant factors, with young people, women, and racial minorities likely to show higher concern about global warming than their counterparts. Moreover, individuals with lower income and higher levels of education tend to be more concerned about global warming. Net of these factors, summer temperature trends over the past 10 years, among other weather and climate measures, are shown to have consistently positive effects on public perceptions of global warming. This suggests that individuals who have experienced increasing summer heat are most likely to perceive immediate impacts and severity of global warming. Surprisingly, macroeconomic conditions—represented by the unemployment rate at the county level—do not appear to influence public perceptions of global warming.

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Jennifer V. Lukovich, Julienne C. Stroeve, Alex Crawford, Lawrence Hamilton, Michel Tsamados, Harry Heorton, and François Massonnet

Abstract

In this study the impact of extreme cyclones on Arctic sea ice in summer is investigated. Examined in particular are relative thermodynamic and dynamic contributions to sea ice volume budgets in the vicinity of Arctic summer cyclones in 2012 and 2016. Results from this investigation illustrate that sea ice loss in the vicinity of the cyclone trajectories during each year was associated with different dominant processes: thermodynamic processes (melting) in the Pacific sector of the Arctic in 2012, and both thermodynamic and dynamic processes in the Pacific sector of the Arctic in 2016. Comparison of both years further suggests that the Arctic minimum sea ice extent is influenced by not only the strength of the cyclone, but also by the timing and location relative to the sea ice edge. Located near the sea ice edge in early August in 2012, and over the central Arctic later in August in 2016, extreme cyclones contributed to comparable sea ice area (SIA) loss, yet enhanced sea ice volume loss in 2012 relative to 2016. Central to a characterization of extreme cyclone impacts on Arctic sea ice from the perspective of thermodynamic and dynamic processes, we present an index describing relative thermodynamic and dynamic contributions to sea ice volume changes. This index helps to quantify and improve our understanding of initial sea ice state and dynamical responses to cyclones in a rapidly warming Arctic, with implications for seasonal ice forecasting, marine navigation, coastal community infrastructure, and designation of protected and ecologically sensitive marine zones.

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