Cognitive Illusions, Heuristics, and Climate Prediction

Neville Nicholls Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, Melbourne, Australia

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A number of studies in meteorological journals have documented some of the constraints to the effective use of climate forecasts. One major constraint, the considerable difficulty people have in estimating and dealing with probabilities, risk, and uncertainty, has received relatively little attention in the climate field. Some of this difficulty arises from problems known as cognitive illusions or biases. These illusions, and ways to avoid them impacting on decision making, have been studied in the fields of law, medicine, and business. The relevance of some of these illusions to climate prediction is discussed here. The optimal use of climate predictions requires providers of forecasts to understand these difficulties and to make adjustments for them in the way forecasts are prepared and disseminated.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Neville Nicholls, Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, P.O. Box 1289K, Melbourne, VIC 3001, Australia. E-mail: n.nicholls@bom.gov.au

A number of studies in meteorological journals have documented some of the constraints to the effective use of climate forecasts. One major constraint, the considerable difficulty people have in estimating and dealing with probabilities, risk, and uncertainty, has received relatively little attention in the climate field. Some of this difficulty arises from problems known as cognitive illusions or biases. These illusions, and ways to avoid them impacting on decision making, have been studied in the fields of law, medicine, and business. The relevance of some of these illusions to climate prediction is discussed here. The optimal use of climate predictions requires providers of forecasts to understand these difficulties and to make adjustments for them in the way forecasts are prepared and disseminated.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Neville Nicholls, Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, P.O. Box 1289K, Melbourne, VIC 3001, Australia. E-mail: n.nicholls@bom.gov.au
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