User interpretation of hurricane wind potential and forecast track graphics

Authors: Kathleen Sherman-Morris*, Mississippi State University
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Communication, Behavioral Geography
Keywords: hazards, risk communication, decision-making
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Napoleon A3, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The interpretation of forecast information by the public is not always the same as the forecaster intends. One example often discussed is the hurricane cone of uncertainty. To add to our understanding of public perception and understanding of hurricane forecast information, an online survey was conducted. Graphics tested included the familiar cone of uncertainty and varying degrees of wind potential information. Participants also made judgments regarding a hypothetical event during the forecast period using information about potential for damaging wind and varying degrees of track information. For each graphic, participants were asked to rate its helpfulness. Questions also measured general hurricane knowledge. Responses to the scenarios showed that inclusion of track, but not cone information significantly altered participants’ perceptions of risk. Perceived “helpfulness” increased with additional information provided, even though participants could not compare images. Participants demonstrated a high level of accuracy whether based on forecast graphics or on hurricane and hurricane-safety questions. Misconceptions or gaps in understanding existed regarding the effectiveness of taping windows, the meaning of the term ‘major hurricane,’ and the main purpose of an error cone graphic.

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