Lessons from local discussions on the subject of natural climate variability

Authors: Olivia Vila*, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Joel Finnis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Mark CJ Stoddart, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Marilyn Koitnurm, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Atanu Sarkar, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Communication, Climatology and Meteorology
Keywords: climate change, variability, communication, risk, language, weather, climate
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Galvez, , Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Climate variability is the semi-regular fluctuation of climate about its mean state. Whereas there is considerable research into how daily variability (weather) and long-term change may influence attitudes and perceptions of climate change, the influence of climate variability acting over timescales between these extremes (i.e., yearly cycles, decadal cycles) has mostly been neglected in human dimensions of climate change research. This disregard for long-term climate variability reduces our capacity to effectively communicate features of local climates in relation to climate change. The goal of this research was to explore the extent to which individuals understand, perceive, and communicate climate variability. Through semi-structured, one-on-one interviews with people living in areas experiencing considerable climate variability, we have catalogued and categorized the vocabulary that individuals use to communicate weather/climate cycles and other relevant climate phenomena. Subsequent focus group discussions were then used to test tools for communicating important weather/climate phenomena. Because climate is often removed of its human values and cultural meanings, climate-related information is difficult to understand and contextualize when dispersed to the public. This research addresses that issue by beginning to humanize physical climate phenomena. Furthermore, because longer-term variability is often misrepresented as counter-evidence to anthropogenic climate change by either deniers or those who do not understand the phenomena, this research can aid in communicating the distinction between natural climate variability and climate change.

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