88th Annual Meeting (20-24 January 2008)

Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Communicating Weather Information to the Public: People's Reactions and Understandings of Weather Information and Terminology
Exhibit Hall B (Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Scott W. Powell, National Weather Center REU, Norman, OK, and Univ. of Miami/RSMAS, Miami, FL; and H. D. O'Hair
Poster PDF (641.8 kB)
This study examines the general public's use and understanding of weather information in the southwestern United States. Through a paper questionnaire, 769 participants responded to items relating to their uses of and reactions to weather information, sources of obtaining weather data, and emotional response to certain types of weather. In this study, demographic information is used to predict behaviors such as trust in weather data and forecast agencies, planning for severe weather, and ignoring pertinent information. The study also evaluates participants' understanding of weather terminology. In relating predictable behaviors to demographics such as gender, age, race, and state of residence, specific groups of individuals may be targeted to most effectively transmit and convey important weather information in order to reach the largest audience possible.

Results indicate that behaviors do indeed vary based on demographic factors, especially geography, age, and gender. Particularly, Californians report lower levels of planning, readiness and trust in weather information, including that from the National Weather Service. Additionally, data shows that over one-third of the sample population does not know the difference between a severe weather watch and a warning, clearly signaling the need to educate the public in such matters.

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