Pictures may tell it all: The use of draw-and-tell methodology to understand the role of uncertainty in individuals' hurricane information seeking processes

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Monday, 18 January 2010: 4:45 PM
B213 (GWCC)
Gina M. Eosco, University of Oklahoma/ AMS Policy Program, Norman, OK

In this paper, I examine the role that uncertainty plays in individuals' verbal descriptions and visual depictions of their information seeking processes regarding a hurricane landfall event. Specifically, I first explore if hurricane graphics are an important piece of risk information to individuals living in hurricane prone areas. Second, if graphics are important, then which graphics are they verbally describing. Lastly, if the individual draws a graphic, then to what extent does uncertainty play a role in their drawing and their description of it. To do this, I conducted 50 in-depth interviews in hurricane prone areas including cities in North Carolina, New York, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida. During the interview, I describe a fictitious hurricane forming in the Atlantic and ask the individual to share what information would be pertinent to them in the coming days. Those individuals who mention graphics are asked to draw the visual they are verbally describing, called a draw-and-tell methodology. Then, the participants' drawings are analyzed for depictions of uncertainty. The results show that with in the context of hurricanes many visuals are important including hurricane track graphics similar to the cone of uncertainty, spaghetti plots, satellite images, and radars. Different graphics appear to be more salient than others depending on geographic location and their hurricane experience. In addition, the participants used a variety of symbols to express the uncertainty of hurricane tracks including zigzagging paths, arrows, multiple track lines, and colors, just to name a few. Using a draw-and-tell technique offered greater insight into how people understand and depict scientific uncertainty of hurricanes. There is much potential to learn from using this technique and potentially using public depictions of uncertainty for weather and hurricane product design.