92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012: 11:15 AM
Broadcast Meteorology and Tornado Fatalities: Does Television Coverage Save Lives?
Room 243 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Kevin M. Simmons, Austin College, Sherman, TX; and D. Sutter

Television stations across the nation invest heavily in covering the weather, well beyond the minimum coverage required by the Federal Communications Commission. It is widely presumed that TV coverage of extreme weather protects viewers, but little systematic evidence (as opposed to anecdotes) is available to show this. This paper explores if TV weather coverage affects the lethality of tornadoes, the form of severe weather for which local television coverage offers the greatest potential to reduce casualties. We find that tornado casualties differ systematically across U. S. television markets, and that television markets better explain the spatial variation in casualties than other geographies, like states. We also find that the TV market fixed effects indicate that fatalities are lower in markets with more television weather inputs. Overall our evidence, while not definitive, certainly suggests that broadcast meteorology reduces tornado fatalities.

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