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

Monday, 23 January 2012
Climate Change Education in Florida
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
Nicolle J. Weis, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL; and C. Morales, C. H. Paxton, and A. Feldman

Sea level rise and the increased effects of storm surge and rainfall in highly populated urban areas generate complex human impacts. In our warming climate sea levels continue to rise and initially the impacts are manifested during tropical and non-tropical cyclones that produce storm surge and copious rainfall. Areas of Florida and the Caribbean are extremely vulnerable to catastrophic events with great loss of life, particularly the Tampa Bay region. Although the Tampa Bay region has had minor brushes with tropical weather, the last major hurricane to hit the area occurred in 1921. Most of the coastal residents have little or no experience with the ravages of storm surge and coastal flooding and are unaware of the magnitude and details of the impacts. The purpose of this project was to provide effective warning information to communities vulnerable to climate change to prevent large loss of human life in the future. In this project local high school students learned the effects natural catastrophes have had on global and local populations. To increase students' knowledge about their community, students surveyed and interviewed community members' to assess the community's knowledge about climate change with a focus on rising sea level, storm surge, and rainfall related hazards. In the two-part survey, students first asked questions on potential preparedness and evacuation actions. The second part of the survey focused on informative questions describing specific impacts associated with the hazards of rising sea level, surge and excessive rainfall. The responses were analyzed by students to provide meteorological and social guidance by providing more specific and effective wording of call to action statements in warning information therefore helping vulnerable populations understand specific dangers of sea level rise, storm surge and excessive rainfall. While there was a focus on the Tampa Bay area, the concepts from this project can and will be transferred to other areas.

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