Risk Perceptions of Hurricane Track Forecasts

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Sunday, 2 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Idamis Del Valle Martinez, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS; and K. Sherman-Morris

Previous research has suggested that misinterpretations of the hurricane track forecast graphic can lead to errors in estimation of perceived hurricane risk. One factor that can be used to understand these errors in judgments of risk perception is called optimistic bias, which is defined as an individual's tendency to perceive less risk than others. The purpose of this study is to understand if an individual's perceived risk is influenced by the optimistic bias and consistency of the hurricane track forecast. To determine this relationship, college students from four coastal universities have been asked to rate their risk and the risk to others from two track scenarios of a hypothetical hurricane approaching their university. Each track scenario was divided into three different forecast periods. Track A kept going straight throughout the forecast period, and Track B shifted away from their university at the middle part of the forecast period. Preliminary results show that Track A has the highest risk perception due to its consistent forecast center position toward their university. The second forecast of Track B is showing a lower perception of risk because it shifts away from their university. The results from this research could have important social implications for hurricane preparedness and risk decision-making behavior process, as the changing hurricane track scenario could lead to systematic errors in hurricane risk estimation.