Third Annual Users Conference


Assessing Human Dimensions of Weather and Climate Salience

Alan E. Stewart, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

This project describes the development and validation of a psychological measurement tool, the Weather Salience Questionnaire (WxSQ) that assesses the extent to which people find the weather and climate to be salient to their lives. In developing the WxSQ, the author created 53 statements that were intended to broadly assess peoples’ weather/climate information-seeking behaviors, their use of information they directly observed from the atmosphere, the extent to which weather/climate affect their moods, their attachment and preference for particular weather conditions, their perceptions of weather changes and variability in weather, and the effects of weather changes on their activities of daily life. Each item was evaluated using a five-point rating scale that indicated the frequency of a weather-related behavior or degree of agreement with the statement. Approximately 292 undergraduate students from the University of Georgia responded to the WxSQ, which was administered via the Internet.

The statistical theory and procedures employed in psychological test development (i. e., factor analysis and Cronbach’s alpha) were utilized in this project to examine the ways that items correlated with each other to form subscales that corresponded to different dimensions of weather and climate salience. Forty of the original 53 items were retained and used to create seven subscales. Most of the subscales demonstrated good internal consistency reliability, indicating that each item was contributing to the measurement of a central theme in each scale. The subscales of the WxSQ are:

1. Seeking weather/climate information from multiple media and electronic sources (10 items) 2. Observing and noting atmospheric conditions directly (i. e., in person) (9 items) 3. Effects of weather (and changes in the weather) on mood state (5 items) 4. Psychological attachment to particular weather/climate conditions (3 items) 5. Need to observe or experience changes/variety in weather and climate (4 items) 6. Seeking weather information during the possibility of a weather-related holiday (3 items) 7. Effects of weather (and weather changes) on activities of daily life (e. g., work, travel) (4 items)

These subscales can be summed to give an overall indication of the extent to which weather/climate are salient to people.

To investigate the validity of the WxSQ, total scores on the measure were examined in the context of people’s use of consumer weather instruments and their experiences with extreme weather events. Regarding use of instruments, the study participants were asked to indicate whether they had a thermometer at their home, apartment, or dorm room that they used to check the temperature. They also were asked about the presence and use of instruments other than thermometers. It was expected that if the WxSQ was measuring information of practical importance or significance then people with instruments would report a greater degree of weather salience. As expected, the 51 people who owned thermometers (M = 112) reported significantly greater WxSQ total scores than people who did not, M = 105, t (290)= 3.39, p = .0008. Further, people who owned other instruments (M = 109) similarly reported greater salience than people who did not have such instruments, M = 105, t (264) = 3.13, p = .001.

With respect to the experience of severe/extreme weather, it was again predicted that if the WxSQ was measuring salience in a manner that was of practical significance then people who previously experienced property damage from weather events would report a greater degree of weather salience via the WxSQ. As expected, people who indicated that they or their family members sustained property damage from: hurricanes, floods, thunderstorms, tornados, or winter storms (N = 215) reported a significantly higher WxSQ total score (M = 108) than people who did not experience weather-related damages (M = 103, t (110) = 2.61, p = .01).

On the basis of these results it was concluded that the WxSQ exhibited promise for use in research that examines the human experience of weather and climate conditions and how these experiences may affect attitudes and behaviors on issues such as global warming and climate-change. It is also anticipated that the WxSQ may be useful to meteorologists, climatologists, environmental psychologists, and to decision/policy-makers who have an interest in investigating the nature and extent of peoples’ use of weather and climate information. In summary, this project is particularly consistent with the broad theme of this year’s AMS meeting, “Building the Earth Information System: Science for Societal Decision-Making” because it implies that people will seek and use weather and climate-related information to the extent that this aspect of the environment is salient to them.


Session 1, The impact of weather and climate on the business enterprise
Monday, 10 January 2005, 9:00 AM-10:25 AM

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