Should Severe Weather Messages Wear A Uniform? Exploring the Effects of Visual and Spatial Inconsistencies on End User Uncertainty, Risk Perception, and Behavioral Intentions. - Dissertation Topic
Should Severe Weather Graphics Wear a Uniform? Exploring the Effects of Inconsistent Convective Outlook Graphics on Members of the Public.
Within the last decade, the Weather Enterprise has become increasingly concerned that visual graphics shared with members of the public can be inconsistent, and in turn, may have a negative effect on public risk perception. In particular, meteorologists often vocalize their concerns when members of the Weather Enterprise share the Storm Prediction Center’s (SPC) Convective Outlook graphic and alter its risk-related content (e.g., use different colors, risk language, different risk areas, etc.). But, does this visual variety have any negative consequences? The current literature fails to address the effects of inconsistent visual information and, consequently, is unequipped to offer advice on how and why practitioners and operational meteorologists should achieve message consistency – especially in this era of visual communication. To better understand and substantiate the widely assumed effects of inconsistent or conflicting graphical information, three experimental studies were conducted. Drawing on previous qualitative research with members of the public, the first experimental study manipulated five graphical variables (i.e., different risk areas, different colors, geographic scale, number of risk categories, and risk category language) to determine which one(s) resulted in the most perceived inconsistency. After examining the results of the first experimental study, two graphical variables emerged as prominent drivers of graphical inconsistency: (1) graphics that move a risk boundary and depict a location in two different risk areas and (2) graphics that use different colors to describe a location’s severe weather risk. As a result, these two variables were manipulated in a repeated-measure experimental design with both a student sample (experimental study #2) and a representative sample of the general public (experimental study #3). Not only that, but this experimental design also measured participants’ actual information seeking behaviors in real-time. This provided a rare glimpse into the weather information seeking habits of participants and the types of information they sought after seeing inconsistent Convective Outlook graphics. Therefore, these studies offer rich quantitative data that describes the effects of inconsistent weather-related graphical information on members of the public. More importantly, however, these results will likely have policy implications and provide operational best practices to promote Convective Outlook consistency across the Weather Enterprise.
Should Severe Weather Graphics Wear a Uniform? A Qualitative Look at the SPC's Convective Outlook Graphic Among Members of the Public.
Within the last decade, the Weather Enterprise has become increasingly concerned that visual graphics shared with members of the public are inconsistent, and in turn, may have a negative effect on public risk perception. In particular, meteorologists often vocalize their concerns when members of the Weather Enterprise share the Storm Prediction Center’s (SPC) Convective Outlook graphic and use a different design (e.g., use different colors, risk language, different contours, etc.). But, does this visual variety have any negative consequences? The current literature fails to address the effects of inconsistent visual information and, consequently, is unequipped to offer advice on how practitioners and operational meteorologists should achieve ‘message consistency’– especially in this era of visual communication. As a first step toward addressing this operational concern, this study asked: (1) how do members of the general public describe the severe weather information depicted in Convective Outlook graphics, and (2) how does their interpretation change, if at all, when viewing Convective Outlook graphics with different visual designs? A diverse sample of 25 community members from Athens-Clarke County, Georgia were interviewed and asked to step through several severe weather scenarios where Convective Outlook graphics with different visual designs were presented to them. As a result, this study offers rich qualitative data detailing how members of the general public understand, use, and interpret Convective Outlook graphics. More importantly, however, this research uses the Convective Outlook graphic as a vehicle to qualitatively explore the role of visual design in keeping a weather-related message ‘consistent.’
Consistency and Weather Communication: A Multidisciplinary Perspective on the Use of "Consistency" - Oral Presentation at the American Meteorological Society Conference.
According to Mileti and Sorensen (1990), a warning's ability to encourage an individual to perform a given protective action is best evaluated among the following dimensions: warning source; warning channel; the consistency, credibility, accuracy, and understandability of the message; and the warning frequency. While most of these factors have been thoroughly investigated in the context of the weather enterprise, the consistency of weather messages has become a growing concern due to the mass availability of weather information via internet and mobile-based devices. Even though several professional panels of meteorologists have attempted to tackle this intricate concept, the idea of consistency within the weather community remains a formidable hurdle and each discussion only adds more complexity to this issue. Before determining whether the current state of weather messaging is “inconsistent,” we must first define “consistency,” or more importantly, “inconsistency” in the way we portray weather information. For example, “consistency” concerns in our community range from visual discrepancies in severe weather graphics to conflicting weather warning issuance criteria across WFOs and viewing area geographies. Therefore, this presentation will explore the concept of “consistency” through several different disciplines (warning and visual communication, advertising, website design, epistemology, among others) in hopes of identifying key conceptual definitions that can assist in defining, operationalizing and measuring “consistency” in the weather enterprise.
Children Forgotten in Hot Cars: A Mental Models Approach for Improving Public Health Messaging (August 2014-2017) Authors: Castle A. Williams & Andrew Grundstein: Injury Prevention (2017)
Introduction: On average, in the United States, 37 young children die every year due to vehicular heatstroke. Additionally, over half of these incidents occur when a parent/caregiver forgets a child in a vehicle. While various governmental and child safety advocacy groups have worked to raise awareness about these tragedies, rigorous studies have yet to be conducted that examine the current understanding and effectiveness of this public health messaging.
Methods: This study will employ a mental models approach in order to identify differences that exist between experts’ and parents’/caregivers’ knowledge and beliefs surrounding the topic of children forgotten in hot cars. We interviewed a diverse set of 25 parents/caregivers and seven experts, in order to construct and explore these mental models.
Results: A comparative analysis was conducted and three key differences were observed between these mental models. Unlike the experts, the parents/caregivers in the study emphasized perceived lifestyle factors (e.g., low-income parent) as important elements in increasing an individual’s likelihood of forgetting a child in a car. Importantly, the parents/caregivers primarily obtained information from news reports, while experts believed public health campaigns would reach more parents/caregivers. Lastly, while experts’ stressed that this tragedy could happen to anyone, most parents/caregivers failed to acknowledge that they could forget their own child in a car.
Conclusions: To confront this denial, future public health messaging must strive to engage and reach all parents/caregivers. This can be accomplished using a multi-faceted messaging strategy that includes: personalizing core messaging, providing additional resources to media outlets, and building rapport between key partners.
Throwing Caution to the Wind: National Weather Service Wind Products as Perceived by a Weather-Salient Sample (2015-2017) Authors: Castle A. Williams, Paul W. Miller, Alan W. Black, and John A. Knox; Journal of Operational Meteorology (2017)
Weather products generated by the National Weather Service (NWS) are crucial for communicating information about weather events. However, it is unclear if the public understands those that exclusively involve wind terminology or the risk posed by nonconvective wind events. To further investigate these questions, we surveyed 373 members of the public from Georgia and Virginia who regularly obtain weather information from two weather blogs in each of the states. Participants completed an online survey designed to evaluate their familiarity with NWS wind products (high wind warning and wind advisory), perceived wind speed thresholds associated with these products, willingness to change plans based on these products, and finally, weather salience.
It was found that our participants scored higher on the weather salience measure, compared to previous studies that examined the general public. In both states, these “weather-wise” individuals more frequently defined high wind warnings (58%) and wind advisories (32%) in terms of impacts to their daily lives. Respondents also reported that they would be more likely to alter their plans for a high wind watch compared to a wind advisory, providing evidence of a spectrum of understanding surrounding the NWS wind products. While various NWS initiatives are currently experimenting with the watch/warning/advisory system and impact-based messaging, this study identifies the need to continue and expand this line of research to include all weather hazards (those convective and nonconvective in nature).
Through the Eyes of the Experts: Meteorologists' Perception of the Probability of Precipitation (2013-2015) Authors: Alan Stewart, Castle A. Williams, Minh D. Phan, Alexandra Horst, Evan Knox, and John Knox
This project began as a collaboration during a summer research course combining psychology and the atmospheric science disciplines. We observed that among the professional meteorological community, varied meanings existed regarding the definition of PoP despite the survey respondents' indicating a high degree of confidence in their definitions. 43% of the online survey respondents believed that there was no or very little consistency in the definition of PoP; only 8% believed that the PoP definition has been used in a consistent manner. The respondents believed that PoP was limited in its value to the general public and that, on average, only 22% of the general population had an accurate conception of PoP. If you want to know more information regarding the research, you can look over the poster or listen to the recorded presentation.
The manuscript has been published and can be found here.
Also, if you are interested in communicating the Probability of Precipitation, you may want to check out a Town Hall I participated in at the 2016 American Meteorological Society National Conference here.
Regional Heat Safety Thresholds for Athletics in the Contiguous United States (2013-January 2015) Authors: Andrew Grundstein, Castle A. Williams, Minh D. Phan
This project was a collaboration with a societal impacts student researcher and my major professor, Dr. Andrew Grundstein. He had acquired a climatology of wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) across the contiguous United States. Using this information, we were able to evaluate the trends and patterns across the United States and develop new athletic guidelines that accompany different areas of the country. It is our hope that this research can be used to alter outdoor practice policies and reduce overall heat stress-related incidents during athletic events. If you want to know more information regarding the research, you can look over the poster or listen to the recorded presentation.