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Hurricane knowledge and interpretation of forecasted error cone and wind potential graphics

Kathleen Sherman-Morris, PhD, Karla B. Antonelli, PhD


Objective: The purpose was to examine how participants understand, interpret, and make decisions using hurricane forecast graphics.

Design: A four-part online survey was administered.

Participants were provided an error cone graphic and one of three experimental potential for damaging winds graphics. Hurricane knowledge was also measured.

Subjects: Two hundred eighty-six individuals initially responded to the survey. A subset of the sample was used for analysis (N = 203, with 130 responding to questions in all four parts). The average age was 41.97 (SD 12.97) with a range from 18 to 75. The reduced sample was 56.7 percent female and 43.3 percent male.

Results: Responses were significantly different between those receiving the potential for damaging winds graphic and both other graphics. The addition of the error cone did not significantly change decision making. Perceived helpfulness of the forecast graphic increased with the addition of the track, but similarly, the addition of the error cone did not contribute significantly (means = 5.91, 7.78, 8.09). A majority of respondents answered five of the six hurricane knowledge questions correctly (62.1-79 percent). The lowest percentage knew what ingredients hurricanes needed to form (36.3 percent).

Conclusions: Track information significantly altered participants’ perceptions of risk from damaging winds, but the error cone did not. Hurricane knowledge was good, with misconceptions existing regarding the effectiveness of taping windows and the meaning of the term “major hurricane.” Understanding of the two forecast graphics was also good.


tropical cyclone, communication, misconceptions, risk perception, hurricane cone of uncertainty

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