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Mapping the shadow of experience of extreme weather events

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Climate change will increase the frequency and/or intensity of certain extreme weather events, and perceived experience with extreme weather may influence climate change beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. However, the aspects of extreme events that influence whether or not people perceive that they have personally experienced them remain unclear. We investigate (1) the correspondence of reported experience of extreme weather events with documented events, and (2) how characteristics of different extreme events shape the geographic area within which people are likely to report they have experienced it—the event’s perceived “shadow of experience.” We overlay geocoded survey responses indicating personal experience with hurricanes, tornadoes, and drought—from a 2012 nationally representative survey (N = 1,008) of U.S. residents—on maps of recorded event impacts. We find that reported experiences correspond well with recorded event impacts, particularly for hurricanes and tornadoes. Reported experiences were related to event type, proximity, magnitude and duration. The results suggest locations where disaster preparedness efforts and climate change education campaigns could be most effective after an extreme weather event.

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Correspondence to Peter D. Howe.

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Howe, P.D., Boudet, H., Leiserowitz, A. et al. Mapping the shadow of experience of extreme weather events. Climatic Change 127, 381–389 (2014).

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