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Storm Decisions

February 11, 2014

Can people ignore hype about the weather in order to protect themselves from real storm threats?



Cool heads in dangerous storms. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

800px-Hurricane_Isabel_from_ISS NASA

Hurricane Isabel viewed from the International Space Station. (NASA)

Storm forecasting is getting better and better. But according to environmental anthropologist Kenny Broad at the University of Miami, people aren’t getting better at using forecasts. He and his colleagues created a computer simulation in which volunteers took action as a simulated storm approached. He also surveyed people when real storms approached. In both cases, people didn’t behave optimally.


So in particular, people would actually tend to overestimate the probability of winds, but they tended not to even take into account storm surge.


High winds tend to get the most attention on television, and Broad thinks that distracts people from greater dangers. He envisions an on-line system where people could enter their zip codes, and get storm information tailored to their locations, focusing them on what’s important for them, not what’s hyped in the media. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.