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Geggis, Lorna M.
Do you see what I mean? :
b measuring consensus of agreement and understanding of a National Weather Service informational graphic
h [electronic resource] /
by Lorna M. Geggis.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: Media use of hurricane graphics to apprise populations vulnerable to severe weather provides a persuasive demonstration of the importance and complexity of visual communication. Surprisingly little research, however, has explored how audiences interpret weather graphics. This study examined whether the general public and the National Weather Service share a common understanding of selected weather related terms and meaning of a NWS informational graphic. Using a coorientation model, general public responses to a questionnaire were compared to definitions prescribed by the NWS. Additionally, the public were asked questions to measure trust of the NWS as a credible and reliable source of severe weather information. Selected broadcast meteorologists were surveyed to measure their opinions of the NWS as well as to measure their perceptions of how the general public would respond to questions relating to knowledge of weather terms and graphics.Results revealed discrepancies between the intent of such graphics and audience interpretations. While the vast majority of respondents recognized the Tropical Cyclone Track Watch/Warning Graphic and understood much of the information it conveyed, study respondents did not seem to remember or understand the meaning of the terms Watch and Warning. While these terms or conditions are only one aspect of the graphic they represent critical information for populations at risk. Additionally, the results of this study indicate that weather forecasting professionals' perceptions of the public's understanding of the graphic are inaccurate. Results also show respondents generally rate the NWS as a reliable and competent agency but they do not consistently rate their local weather providers as well.Weather scientists' foremost concern may be the accuracy of their forecasts, but they also must consider the accuracy of the perceptions of those forecasts if they are to be effective in warning populations at risk of severe weather. These results have sobering implications for both governmental and private sources of emergency communication.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 176 pages.
Advisor: Derina R. Holtzhausen, Ph.D.
Cone of uncertainty.
Tropical storm prediction.
x Mass Communications
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Do You See What I Mean? Measuring Consensus of Agreement and Understanding of a National Weather Service Informational Graphic by Lorna M. Geggis A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts School of Mass Communications College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Derina R. Holtzhausen, Ph.D. Kenneth C. Killebrew, Ph.D. Kimberly Golombisky, Ph.D. Date of Approval: July 16, 2007 Keywords: Coorientation mode l, NWS, visual communication, cone of uncertainty, tropical storm prediction, hurricanes, trust Copyright 2007, Lorna M. Geggis
Dedication This is dedicated to my father who taught me that the sign of an educated person was the ability to talk to anyone and to Kathy for her infectious enthusiasm for the joy of learning. Special thank you to my mother for her unending support and practical advice and an enormous amount of gratitude to my classmates and all the doctors it took to get me through.
i Acknowledgements I would like to thank the me mbers of the NWS and the NHC both past and present, whose dedication and expertise have saved c ountless lives. An especially heartfelt thank you to Mr. Scott Kiser, Tropical Cyclone Program Leader, for his encouragement and support for this study.
ii Table of Contents List of Tables iii List of Figures iv Abstract v Chapter One: Introduction 1 The Problem 8 Purpose of the Study 10 Organization of the Study 13 Chapter Two: Literature Review 15 Introduction 15 Reality as a Social Construction 15 Science in the News 17 Communicating Risk in the News 21 Media Systems Dependency 27 Visual Perception 28 Media Aesthetics 30 National Weather Service and Public Relations 36 Relationship and Cris is Communications 38 Public Relations Measurement Â– Coorientation Model 43 Chapter Three: Methods 51 Research Design 51 Selection of Subjects 52 Instrumentation 54 General Public Questionnaire 54 Broadcaster Meteorologist Questionnaire 55 Assumptions and Limitations 55 Research Questions 57 Definitions 57 Procedures 61 Data Processing and Analysis 64 Measurements 65 Model 68 Organizational Trust National Weather Service 69
iii Chapter Four: Results 71 Public Respondents Survey Data 71 Demographics 72 Weather Information 73 Knowledge of Weather Terms 74 Visual Conventions 76 Understanding Hurricane Graphics 79 Factor Analysis 81 ANOVA Interpretation 83 Cross Tabulation Analysis 84 Media Habits 84 Knowledge of NWS an d Weather Terminology 85 Correlations 90 Broadcast Meteorologists Survey Data 91 Coorientation Perceptions 98 Chapter Five: Discussion 105 Discussion 105 Research Questions 109 Coorientation Model 115 Chapter Six: Conclusions 117 Conclusions 117 Recommendations 121 References 124 Appendices 131 Appendix A: Alternative Tropical Cy clone Graphics: Solicitation for Comments 132 Appendix B: NOAA Press Release (April 9, 2005) 135 Appendix C: General Public Questionnaire 136 Appendix D: Broadcast Mete orologist Questionnaire 152
iv List of Tables Table 1 Demographic Frequencies General Public 73 Table 2 Weather Information Sources Frequencies General Public 74 Table 3 Weather Information Seeki ng Frequencies General Public 74 Table 4 Knowledge of Weather Related Terms Frequencies General Public 76 Table 5 Understanding of Visual Conventions Frequencies General Public 78 Table 6 Understanding of Hurri cane Graphic Frequencies General Public 80 Table7 Means and Standard Devi ations for Trust for NWS and Local Media 82 Table 8 Demographic Frequencie s Broadcast Meteorologists 92 Table 9 Opinions of Severe Weather Forecasting Broadcast Meteorologists 93 Table 10 Knowledge of Weather Related Terms Frequencies Broadcast Meteorologists 95 Table 11 Understanding of Visual Conventions FrequenciesÂ– Broadcast Meteorologists 96 Table 12 Understanding of Hu rricane Graphic Frequencies Broadcaster Meteorologists 97 Table 13 Understanding of Hurri cane Graphic Frequencies 99 Comparison Public & Broadcasters Table 14 Understanding of Visu al Convention Frequencies Comparison Public & Broadcasters 101
v Table 15 Understanding of Hu rricane Graphic Frequencies Comparison Â– Public & Broadcasters 103
vi List of Figures Figure 1. Tropical Cyclone Trac k and Watch/Warning Graphic 12 Figure 2. Corporate-Public Cons ensus of Understanding Model 46 Figure 3. NWS-Public Consensus of Agreement Understanding Model 69 Figure 4. NWS-Public Consensus of Agreement Understanding Model Results 115
vii Do You See What I Mean? Measuring Consensus of Agreement and Understanding of a National Weather Service Informational Graphic Lorna M. Geggis ABSTRACT Media use of hurricane graphics to ap prise populations vulnerable to severe weather provides a persuasive demonstration of the importance and complexity of visual communication. Surprisingly li ttle research, however, has explored how audiences interpret weather graphics. This study ex amined whether the ge neral public and the National Weather Service sh are a common understanding of selected weather related terms and meaning of a NWS informational graphic. Using a c oorientation model, general public responses to a questionnaire we re compared to definitions prescribed by the NWS. Additionally, the public were asked questions to measure trust of the NWS as a credible and reliable source of severe weather information. Selected broadcast meteorologists were surveyed to measure th eir opinions of the NWS as well as to measure their perceptions of how the genera l public would respond to questions relating to knowledge of weather terms and graphics. Results revealed discrepancies between th e intent of such graphics and audience interpretations. While the vast majority of respondents recognized the Tropical Cyclone Track Watch/Warning Graphic and understood much of the information it conveyed,
viii study respondents did not seem to remember or understand the meaning of the terms Watch and Warning While these terms or conditions are only one aspect of the graphic they represent critical information for populatio ns at risk. Additionally, the results of this study indicate that weather forecasting prof essionalsÂ’ perceptions of the publicÂ’s understanding of the graphic ar e inaccurate. Results also sh ow respondents generally rate the NWS as a reliable and competent agency but they do not consistently rate their local weather providers as well. Weather scientistsÂ’ foremost concern may be the accuracy of their forecasts, but they also must consider the accuracy of the perceptions of those forecasts if they are to be effective in warning populations at risk of severe weather. These results have sobering implications for both governmental and pr ivate sources of emergency communication.
1 CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION Four hurricanes made landfall in Florida in 2004 and ultimately left 167 dead and caused more than $35 billion of damage in the U.S. (Infoplease, 2006). That season marked the beginning of what some scientists are calling a new weather pattern that will continue to produce de vastating storms. Since that remarkable year, warnings of impending disaster and reports of devastation seem to dominate our morning television. However, many of us pay scant attention unless the prediction or aftermath a ffects us personally (J. Grunig, 1997) or the magnitude of the event reaches new levels of devastation. Exploring how we view these phenomena and their inherent risks is importa nt especially in the face of predicted increases in both natural and manmade disasters (Sellnow & Seeger, 2001). Understanding the science of weather will help us make better decisions to protect both our lives and property. Our perception of these events, whether th ey are real or not, is often shaped by our social experiences and institutions (Berger & Luckmann, 1966). One institution that has a considerable effect on our perceptions of reality is the media, es pecially in times of crisis. When other avenues of information are not available or sufficient to help us during times of crisis, we often look to the media to keep us informed of issues and occurrences such as natural disasters that are beyond our immediate environment (Ball-Rokeach & DeFluer, 1976).
2 Mass media have dual roles as mass comm unicators during disasters: Â“first, as reporters of events and second, as major or ganizational actors in preparing for, and responding to, disasterÂ” (Quara ntelli, 1989, p. 5). They must report the news as well as warn and inform their audiences. These two ro les of news reporters are juxtaposed and intermingled during the dramatic crescendo of tension prior to a stor mÂ’s landfall. It is during this time that the broadcast stations and newspapers switch from the narrative of past storms to the rhetoric of preparedness (Quarantelli, 1989). Preparing populations at risk from bot h man-made and natural disasters is the major challenge for public safety experts. These specialists must identify tools and management techniques that mitigate risk; however, their quest is challenged by the complexity of changing communication technology, population demographics, and psychographics. While radio, television, a nd now the World Wide Web offer vast avenues for the dissemination of information, th ey also can be liabili ties unless their use and effectiveness is understood. One area of i nquiry that sheds light on the effects of media concerns the processes involved in how the media create news and how these social constructions contribute to our pe rceptions of our world (Tuchman, 1978). One aspect of news construction is the visual graphic, which is often used to explain or highlight scientific information. A common element of tropical storm coverage is the graphical depiction of a storm and its projected path. These graphics, used by both electronic and print media, are new technology products that use sophi sticated hardware, software, and historical information to iden tify the formation of storms, track their development, and predict storm path (National Weather Se rvice, 2005, Tropical Prediction Service). Like much scientific information, thes e graphical depictions of
3 storms are end products of prof essional routines and only come to the public as a result of the interaction of two soci al institutions, science and the press (Nelkin, 1987). For many news outlets, primary sources of scientific data relevant to tropical storm information are the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The NWS not only supplies th e data on weather systems, but it also provides text forecasting and graphics. View ed from this perspective, the National Weather Service could be seen as performi ng a significant communica tion function for its parent organization, the National Oceanic a nd Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is through the development and di ssemination of w eather related Â“products,Â” that the National Weather Service (NWS) functions Â“to issue forecast and warnings to minimize loss of life property and enha nce the NationÂ’s economyÂ” (NWS, 2005, p.ii). However, for that information to be useful, it must be accessible and understanda ble by their wide and varied audiences. To that end the NWS al so has moved to in crease the publicÂ’s environmental literacy. Â“Our outreach and e ducation activities are aimed at making sure the public understands the information we provide and can use it effectively in the decisions they makeÂ” (p. ii). Deciding if and when to evacuate in adva nce of a storm depends on a multitude of factors. While the NWS and NHC concentrate th eir efforts on the collection and analysis of scientific information of severe weather, they must also ensure that their messages are understood by populations at risk. It is relatively easy to measure the accuracy of the NWS and NHC predictions against their own models, but measuring the level of their audienceÂ’s understandin g of those predictions is anothe r matter. Continually working to develop new tools and Â“productsÂ” the NWS and NHC have historically relied upon
4 attitudinal responses from their audiences as well as anecdotal information to measure understanding (Holleman,2004; NWS, Customer Survey, 2005). NOAA, NWS, and NHC, like many governmental organizations, also operate within an environment that has political, monetary, and legal constraints. While organizations within the U.S. government are prohibited from formally performing the function of public relations (Lee, 2002), they can and must follow some basic public relati ons and communication tenets to be successful. One prime example of successfully communicating with the public is the interaction that the NWS and NHC had w ith its public audiences during the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons. Additionally, these or ganizations were two of only a few governmental agencies to be lauded for their performance during Hurricane Katrina. Both agencies ably performed their missions of co llecting information about what began as a tropical disturbance and informed the public of its development and potential danger. The NWS and NHC, unlike FEMA, demonstrated beha viors in line with tenets of Â“Excellent Public RelationsÂ” as described by Grunig, Grunig, and Dozier, (2002); and Mayfield, (2005). Of particular note, however, were the organizationÂ’s efforts the previous year to redesign one graphic in response to concerns and complaints raised in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley in 2004. In an unpublished report to the Internationa l Hurricane Research Center, the results of fieldwork and interviews of Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte and Arcadia, Florida residents were detailed and analyzed (Mo rrow, 2004). The resear ch was initiated the week following the Florida landfall of Hurricane Charley and its intent Â“was to capture a snapshot of experiences and attitudes in th e immediate aftermathÂ” of the storm (p. 8).
5 Data were drawn from a convenience sample and included 100 interviews and 92 completed surveys by area residents as we ll as interviews from others including emergency managers and area meteorologists. While the data are not generalizable, it provided insight into the actions and thoughts of Â“some of the stormÂ’s most affected citizensÂ” (p. 3). Although many themes emerged from analysis of the data, one primary conclusion cited in the report was a lack of attention paid by residents to hurricane watches and warnings which may have contri buted to the seemingly reduced sense or perception of danger. Â“They did not believe Hurricane Charley posed much danger as it approached the coast of FloridaÂ” (p. 9). The researchers suggest that the reduced sense of danger could be partially explained by Hurrican e CharleyÂ’s developmen t and slight track change prior to landfall, however, many of the respondents expressed opinions that the storm was headed north of them. Â“Nearly ev eryone interviewed sa id they thought the storm was going to hit the Tampa areaÂ” (p. 10). The perception that the storm was headed elsewhere was in contrast, according the author, to the accurate forecasts by the NHC. The author reported NOAA data which conclude d that the forecast at 24 hours, 48 hours and 72 hours prior to landfall of Hurricane Ch arley was from 9% 43% better than the average 10 year forecasting error rate (Morrow, 2004). To further emphasize the difference between perceptions of danger and th e actual forecast, the authors note that at the time of landfall Punta Gorda, and neighboring areas, Â“had been: o In the cone of uncertainty for almost 4 days o Under a Hurricane Watch for almost 35 hours o Under a Hurricane Warning for almost 23 hours and o In the 50% probability of the stri king area about 11 hours.Â” (p. 10)
6 The report concluded that tw o factors played a role in residentsÂ’ perceptions of threat. One was Â“a long history of warni ngs with no serious impact, and too much attention to the center of th e forecast trackÂ” (Morrow, 2004, p. 10) also referred to as the center forecast line. Another conclusion was that Â“people still do not understand hurricane track probabilities a nd pay too little atten tion to the entire cone of uncertaintyÂ” (p. 5). The assessment that area residents paid t oo much attention to the center line of the hurricane track graphic was echoed by mete orologist interviewed for the 2004 study. While the author argues that Â“most televisi on visualizations of the storm had the cone marked with the center line and mentioned Tampa as the probable [emphasis added] landfall point over and over in the days preceding the stormÂ” (Morrow, 2004, p. 11) meteorologists seemed to put the onus of errant focus on the viewers. Despite broadcastersÂ’ self-reported effo rts to shift viewer focus aw ay from the line to the wider area of the cone graphic, th e authors quote study participants as having Â“heardÂ” the storm was headed north, or forecasters Â“saidÂ” th e storm was supposed to hit Tampa. This apparent emphasis on Â“hearingÂ” versus Â“seeingÂ” the forecasted area of landfall suggest the narrative was more influential than the vi sual. However, this highlighting of the audio cues could be the result of the authorÂ’s choi ce of quotes or just linguistic preference by respondents. In a later report, Hurricane Ivan Beha vioral Analysis (2005) which examined another of the 2004 storms, researchers an alyzed evacuation behavior. Respondents represented a random sampling of 3200 hous eholds from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and the Florida panhandle and Florida Keys. The assessment examined
7 storm impact as well as behaviors such as mitigation and preparation. Of special interest was an analysis of evacuation activities. Â“It is crucial for emergency managers and other officials to understand, not only who will or wi ll not evacuate, but the factors involved in household evacuation decisions (FEMA, 2005, p. 12). The post-storm assessment reported findings were consis tent with earlier research and concluded that Â“household evacuation decision-making tends to be a comple x process in which more than one factor is consideredÂ” (p. 62). The study supported previous research citi ng television as a primary information source. Â“The vast majority of households fi rst heard about the ev acuation on television. What is different is that while still small, a growing number are turning to the internet for additional information, and this is partic ularly true in the Florida KeysÂ” (p. 63). However, regardless of region or medium, respondents valued information issued from the National Weather Service (NWS). The majority, from Â“78-85% of respondents reported that the NHC watches and warnings we re an important factor in their evacuation decisionÂ” (p. 27). That the NWS and the NHC are viewed as trusted sources of information is a positive for emergency pla nners, but it is a con cern Â“there is still considerable confusion about the meaning of hurricane watches and warningsÂ” (p. 63). Respondents from all five study areas were asked to define both terms by choosing from multiple choice questions that asked how many hours before expected landfall does the National Hurricane Center issue a Hurricane Warning and the choices were 12 hours, 24 hours, 36 hours, and DonÂ’t K now. The question was then repeated for Hurricane Watch. Of the total sample, 62% ch ose the correct definition for hurricane watch, and only 40% knew the definition for hurricane warning (p. 27).
8 The study also examined respondentsÂ’ recollection of th e hurricane track graphics. A remarkable Â“95-97% said they saw the hurricaneÂ’s track on television and about 90% said it was an important factor in their evacuation decisions: (p. 27). When asked to identify separate elements of the graphic, Â“64% reported seeing a cone, 12% a line and 24% bothÂ” (p. 28). The question pr obed respondents by asking if the graphic showed a line with Â“exactly wh ere the storm was predicted to go, or did it show a wider area, like a cone, saying the st orm would go someplace in the large area, but you couldnÂ’t tell exactly where?Â’Â” (p. 28) These resu lts indicate a positive emphasis, supported by NHC (Mayfield, 2005) on the track as an area of potential landfall rather than a single point of landfall. The report concluded the results Â“may be explained in part by the attention given to this issue after Hurricane Charley. It is interes ting to note that those who reported seeing only the forecast track li ne were less likely to evacuateÂ” (p. 64). In slide show entitled Â“2004 Post Stor m AssessmentsÂ” posted to the Army Corps of EngineerÂ’s web site, (FEMA & USAC E, 2005) recommendations for assisting residents in making evacuati on decisions were listed. These recommendations resulted from the 9000 surveys conducted after the 4 large hurricanes in 2004. The first two of seven recommendations were Â“Evaluate a nd improve evacuation order communication techniques to optimize public responseÂ” and the second was Â“Work with NOAA to increase watch and warning public awarenessÂ” (slide 6). The Problem Graphical depictions of impending storms are used to warn populations at risk. While the graphics are products of signifi cant scientific measurements and prediction models, the graphics themselves have not b een extensively examined for how they are
9 interpreted or what they mean to the gene ral public. The search for meaning implies a Â“Â…recognition that there is an intention on the part of the producing agentÂ” (Barbatsis, 2005, p. 273). The first part of the equation is ho w the creator wishes hi s or her verbal or visual text to be read or understood. The second part is what the viewer constructs from the text. For example, both the intention and reception of the meaning of certain graphics are tacitly accepted in the world of science. In what Kostelnick and Hassett (2003) refer to as discourse communities, both creators and viewers of scientific information are familiar with the rules or conventions used to visually present concepts or ideas. Understanding of conventions is often gained through professional e ducation and helps to build agreement between creators and viewers of how concepts are visually displayed. Public relations practitioners and organizational communicators often use standardized conventions of layout and design in their communication products. Additionally, they use graphics to highlight po ints or to explain concepts. It is assumed that the graphics add clarity to an issue, but can we be sure without examining what the author/designer intends to convey and what the audience interprets? Agencies must go beyond merely tracking how their informational products are used and even how they are perceived. If communication is to be truly effective for organi zations such as the NWS in fulfilling their mission, they must find a way to measure whether their publics understand the particular storm information they receive. Specifically, the NWS must be cognizant of whether there is a consensus between the ag ency and the public on the intended meaning and public understanding of NWS graphical products. During the 2004 hurricane season, there we re indications that one NWS forecast product was misunderstood by the public. In resp onse to customer requests to Â“modify its
10 Tropical Storm Track and Watch/Warning Graphic,Â” the NWS queried nearly 1,000 product users on their preference for two alternative graphical designs (Appendix A). The new graphics were rejected because the Â“maj ority of respondents prefer to maintain the current formatÂ” (NOAA Press Release, Apr il 9, 2005, Appendix B). This survey, and others, seems to indicate th at NWSÂ’ focus has been on the customer perceived effectiveness, ease of use, and feature prefer ence of the new graphics. In an effort to measure customer acceptance of proposed watch/warning graphics, it appears the NWS outreach efforts have centered on customer satisfaction rather than the basic measurement of understanding Â– specifica lly relating to the center or forecast track line. Purpose of the Study During the 2004 hurricane season the news coverage of the storms was intense, and three Florida papers were nominated for their staff work and coverage of Hurricane Charley (Pulitzer Prize Board, 2005). Some Flor ida television stations received good marks for their coverage as well. However, many of the same stations were also criticized for later use of overwrought graphic images It was one commonly used graphic, the NWS Tropical Cyclone Track a nd Watch/Warning Graphic, t hough that raised particular concern. The graphic in question had been used fo r a number of years and is a Â“coneÂ” that depicts the area where the stor m is located and where it may go. This graphic has been referred to as the Â“cone of uncertaintyÂ” (Stone 2004). In 2004, the design and use of this graphic (see Figure 1) was reexamined by th e National Weather Service (NWS) and its parent organization the National Oceanograp hic and Atmospheric Administration. It came under scrutiny because, according to some, it has been misinterpreted by the public
11 and failed to Â“warnÂ” residents of Punta Gorda of the probability of Hurricane CharleyÂ’s landfall (Holleman, 2004). Although the graphic clearly showed Punta Gorda within the Â“cone of uncertainty,Â” many residents reli ed and focused on only one aspect of the graphic, the center black line th at indicated a more westerly and northerly landfall Â– Â“they just hadnÂ’t understoodÂ” (Holleman, p. 1). However, the media were blamed as well (Holleman, 2004). Newscasters had predicted a la ndfall in the Tampa, Florida, area, but Â“the hurricane suddenly changed course and headed inland just north of Ft. Myers, devastating the barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva (and splitti ng North Captiva into two islands) and churning up Charlotte harbor to wreak havoc in Punta GordaÂ” (Radio Business Report, 2004, p.1). It seems broadcaste rs were focused on the center black line, as well. The thin black line in the center of th e cone (Figure 1) represents the most probable path of a particular storm based upon a combination of computer projections and the activity of past storms (NWS 2004, National Hurricane Center Forecast Verification). However, the NWS consider ed removing the black center line in 2004 because, as Stone (2004) reported, they were Â“concerned that too many people focus on that narrow corridor and donÂ’t adequately c onsider the more wide-ranging impacts of tropical storms and hurricanesÂ” (Stone, 2004, p. 1) That Â“line of deceptionÂ” (Stone, 2004) however, remains in use even after receiving public comment on two alternative NWS graphics without the center line.
12 Figure 1. Tropical Cyclone Track and Watch/Warning Graphic From Alternative Tropical Cyclone Graphi cs: Solicitation for Comments (2004). NOAA National Weather Service. Retrieve d March 1, 2005. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ graphicsprototypes.shtml. If the NWS had conducted research or iented on understand and meaning, would it have spent the time and money designing the a lternative graphics that were eventually rejected by the majority of their users? This study is an examination of whether the NWS designers and their publics are in fact in agreement about the meaning of the tropical cyclone graphic. Using two graphics and two questionnaires, this study used instruments that attempted to measure several variables including whether the general public trusts the NWS. It also sought to measure if th e public has the general knowledge of weatherrelated terms and the ability to discern gra phic conventions that are implicitly assumed by
13 the NWS graphic designers. This research al so sought to determine if the NWS and the general public agree in their in terpretation of the graphics, if they think they share an understanding, and if they know it. Organization of the Study This study begins with a discussion of the panoply of theories th at seek to explain how the media help us make sense of our worl d. Opening with the theory of reality as a social construction, the literatur e review follows with the premise that the news media act as one social institution that shapes our reality Â– specifically th rough its depiction of scientific information. This discussion spotlights a few of the myriad factors that may affect our perceptions of r eality and risk. By highlighti ng these confounding influences, this review will illustrate how difficult it is for organizations such as the NWS to either predict or measure the effects of their warn ings. However, before working to determine which of these theories might be used to e xplain how we understand these warnings, this study seeks to demonstrate that it may be be tter to first determine whether there is a consensus of understanding. This first prac tical step could be an alternative for organizations seeking to measure audien ce cognitions and sense making. Measuring levels of consensus also could provide a bett er basis for later analysis and also prevent misunderstandings. The intent of this study is to examine how the use of graphic design conventions impact the publicÂ’s interpretation and understand ing of scientific in formation, specifically as it relates to the probability of the landfall of a tropical storm or cy clone. It is possible that the visual conventions us ed in the creation of a hurrican e graphic are not interpreted by the general public as they are intended by the designers.
14 It is only with the Â“inclusion of data from both sides of the relationshipÂ” (Broom, 1977, p. 118) that the effectiveness of communi cation can be measured. Considering that the NWS is Â“the sole U.S. official voice for issuing warnings during life-threatening weather situations (NWS Stra tegic Plan, 2005, p. 1), it is im perative that it understands the information needs of their customers. NWS products must be understood as they are intended by designers if populati ons at risk are to fully unde rstand critical information relevant to their immediate situation. By applying a coorientation meas urement model (Broom, 1977) to the understanding and intended meaning of storm graphics, this study aims to assess whether there is a consensus in unde rstanding between the makers and viewers of two graphical depictions of a tropical cyclone and its pat h. By isolating and measuring consensus of understanding of aspects of gra phic conventions such as map reading and scale, this study seeks to offer insight into th e foundations of the NWS/public consensus or disagreement.
15 CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction It seems incredible that a graphic dr awing consisting of a cone-shaped figure superimposed over an outline of a landmass can provide enough information to convince people of a dangerous future occurrence a nd motivate them into action. However, the National Weather Service and mass communicati on media use such a graphic tool every summer to warn citizens of impending hurricane s. What makes believers out of viewers is a complicated and not completely unde rstood process. Myriad communication constructs, including cognitive theory, narrativ e theory, media aesthetics, and reception theory, may explain how we create, see, in terpret, and derive meaning from words, sounds, and pictures such as the cone. This study operates from the premise that the construction of the graphic and the context in which it is presented affect peoplesÂ’ perceptions. Reality as a Social Construction In their seminal work, The social construction of reality Berger and Luckmann (1966) posit that we base our beliefs of how the world works and what is real upon what we are taught as children through a variety of cu ltural institutions and adult experiences. One very important aspect of this common reality, according to Berger and Luckmann (1966), is that it is co ntinually shaped by a dialogue that navigates between an individualÂ’s perception of the world and that of others. Â“The reality of everyday life is
16 taken for granted as reality. It does not requ ire additional verification over and beyond its simple presenceÂ” (p. 23). This reality may be questioned or challenged, the authors argue, but suspension of belief only occurs with a de liberate effort. In the case of severe weather, convincing a population to evacuate may be more difficult when the same population previously survived or thought they survived a hurricane conditions. More often however, hurricanes and ot her potentially devastating phenomenon represent a reality that is be yond our everyday existence. Thes e enclaves of existence are often the realm of the scientists and they us e language and symbols to help bring to us regions that are otherwise una vailable to us (Berger & Luckmann, 1966). Satellite images and vector graphics are such symbols and the mass media is often the vehicle that connects our world to the world of science. The mass media, however, is not a benign medium. According to Tuchman, (1978) news is also a social construction. When the media present information as news it is the result of personal and professional routines and influences. According to McNair (1998) the presentation of facts only becomes journalism Â“when they are given meaning and context Â– when they are transformed into a story or narrative Â– by an authorÂ” (p. 5). The presentation of thermometer and baromete r readings, according to McNair, Â“tell us something about weather on a given day, but does not tell us a story (and is not journalism)Â” (p. 5). It becomes storytelling and journalism when those readings are offered in context around a Â“set of assumpti ons, beliefs and valuesÂ” (p. 5). When weather is presented in a narrative as either Â‘goodÂ’ or Â‘badÂ’ value judgments are introduced. They then become part of a framework that aids us in giving meaning and context to events
17 beyond our immediate sensory experience (M cNair, 1998). Extending his argument, McNair (1998) suggests that: a hurricane is news not because it exists but because it threatens the social organization of human beings somewher e on the planet. The natural world is newsworthy only in its interaction with th e social. It is only when the natural world intervenes in or interferes with th e social worlds of human beings does it become the subject of news as opposed to the preserve of science (p. 8). Journalism, McNair (1998) claims Â“is revealed truth, mediated reality an account of the existing, real world as appropriated by the journalist and processed in accordance with the particular requirem ents of the journalistic medium through which it will be disseminated to some section of the publicÂ” (p. 8). This argument supports TuchmanÂ’s premise that news production is a social c onstruction of reality. An implication of McNairÂ’s perspective of journalism is that the reporting of hurri canes is a mediated reality for those who see, h ear, and read news reports. Science in the News Despite five days of warning, many Floridians were surprised by Hurricane Charley Three days after the August 13, 2004, la ndfall in Punta Gorda, a USA Today headline proclaimed that the Â“StormÂ’s cour se, force catch many Floridians unpreparedÂ” (StormÂ’s Course, 2004, p. 1). The Category 4 storm that pounded homes with 145-mileper-hour winds was expected to hit Tampa, approximately 100 miles to the north. One resident, quoted in the articl e said, Â“I was surprised it hit hereÂ….They all said it was going to hit Tampa. Then it turnedÂ” (p. 1). Sh e was not the only one to cite newscastersÂ’ predictions as the reason for surprise but members of the National Hurricane Center
18 claimed that the last minute shift in the di rection was not abrupt and that it was still within the Â“cone of uncertaintyÂ” forecasters use to predict storm tracks. How can there be such a difference of opinion between forecast ers and residents? What is obvious to scientists is often oversimplified by newscasters and ultimately misunderstood by the public. The presentation of scientific and technical information in the news is subject to the same pressures as other areas but, Nelkin (1987) purports, science has a special place in America. Nelkin (1987) suggests that Â“fair, cr itical and comprehensive reporting about science and technology is extremely important in a society increasingly dependent on technological expertiseÂ” (p. ix). The author contends that me dia coverage of science falls short of that measure and point s to the Â“relationship between the two influential social institutions of science and the pressÂ” (p. x) as one area that needs analysis. One area of analysis is particularly significant, name ly, the link between st ory selection and the financial benefits this can bring (Bliss, 1991; Nelkin, 1987). Even though science and technology are r eceiving more coverage, Nelkin (1987) argues that the public has a distorted view of science and technology. Homogeneity in science journalism may be one culprit for the lack of understanding because Â“most articles on a given subject focus on the same issues, use the same sources of information and interpret the material in similar term sÂ” (p. 9). This is another example of institutionalization of news in that Â“jour nalists are bound by similar cultural biases and professional constraints.Â” (p. 9). Scientists th emselves are part of the mix in how science is portrayed in the press. Â“The images of science and technology conveyed to the public reflect the characteristics of the journalistic profession, th e judgments of editors, and
19 above all, the controls exer cised by the scientific commun ityÂ” (p. 12). Both professions seek to Â“control the agenda of public communicationÂ” (p. 12). Nelkin (1987) traced the history of press coverage of a number of medical products and techniques incl uding lobotomies and estrogen therapies for menopause. In each of the cases, Nelkin cited the initial Â“ uncritical enthusiasmÂ” (p. 47) of the topic by science writers. For example, reliance on a limited number of experts resulted in early stories that characterized lobotomy as Â“no worse than removing a toothÂ” (p. 48). This style of reporting, Nelkin cont ends, is the result of the aggr essive marketing efforts of sources combined with a reporterÂ’s desire to deliver good news. Â“Academic, industrial, and research institutions are eager to prom ote the latest technologies and therapeutic techniques, and many reporters simply convey th eir stories of success especially if they fit with prevailing hopes or be liefsÂ” (p. 52). This heraldi ng of new technologies without discussion of their limitations can be seen in the television promotion of weather forecasting tools such as Doppler radar and ve ctor graphics. These tools might illustrate more storm information; however, without ad equate explanation, they can be confusing to viewers (Van Wagener, 2004). Proclaiming technological success, Nelkin (1987) suggests, is easier than explaining the downside of the risk. Â“Norms of objectivity and fairness encourage reporters to balance different views to give a technologyÂ’ s critics and proponents equal time but such efforts expose them to criticis ms from both sidesÂ” (p. 54). Some coverage of issues, such as that of fluorocarbons in the 1960Â’s, was charac terized by industry as Â“biasedÂ” and Â“sensationalÂ” (Nelkin, 1987). Â“Y et, with some notable exceptions, we seldom read about the scientific issues invol ved in risk disputes or methods of risk
20 analysis. Thus we are left with no basi s for making meaningful judgments about competing claimsÂ” (p. 54). Until the recent surge in the number of weather related websites such as weather.com and intellicast.com viewers had far fewer outlets to gain information about approaching storms. While these websites provide more venues with better graphics, much of the c ontent is based upon the same information sources as radio and television news, the NWS and the National Hurricane Center. We want science to decide for us, to give us a definitive answer to our dilemmas. This desire is the result of characterizations of science as an institution that Â“can provide definitive answers about risk, that Â‘factsÂ’ speak for themselves rather than being open to interpretation and that decisions about what risks are socially acceptable are scientific rather than political judgmentsÂ” (Nelkin, 1987, p. 59). Nelkin (1987) points to the word choices and metaphors used by journalists for affecting how we view technology and science. These word choices, Nelkin (1987) ar gues, results in the conveyance of beliefs about institutions like scien ce by Â“investing them with social meaning and shaping public conceptions of limits and possibilitiesÂ” (p. 11). The lack of gene ral information about what constitutes a particular risk leaves many citizens dependant upon the coverage an issue may receive. In the case of an appro aching hurricane, how viewers perceive the treatment of an imminent stor m may be the result of how it is characterized in a newscast. This characterization of a stor m, as powerful or non-threatening, may have an even larger impact on viewer perception of risk since, according to Kreimer (1980) many people do not have an understanding of the concepts or terms used by weat her forecasters. Many, Kreimer (1980) suggests, fail to even understand the differences between common weather terms, such as watch and warning or scientistsÂ’ use of the word bulletin. Â“In
21 esoteric areas of science a nd technology where readers have little direct information on preexisting knowledge to guide an indepe ndent evaluation (e.g., the effect of fluorocarbons on the ozone in the atmosphe re), the press, as a major source of information, in effect defines the reality of the situation for themÂ” (Nelkin, 1987, p. 77). Unless we hear from someone who is curr ently experiencing a storm predicted to visit us, we must rely upon the media and or ganizations such as the National Weather Service to warn us of the potential of se vere weather. While few would question the reporting of the measures of wind speed a nd barometric pressure, not everyone would agree on how those measures will affect us. Communicating Risk in the News Media are an important source of inform ation about risk. Â“Most perceptions of risk are mediated by one of three sources: pe rsonal experience, direct contact with other people, and indirect contact by way of mass mediaÂ” (Singer & Endreny, 1993, p. 2). The media affect the perception of risk through st ory selection and content. According to the authors, the Â“media select for emphasis haza rds that are relatively serious and relatively rareÂ” (p. 82). Risk is not covered as a separa te issue but, according to Singer and Endreny (1993) is included as a part of other types of stories. This treatment, the authors assert, results in news stories about hazards that Â“ordinarily do not provide enough information for rational decisionsÂ” (p. 40). In their 1988 study of media coverage of hazards and the coverage of risk in the news, Singer and Endreny (1993) found a numbe r of discrepancies in the reporting of hazard stories based upon sources such as schol arly journal articles. One reason for these
22 discrepancies, the authors argue, is because the routines of publication simplify science and render it more authoritative than it really is. The adaptation of information results in an atmosphere where Â“scientists come across as more authoritative than they r eally are Â…[and]Â… scie ntific findings are regarded with more confidence than may be warrantedÂ” (Singer & Endreny, 1993 p. 158). When these findings are found to be in erro r or is not confirmed Â“it may undermine the credibility of the whole structure; and that c onfidence in the press, as well as in science, may suffer as a resultÂ” (p. 158). When Hurricane Charley seemingly veered off course, many citizens faulted forecasters, but the director of the Nationa l Hurricane Center, Max Mayfield, placed the blame on the tendency of viewers to focus on th e center black line of the centerÂ’s graphic Â“cone of uncertainty.Â” Mayfield is quot ed in a Virginia Pilot online story: The black line in the graphic places t oo great an emphasis on the iffy computer analysis of a stormÂ’s potential path, wh ich is especially problematic when it shows landfall several days in advance. Too many people take that as gospel when all such forecasts have a margin of error. (Stone, 2004, p. 1) Another area of inconsistency in disaster coverage is in the attribution of blame (Singer & Endreny, 1993). The coverage varied according to the type of hazard reported. Â“For example, stories about natural hazards we re particularly unlikely to include explicit attributions of blameÂ” (p. 166) The authors found this tendency to be constant over time and across media. This finding supports St einbergÂ’s (2000) argument that there are issues, such as unrestricted growth along coas tlines, that contribut e to increased losses but are rarely discussed.
23 Singer and Endreny (1993) make clear th at their hypothesis that media influence audience perceptions of risk is only one in stance in the paradigm of media effects on cognitions and attitudes. However, they do a ssert that Â“knowledge and attitudes towards certain hazards are influenced by news coverageÂ” (p. 4). In their survey of risk perception re search, Wahlberg and Sjoberg (2000) report that many scholars share the belief that the media influence risk perception. However, the authors conclude that the mediaÂ’s role in risk perception may be less than previously thought. Â“Although many take mediaÂ’s influenc e for granted, the ev idence points the other way: even for heavy media users, medi a are probably not a strong causal factor in (especially not personal) risk perceptionÂ” (p. 31). Wahlberg and Sjoberg (2000) contend that risk perception may be affected by the am ount of information viewed but that those effects are mitigated by personal experience. They differentiate between personal and general risk perception and pos it that Â“general risk perception is more easily changed than personal risk perceptionÂ” (p. 35). The authors reviewed studies that refer to third person effect as well as a variety of othe r mass communication and related theories and hypotheses. Their content review also examined risk perception through the lens of social amplification theory, impersona l impact hypothesis, and cultiv ation theory. Wahlberg and Sjoberg (2000) summarized th e results of their review: (1) Media content: The content of the me dia is far from objective when it comes to risks, but it is also far from being as biased as has often been thought, both in frequency of reporting about and in presentation of hazards. One of the certain shortcomings of media is that they ofte n present facts outside their contexts, and leave to the public to evaluate them.
24 (2) Media influence: Yes, the media do influence (some of) our risk perceptions, but they are only one factor among many. (3) Availability: MediaÂ’s most fundame ntal way of altering peopleÂ’s risk perception is possibly by number and vividne ss of articles/features As risk almost always carries some notion of probabili ty and people use availability to estimate this probability, this notion is central to the effect of media on risk perception. (4) General and personal ri sk: Media can have an in fluence on general risk perception, but personal risk judgments appe ar to be very resistant to change from this source. Direct information fr om people about their experiences is a much stronger factor, as is personal experience. (p. 44) Included in Wahlberg and SjobergÂ’s ( 2000) review is a comparison of risk perception by type of communication. Â“Whe n it comes to risk communication, it is uncertain whether intentional information a nd media campaigns have an impact on risk perception that differs from that of the uni ntentional risk information that news and entertainment supplyÂ” (p. 44). Understanding the difference between these two delivery formats may be of importance to Florida broa dcasters who produce hurricane preparation guides and seminars. Although Wahlberg a nd Sjoberg warn against equating risk perception with resultant behaviors, they highlight some interesting cases such as the 1992 study by Soumerai et al. The study dealt wi th the media warnings linking aspirin to ReyeÂ’s syndrome in children. Soumerai, et al., (1992) found: the incidence of the disease went down to almost zero, and remained that way while the interest of mass media faded. What happened was presumably that
25 people reacted to the risk and changed th eir behaviour, e.g. they no longer gave aspirin to youngsters with a viral dis ease, the Â‘at-riskÂ’ group. The main risk communicator in this instance must have been the media, as warning labels did not appear on aspirin bottles until after the change, and there were no other mass communication channels at work. (p. 42). Among these studies and findings, Wahl berg and Sjoberg (2000) highlight a popular concept that the media ar e only one source of information that we use to form our opinions and make decisions. However, Wahl berg and Sjoberg (2000) do support Singer and EndrenyÂ’s (1993) argument th at the public does not get a ll the informati on it needs to make rational decisions. Â“The media report a bout different hazards without putting them in a context or perspective, and often without explaining technical terminology used. The public is left to form its own opinion about th e risk based on rather scarce informationÂ” (Wahlberg & Sjoberg 2000, p. 34). In the case of hurricanes, viewers may not remember storm specific terminology such as watch or warnings, and wit hout the aid of map legends or explanations are left to guess at their meanings. In addition to a scarcity of information about hazards, some disaster researchers have accused the media of perpetuating myth s. Quarantelli (1989) argues that while Â“journalistic accounts seem to stress the negative about indi vidual behavior, there is a tendency to focus on the positive about organizational behaviorÂ” (p. 7). Many organizations that come to assist in a di saster, the author argues, often add to the problems at hand. Â“In fact, one point more ofte n stressed in the literature is that the organizations that converge to help in the em ergency situation are fr equently not only the locus, but also the source of the problemÂ” (p. 6). This reluctance to point out negative
26 aspects of organizational behavi or could lead to a belief, by those without direct personal experience, that our governmental organizati ons such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are effective and efficient when responding to the needs of populations in crisis even if that is not the case. Another theme Quarnetelli (1989) identified in his review of disa ster literature is that story content Â“in media reports of disast er do not reflect reality but are a matter of social construction in the sense that Tuchman (1978) and Altheide ( 1976) argue is true of most newsÂ” (p. 14). While many scholars (Qua rantelli, 1989; Wahlbe rg & Sjoberg, 2000) agree that disaster stories are more factually accurate than previously believed, there is also agreement that the media tend to focus on the most extreme cases of disaster and injury. This inclination to highlight the more graphic examples of pain and destruction may skew our perceptions of what happens in a disaster situation. Th is tendency also may affect our perceptions of what constitutes a disaster as well. Â“In fact, many researchers working in the area appear to believe that the definitional process of mass media considerably determines what comes to be or not to be defined as a potential or actual disasterÂ” (Quarantelli, 1989, p.14). News room routines, including printÂ’s ne ws holes and broadcast time restraints are only two of a multitude of factors that determine what is printed or aired. If a storm is not due to hit a stationÂ’s cove rage area, it will probably be relegated to a less prominent spot. The decreased coverage does not lessen the size or strength of the storm, but its definition as a threat to li fe and property will be dimi nished for the local viewing audience. Risk is relative and its coverage is as well. Whet her we heed a media warning also will have to do with how much in fluence mass media have in our lives.
27 Media Systems Dependency How important a role the media play in the development of our sense of reality or our perception of potential thr eat is affected by how depende nt we are on the media for information about our world. Media systems de pendency theory is broadly defined as an Â“idea that the more a person depends on havi ng needs gratified by me dia use, the more important the mediaÂ’s role will be in the pe rsonÂ’s life and, therefor e, the more influence those media will haveÂ” (Baron & Davis, 2003, p. 320). The theory looks at dependency from both a societal and individual point of view. At the macro level the dependency can be explained as a result of increasing soci al complexity (Perry, 1996). Â“As societies increase in complexity, the media theoreti cally tend to perform a greater number of unique functions. Many of these functions di ffer according to how central they are to society or to groups of its membersÂ” (p.60). This dependency also can be seen from an individual point of view where people make use of media to help them make se nse of the world. Medi a systems dependency theory, however, measures dependency or impor tance in oneÂ’s life as a factor of its impact (Baron & Davis, 2003). While Â“it has not been conclusively demonstrated that the experience of media dependency by average people is strongly related to a broad range of effectsÂ” (p. 321), the theory is useful to examine media use and effects during times of turmoil or change. During uncertain times people can become more dependent upon media because peopleÂ’s existing social networ ks are unable or unavailable to deliver necessary information (Perry, 1996). Â“During a severe social disruption there is an unusua lly high need for information and sense-making by individuals. According to media systems dependency theory, the
28 mass media are generally perceived to be st satisfy these needsÂ” (Wilson, 2004, p. 339). Although many scholars cite an increase in me dia usage and dependency during uncertain times (Baran & Davis, 2003; Hindman, 2004; Quarantelli, 1989), Wilson found, in a 2004 pilot study, that although Â“the degree that people rely on the media for information is heightened during crises, this is not consta nt across individualsÂ” (p. 339). In his study that examined dependencies on media afte r the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Wilson found that Â“perceived threat and ag e are the key predictors of overall media dependency, and threat is a particularly important predictor on interpersonal communication about th e eventÂ” (p. 339). Whether we are old or young, our per ception of reality is bound by both our physical being and our emotional histor y. How we see things is no exception. Visual Perception How we process information depends on how we receive it. Some researchers purport that we receive approximately 80 per cent of our information visually (Berger, 2002, p. 1). Many think that the eyes are merely lenses that record images of reality, but scientific evidence indicates th at we first process visual in formation through an emotional part of our brain (Barry, 2005) Vision becomes perception, Â“the process by which we derive meaning from what we see, is an elaborate sym phony that is played first and foremost through the unconscious emotional systemÂ” (p. 46). Barry (2005) argues that this emotional processing is Â“essential for meaningÂ” and is often affected by traumatic events. It remembers past experiences and us es them to react quickly to the similar stimuli. Â“The greater the impact of the emotional experience, the more deeply the emotional memory is etchedÂ” (p. 59). Repetit ion also works to affect the unconscious
29 memory. Â“Because our mammalian brain interprets media images as reality and responds emotionally according to the circumstances pr esented to it, understanding perceptual processing has significant implicatio ns for media effectsÂ” (p. 59). In addition to cognitive explanations of visual communica tion, narrative theory also argues that past experience is the key to media consumers finding media content credible. Â“Television is the most importan t storyteller in contemporary lifeÂ” (Zhou, 2004, p. 237). In a good news story we learn about a sign ificant event. It expl ains that event in a context that gives readers something to conne ct the salience of the event to meaning in their lives. Storytelling or narrative Â“is a wa y of making sense of the worldÂ” (Barbatsis, 2005, p. 329). Television, newspapers, and the WW W, use both narrative and visual texts to explain events. However, to believe the information these media provide, that information must fit with peopleÂ’s precon ceived ideas of the world. Â“[A] good story makes good sense if its arguments fit with what we know of experienceÂ” (p. 333). However, Zhou (2004) points to past studies that Â“paint a very dismal picture of television as a journalistic a nd informational mediumÂ” (p. 237). Part of the problem lies in how stories are constructed and informa tion is presented. As Messaris and Mariarty (2005) note: Understanding a visual image occurs on two levels. On a more fundamental level, understanding involves applying a constellat ion of basic perceptual principles to the acquisition of meaning from what we see, whether it be a sign, an image, or a graphic representation. On a different perhaps higher, level, understanding involves deconstruction of the intended meaning in terms of techniques used by the producer of the image to simulate or manipulate certain responses. (p. 483)
30 Whether residents of Florida and other hurricane-prone areas will evacuate in advance of a predicted storm is dependent upon a number of factors one of which is how information is processe d (Ledingham & Walters, 1989). A ccording to authors, the answer is Â“related to many variables, incl uding information source and credibility, media use, perceived media accuracy, differing func tions of different kinds of communication, the effect of past experience, evacuati on decision making, and ethnicityÂ” (p. 35). Other factors, such as how information is packaged on the news, can also affect viewersÂ’ perceptions. In an online article, Poynter Institute Design Editor Van Wagener (2004) pondered the effect of constantly watching ra dar graphics during the 2004 hurricane season in St. Petersburg. Â“The diffi culty with many of th e local graphics was that they lacked context and explanation. For instance, one could assume that the arrows illustrated wind direction or speed. Howeve r, in a high-stress situation, important information could get lost.Â” Van Wagener wo rried that the graphics were hard to understand and that they could distract from information vital for survival. Though less noticeable than the high-tech weather graphi cs, other production techniques also can affect our perceptions. Media Aesthetics Applied media aesthetics examines e ffects of media produc tion techniques on perception (Zettl, 1998). Media variables of lighting, camera movements, types and angles of shots, and sound have effects on how we Â“seeÂ” the world through television and film. Variables such as font, typeface, and paper thickness and texture are most commonly related to print media. However, photo composition variables such as depth of field, cropping, and color balance are also used in television and film. Audio effects such
31 as echoes, channel separation, and channel bala nce affect quality in radio, television, and film production. Many of these variables generally go unnoticed by the reader or viewer but both producers and audience need to be cognizant of how these techniques can shape our perception of a news item. These media e ffects, such as the re petition of quick-cut video showing past storm devastation, could act to capture viewer atte ntion, but they also may increase stress in an already nervous a udience. Â“A growing lit erature reveals that people's ability to learn and recall inform ation is negatively affected by stressÂ” (Thompson, Williams, & Cornelius, 2001, p. 611). Other factors contribute to what we see. According to Chandler (1997), there are key factors to reflect on when considering visual perception. Two of these factors are the distinctiveness of human vision and the importance we place on our sense of sight. Humans see the world differently from other an imals because of the structure of our eyes and the percentage of our brai n that is dedicated to pro cessing that information. The importance or primacy we give to sight can be traced to Plato and Aristotle and is evidenced by such expressions as seeing is believing and our desire to make sense of what we see. This desire to make meaning, according to Chandler (1997), is fundamental to our visual perception. We look to make pa tterns out of essentially meaningless visuals and make judgments as to our Â“readingÂ” of them. Some images are more open to interpretati on than others. Most of us would see no 'intended reading' in such natural phenomena as flames and clouds (though this wouldn't stop us seeing meaningful pattern s in them). We would generally accept that there is typically less openness to interpretation when it comes to images deliberately designed by human beings. The declaration that a road sign is 'open
32 to interpretation' is not likely to be mu ch of a difference for ignoring its intended meaning in the eyes of the law! On the other hand, we would usually feel free to be fairly free-ranging in our interpreta tion of an image which we knew to be intended as a work of art. (Chandler, 1997, p. 1) Weather scientistsÂ’ foremost concern is the accuracy of their forecasts, but they also must consider the accuracy of the perceptions of those forecasts. If a weather graphic is to be disseminated outside of professional communities, a primary concern should be that viewers and readers get the message that officials consider important. Determining what variables can contribute to th is Â“sense-makingÂ” is central to reception theory, which suggests that instead of looki ng at what something means we should look at Â“how something meansÂ” (Barbatsis, 2001, p. 273) as a result of in teraction between the reader/viewer and producer. Â“A question of how something means implies, instead, recognition that there is intention on the part of the producing agent Â–a painter, a director, a photographer Â– about how she wants a text Â– her painting, film photograph Â–to be readÂ” (p. 273). The second part of the equation is wh at the viewer constructs from the text. The literature offers a number of theori es for why people perceive the graphic differently. How and what a NW S designer decides to include in graphic depictions of hurricanes and their paths, in what context the graphic is pr esented, whether there is an explanation by the announcer, th e context of its presentation or even which fonts are used to describe the content can all have an effect on the meaning viewers or readers make. However, even if the presentation of a graphic were standardized, there is still the matter of the viewer.
33 How people Â“readÂ” the graphic will be re lated to their previous experiences (Barbatsis, 2005). Those past experiences are shaped by fact ors such as age and sex, as well as where they live and the wo rk they perform. Learning to read certain types of graphical representations is often the result of acceptance of conven tions or rules. These devices or techniques are akin to rhetorical ones and provide an Â“Â…interpretive safety net for readers and designersÂ” (p. 193). Kost elnick and Hassett (2003) call for an understanding of visual language that relies on codes to nor malize its meaning. Â… visual vocabulary is acquired by us ers both the designers who deploy conventional codes and the readers who in terpret them. Users are socialized in conventional practices, sometimes through formal training, oftentimes through a process of informal enculturation, until the conventions beco me habits of mind. Once learned, conventions perform an inva luable service for users by supplying the cohesion that makes visual language familiar, accessible, and imitable. For designers they supply a wealth of rea dy-made forms that can be adapted to specific situations; for read ers, they supply interpreti ve short-cuts to making meaning. (p. 23) These conventions are easily identified by users in what Kostelnick and Hassett (2003) refer to as Â“visual discourse commun itiesÂ” (p. 26). These community members are often trained in the methods of their profe ssions. Engineers easily navigate construction plans, and electricians understa nd the intricacies of an electri cal diagram. But these users have come to their understanding through education and experience. Â…students in agronomy learn how to read so il diagrams; in forestry tree plots and maps and in meteorology, color-enhanced satellite photos. Conventions codified
34 within disciplines provide a cohesive vi sual language because the group members share interpretive frameworks that result from their shared learning. (Kostelnick & Hassett 2003, p. 26) A disconnect can occur, however, when th ese conventions are used visually to communicate with members outside their commun ities. Many a parent can attest to the Christmas Eve frustrations of navigating unint elligible assembly instructions based upon engineer drawings. Yet, we depend upon a nd follow information conveyed by visual design conventions every da y. International signs depi cting restrooms, two-way roadways, and the yellow triangle of da nger are easily understood by many of us. Trouble occurs when we have not been exposed to a nd learned what these conventions represent. Conventions Â“serve readers by providi ng a collective shorthand for interpreting informationÂ” (p. 180). Within discourse comm unities, the designer and the reader develop what Kostelnick and Hassett ( 2003) refer to as a quasi-socia l contract. When conventions are ignored or misused, readers are often conf used. A letter typed in all capital letters without punctuation or a telephone book listing numbers numerically will unsettle us or lead us to give up on the reading. Other prin ting conventions, such as headings help us discern an articleÂ’s organization and spot color, help readers scan for important information. The context in which we view visual in formation is extremely varied. Kostelnick and Hassett (2003) note that Â“r eaders seldom encounter visu al language in perceptual, social, or historical vacuum sÂ” (p. 3). To achieve mutu al understanding, the authors suggest, there must be a coope rative relationship among designers and readers. It is this social contract beneath design conventions, Kostelnick and Hassett (2003) contend, that
35 allows readers to Â“reliably use their prior experiences as compasses for interpreting conventionsÂ” (p. 180). While so me interpretations of visu als may be outside of a designerÂ’s control, there is al so an opportunity for the misuse of conventions. This can happen, according to Kostelnick and Hassett ( 2003), when conventions are used Â“as if they were a neutral, unmediated display of the facts [that] may lead readers to mistake the artificial for the natural, skewing their inte rpretationsÂ” (p. 182). It is this shaping of information for rhetorical ends that make s visual communication a powerful vehicle. Kostelnick and Hassett (2003) point to the simple pie chart as an example of how design conventions can be used to affect per ceptions. If used to di splay the character and incidence of workplace injuries with the numbe r of serious accidents displayed as a small dark slice, then the design conventi ons equating size to significance removes the reader from the gruesome reality of the situationÂ…..Because the conventional display portrays the problem of accidents causing long-term disabilities as only a marginal, thin sl ice of all workplace accidents, the design implies that the problem must barely exist. (p. 183). It is not the data but how data are displayed in the genre of pie chart that determines the visibility of the problem. Â“Depending upon the rhetorical stance of those deploying the pie chart, the thin slice either protects th em from having to address the problem or weakens their argument that it must be solvedÂ” (p. 184). Understanding the processes involved in visual communication can help institutions like the mass media develop me thods to prevent miscommunication. Others, who rely on the media to disseminate their me ssages, should be cognizant of their effects as well.
36 National Weather Service and Public Relations The NWS 20005-2010 strategic plan motto is Working Together to Save Lives In that document the NWS claims the role as the Â“sole U.S. official voice for issuing warnings during life-threatening weather si tuationsÂ” (p. 1). From a public relations perspective these two activiti es place the NWS in the realm of relationship manager and crisis communicator. While a vast amount of its work is in the formation of a database for public and private entities, it is its role as the provider of weathe r, water, and climate forecasts that is of primary interest for this st udy. It is also in the pe rformance of is crisis communication function that it is most visible to the general public. Identifying and defining publics may be central to public rela tions practice, but relations and relationships are what separate public re lations from marketing and advertising. According to Ledingham (2003), Â“t he appropriate domain of public relations is, in fact, relationshipsÂ” (p. 194). How or ganizations interact and communicate with people inside and outside of their organizati on will characterize their relationships. In public relations practice one goal is to identi fy, manage, and measure these relationships. Theoretically, they are dissected and examin ed, and new and better ways to build them are proffered. Ledingham believes this relations hip management perspective deserves to be a general theory of public relations that can be used as a foundation for research. The authorÂ’s proffered theory of relationship management is based upon the premise that Â“public relations balances the interests of organizations and publics through the management of organization-public relati onshipsÂ” (p. 181). Ledingham (2003) contends that Â“effectively managing organizationalpublic relationships around common interests and shared goals, over time, results in mutu al understanding and be nefit for interacting
37 organizations and publicsÂ” (p.190). That management, however, extends beyond communication and must include behavior s of both the public and organization (Ledingham, 2003). These behavior s include Â“public relations functions such as special events, public affairs, development, and pr ess relations,Â” which Ledingham distinguishes from the communication production of ne ws releases and annual reports. This community interaction and the qu ality of relationships are key to 21st century corporate success (Wilson, 2001). Wilson predicts that Â“relationship building will be a strategic function directed by public relations but engaged in by key corporate leaders who participate in bu ilding productive relationships em phasizing communities of mutual support and cooperationÂ” (p. 524). This communita rian perspective calls for practitioners to view Â“all of the organizationÂ’s publics in terms of the communities we have in commonÂ” (p. 525) and follows MoffitÂ’s (2001) collapse model where the search is for shared attitudes and behavior. Communitari an philosophy Â“asserts that the provision of [individual] rights requires re sponsibility on the part of al l members of the communityÂ” (p. 523), and businesses must be a player in solving societyÂ’s problems. For this to happen in the United States, Wilson (2001) argue s, businesses would need to Â“shift from typically bottom-line thinking and evaluati on to a more communitarian approach to business and societyÂ” (p. 521). Public relations professionals are in the best position to Â“counsel management on making this shift in st rategyÂ” (p. 524). Through their efforts to encourage corporate particip ation in the community because it is the Â“morally responsibleÂ” course, Â“public relations c ounselors will become the organizationÂ’s conscience in ways never before imaginedÂ” ( p. 525). Maintaining the moral high road can
38 have dramatic effects on the reputation and viability of organizations, especially in time of trouble. The NWS and especially the National Hurri cane Center, an operational arm of the agency, are all too familiar with the chal lenges of communicating in times of trouble. They must take the information from their co mputerized models and deliver the official tropical cyclone forecasts and advisories. They must balance the Â“scienceÂ” of forecasting with the propensity of some viewers to focus on a particular model (see NHC/TPC Forecast Model Background and Info, p. 1). Th e NWS releases only selected material because Â“our past experience indicates such plots have confused users and detracted from our final messageÂ…Â”(p. 1). Continuous e nvironmental scanning and benefiting from lessons learned pays dividends for organizati ons like the NWS, esp ecially in times of crisis. Relationships and Cr isis Communications In times of crisis, established positive relationships, help organizations. According to Fearn-Banks (2001), Johnson and JohnsonÂ’s 1 982 Tylenol crisis could have been much worst for the company. However, its establishe d relationships with its publics prevented loss of its good reputation. Â“All of the stakeholders stood by Johnson & Johnson and remained loyal. .. .and this case remains one of the prime examples of how relationships and honesty can help an organization through di fficult timesÂ” (p. 482). This crisis also ignited an interest in crisis communication planning and identification of best practices often based upon the excellen ce theory of public relati ons (L. Grunig, J. Grunig, & Dozier, 2002). These ongoing organizational be st practices range from including public
39 relations managers as members of the dom inant coalition to developing strong media relationships. These types of practices have been found, according to Fearn-Banks (2001), to help organizations in measur able ways. Organizations are more likely to Â“suffer less financial and reputation damageÂ” and Â“are in a better position to prevent a crisisÂ” or Â“will suffer less and recover more rapidly from a crisis (p. 481). What constitutes a crisis, however, is often viewed from the position of the organization. The literature seems to offer fewer suggestions for how an organizati on should or could be ready to respond to a crisis from the perspective of its publics or stakeholders, which could be seen as the critical ingredient of Johnson & JohnsonÂ’s 1982 success. Â“At the time, [Johnson & Johnson] did not have crisis communicat ion preparations, although it did live by the company credo that served as a crisis guide lineÂ” (p. 484). That credo, according to FearnBanks (2001), Â“spelled out the companyÂ’s pr iorities in order Â– consumers (including medical personnel, employees, communities, and stockholdersÂ” along with the companyÂ’s Â“already Â… strong relationships w ith all their publics helped the company through the crisis Â” (p. 482). Not all crisis situations can be pred icted, but some general themes about how people react to crisis or disaster can offe r more support to an organization spending time developing relationships and multiple modes of communication. In a survey of literature examining citizen response to disasters, He lsloot and Ruitenberg ( 2004) identified factors that affect how people respond. The perception of risk of disaster, the character of the threat, and a communityÂ’s previous experi ence all play roles in citizen response. However, the authors contend, Â“t he best predictor of behaviour in emergency situations is
40 the behaviour prior to the emergency situa tionÂ” (p. 105). In times of crisis, they recommend organizations use existing structur es to their fullest. The implication for public relations activities is that build ing redundant and formalized means of communication with an organizationÂ’s publics will serve well in times of emergency. While reliance on existing systems may he lp organizations on a practical level, understanding the complexity of a disaster or crisis better can be understood by applying concepts of chaos theory. Ch aos theory Â“attempts to unders tand the behavior of systems that do not unfold in a linearly predictabl e, conventional cause and effect manner over timeÂ” (Murphy, 1996, p. 96). By definition alone chaos theory appears as a perfect model to study our rapidly changing world, and it also Â“provides a particularly good model for crisis situationsÂ” (p. 105). Seeger (2002) agrees with that assessment and argues that chaos theory is becoming Â“inc reasingly popular as a meta-theoretical framework in the social sciencesÂ” that pr ovides a Â“unifying framework that reaches across disciplinary linesÂ” and spans fields fr om education and psychology, to economics and disaster management (p. 330). As a me ta-theory for organizational crisis, chaos theory does not offer Â“the promise of si mplistic black and white explanations and predictionsÂ” (Seeger, 2002, p. 336), but it does provide a more Â“realistic view of these disrupting, complex, and change inducing ev ents.Â” As the Â“scientific version of postmodernismÂ” (Murphy, 1996, p. 96) chaos theory embraces the complexity of the world but also can provide a framework for issues managers to Â“show the interplay between factors as diverse as social concerns news events, cultural values, and corporate goals, an approach which demands a high level of context sensitivityÂ” (p. 103).
41 Berkowitz and Turnmire (1994) agree that identification of public issues does not always follow simple demographic characte ristics and requires an organization to Â“proactively build an understa nding of a community's issue orientations. This becomes challenging because segmentation does not al ways follow demographic characteristics alone and because the views of latent publics are difficult to detectÂ” (p. 105). Issues management is Â“an ongoing two-way symmetrical program handled by the public relations departmentÂ” (Fearn-Banks, 2001, p. 480). It seeks to Â“understand both the internal and external environments in wh ich an organization operatesÂ” (Pratt, 2001, p. 337) and should provide an organization with an Â“early warning systemÂ” for emerging issues. However, scanning the environment for potential problems and formulating a plan to change or alter a publicÂ’s opinion is not the only end product of issues management. The intent also should be Â“to change an organizationÂ’s practices making them more responsive to the public interestÂ” (p. 336). Responding to a public interest or need is often the role of nonprofit or governmental organizations such as the NW S. The Nonprofit Resource Center defines nonprofit organizations as corpor ations Â“formed for the purpo se of serving a purpose of public or mutual benefit other than the pursuit or accumulation of profitsÂ” (http://www.not-for-profit.org/ para 1). A public benefit or mutual benefit implies Â“publicÂ” Â“relationsÂ” and, according to Dyer Buell, Harrison and Weber (2002), nonprofit organizations have public relations whether they know it or not. However, the authors also claim that Â“the role of public relati ons in non-profit orga nizations is not well developedÂ” (p. 13). In thei r study of nonprofit PR practitio ners, the authors found many
42 of the practitioners often perf ormed a variety of non-public a ffairs type tasks. But many respondents in their study: believed that all employees made large contributions in support of public relations. In other words, everyone in the organizati on has a public relations responsibility. We believe this is true in the for-profit sector as well, but it is especially true in the non-pr ofit sector because of the natu re of their social service delivery and the constraints imposed by s carce organizational resources. (p. 20) While the NHC/TPC does have a full time public affairs representative, the conferences, news releases, interviews, a nd weather center open houses attended and supported by NHC/TPC staff attest to a broad based support of public relations activities. These actions also show support for longterm NOAA and NWS educational goals of environmental literacy. To that end, the NWS conducts Â“outreach a nd education activities [that] are aimed at making sure the public understands the informa tion we provide and can use it effectively in the decisions they makeÂ” (NWS, 2005, p. 1). These efforts, along with promoting myriad partnerships in government and private and public industry worldwide support good organizational relationshi ps. Outreach efforts provide audiences or publics with explanations of NWS pro cesses and products; howev er, they probably do not provide the specific feedback necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of their communications. Â“Public relations practitione rs typically use pub lic opinion survey results to assess the effectiveness of messagesÂ…Â” (Broom, 1977, p. 110). However, Broom (1977) argues that measurement must go beyond measuring levels of agreement on issues between audiences and organizati ons if Â“all the information needed to
43 adequately describe corporatepublic relationships on issues of mutual concernÂ” is to be collected (p. 111). According to Grunig and Hon (1999), Â“the fundamental goal of public relations is to build and then enhance on-going or long-term relationships with an organizationÂ’s key constituenciesÂ” (p. 2). They proposed that it was only through the measurement of relationships that organizations can garner information that goes beyond particular public relations programs or events. To that effect they proposed measuri ng relationships using six items; trust, control mutuality, sa tisfaction, commitment, and communal and exchange relationships (p. 26). Thus, measuring the effectiveness of the NWS communications must go beyond measuring simple agreement of the issues relati ng to severe weather forecasts. It is also necessary that there are measures for levels of understanding of concepts and whether the NWS is seen as a competent, dependable, and principled organization. To adequately warn populations at risk, the NWS must know if they and their audiences share a common understanding of hazardous weather ad visories and warnings. They also must know if their publics trust them to be up to the challenge of predicting and communicating that information. Public Relations Measurement Â– Coorientation Model While much communication theory and its practical applications in public relations examine the factors affecting how we communicate, it is the process of cognition and understanding that sets apart one theoretical approach. As first proffered by Newcomb (1953) and later Mcleod and Chaffee (1972), coorientation theory posits that Â“Â…people and organizations relate to one anot her successfully to th e extent they think
44 similarly about ideasÂ” (Austin & Pi nkleton, 2001, p. 271). The coorientation model allows for the measurement of those att itudes or impressions. Two parties reach a consensus of understanding when Â“both partie s agree and know they agreeÂ” (Austin & Pinkelton, p. 63). Based on the presumption of two-way communication, coorientation is one research tradition in public relations (Botan & Hazl eton, 1989). It is particularly salient for public relations pr actice, according to Grunig (1989), because it allows for the measurement of relationships. The coorientation theory and model tr aces to Newcomb (1953) who posited that Â“communication among humans performs the esse ntial function of enabling two or more individuals to maintain simultaneous orient ation toward one anot her as communicators and toward objects of comm unicationÂ” (p. 393). Thus, coorientation is a relational term, and communication is the process by whic h it is achieved. From this perspective consensus must be studied as an interaction between people rather th an as a property of a single individual. This type of interaction is evident in our everyday lives when we ask one another, Â“Did you see what I just saw?Â” The resulting conversation that flows back and forth with descriptions and impre ssions would be an example of two-way communication taken to the next level wh en, ideally, a consensus of understanding results. Consensus of understanding takes into account actual agreement as well as the partiesÂ’ perceptions of agreement (Broom, 1977). Approaches to measuring consensus, according to Botan and Hazleton (1989), were developed by Laing, Phillipson and Lee (1966); McLeod and Chaffee, (1972, 1973); an d Scheff, 1967) and were based upon NewcombÂ’s 1953 model. These models focuse d on interpersonal communication, but
45 Broom (1977) suggested their application fo r public relations pr ofessionals in the identification of public relation problems as well as in the planning and measurement of program effects. Broom (1977) based hi s model on Chaffee and McLeodÂ’s (1973) Coorientation Measurement Model. That m odel, according to Botan and Hazleton (1989), is built upon a foundation of the concept of social reality a nd its associated process of social validation and a common value system. BroomÂ’s 1977 model uses the same three variables of understanding or agreement congruency and accuracy and applies them to the measurement of corporatepublic consensus. Â“So rather than measuring simple agreement on the definition of issues, the task becomes one of measuring the re lationships between a corporation and its various publics in a consensual framew orkÂ” (p. 112). Broom (1977) developed a Corporate-Public Consensus of Understand ing Model (p. 113) and proposed it as a framework for the organization of data collected by asking four questions: 1. How does corporate management define the issue? 2. How does corporate management th ink Public A defines the issue? 3. How does Public A define the issue? 4. How does Public A think corporat e management defines the issue? The relationships among these measur es are the three variables common to coorientation models and are defined by Broom (1977, p. 114) as: 1. Mutual understanding represents the extent to wh ich the corporate definition of the issue is similar to a publicÂ’s definition of the same issue (agreement-disagreement on the definition of the issue).
46 2. Congruency represen ts the extent to which one groupÂ’s definition of the issue is similar to its estimate of the othe r groupÂ’s definition (p erceived agreementdisagreement on the definition of the issue). 3. Accuracy represents the extent to which one groupÂ’s estimate of the otherÂ’s definition is similar to the otherÂ’s actual definition of the issue. Figure 2: Corporate-Public C onsensus of Understanding Model Broom (1977) Corporate-Public Consensus of Understanding Model. Figure 2 (p. 115) While the variables of accuracy and agreement or understanding are relational (Botan & Hazleton, 1989), Broom (1977) contends that congruency is not. Congruency is not about the relationship between the public and an organization but Â“describe sets of expectations brought to the relationship by the two interacting groupsÂ” (p. 115).
47 It is important for an organization and its public to agree on definitions of an issue or concept, but it does not mean they share the same evaluations. Â“For example, coorienting parties generally may recognize the same elements in a public relations problem, in which case there is understanding, but they may not agre e on their respective roles and the appropriate responsesÂ” (Botan & Hazleton, 1989, p. 252). In the case of the NWS, the designers of the graphics and th e public may agree on the definitions of the essential elements of the tropical cyclone track graphic, but may not share or extrapolate the designerÂ’s intended meaning. Disagreement is one thing, miscommunicati on is another. People or organizations and their publics can Â“agree to disagreeÂ” on an issue, but danger lurks in areas of misunderstanding. According to Broom (1977), there are two dimensions of agreement between parties; the first is actual agreement and the other is the pe rception of agreement. These two states are not necessarily in s ynch, however, and each combination of these conditions can create very different situat ions. When people agree and know they agree there is consensus When they disagree and know it, there is dissensus The more troubling situation is when there is agreement, but the parties do not believe they agree, called pluralistic ignorance or if they disagree but think they agree, called false consensus The coorientation model follows GrunigÂ’ s prescriptions for the importance of two-way communications for public relations by taking into account both sides of the communication equation. The coorientation model as a research tool is an especially Â“good way to diagnose the potential for miscommunication that can hurt attempts at building consensus and damage an organizationÂ’s reputationÂ” (Aus tin & Pinkleton, 2001, p. 62). In the case of
48 the outcry over misunderstanding of the proj ected path of Hurricane Charley in 2004, it seems that regardless of the anecdotal information that was supplied to the NWS, there was really no verification of whether the cu lprit was the Â“center black lineÂ” or if other elements were to blame. New technologies can enhance or conf use communications (Grunig, J. E. & Grunig, L.A., 1989). This may be particularly true in the dissemination of scientific information where the processes of data collec tion and its analysis are functions of other sciences and technologies. In the case of weather forecasting, engineers from diverse disciplines come together to build systems that monitor the environment, analyze the data, and convert the information into na rratives and graphics. How and through what mediums that information is conveyed to the public, may enlighten or confound the reader. For the NWS it may mean that newer weather surveillance and modeling tools may confuse rather than assist in the communication of weather information. The possibility that prediction tools may not serve as good communication products is evidenced by NWSÂ’ reluctance to release graphics of its storm track models. They made this decision because Â“some users have also become too reliant in the individual forecast scenarios presented by the many model forecast lines, some of which have little or no chance of being correct. This is not the message the NHC wants to sendÂ” (NWS, April 2006). Another example of how conventions can be confusing to the viewer is in the recent introduction of the wind vector and vapor models used by some television outlets. A September 19, 2006 weather forecast aire d on NBC-2, Ft. Myers showed a Doppler
49 radar image with the color red representing th e heaviest rainfall while the next new vapor map depicted an area of dry air also coded as red. If successful communication depends upon Â“accurate perceptions from all parties involvedÂ” (Austin & Pinkleton, 2001, p. 62), then the best way to measure success is to evaluate the levels of accuracy and agreemen t of those perceptions. The NWS has a vast number and variety of relations hips with organizations that use their products. For the tropical cyclone graphic alone, the NWS listed its audiences as a continuum starting with federal agencies and the media and ending w ith the general public. Additionally, each person in these audiences looks through his or her own percep tual looking glass. To add to the complexity is NWSÂ’ multifarious communication environment with its mix of scientific, governmental, and cor porate organizational cultures. While many of us might like to think a vi sual or graphic representation is fairly straightforward, Kosttelnick and Hassett (2003) remind us that Â“readers seldom encounter visual language in perceptual, social, or historical vacuumsÂ” (p. 3). While designers have little or no control over how th eir visuals are used, they can work to develop relationships with their publics through the development and use of visual conventions. For NWS graphic designers to efficiently communicat e with visual language it will require Â“constant cooperation among designers and read ersÂ” (Kosttelnick & Hassett, 2003, p. 3). In 2004 when the National Weather Service queried visitors to its website about two alternative versions of the Tropical Storm and Hurricane Warn ing/Watch graphic, questions centered on opinions about usabil ity, technical accuracy, and preference. The survey did not specifically as k about how constructs such as Â“potentialÂ” or Â“probableÂ” might be represented or if viewers an d designers did shar e a common meaning.
50 Measuring understanding of the applicable weather term s is less problematic than measuring understanding of or agreemen t for their graphic representation.
51 CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY Research Design Pauly and Hutchinson (2001) posit that Â“to a remarkable degree, the profession of public relations understands itself through cas e studiesÂ” (p. 381) and argue for the importance of using these professional stor ies as a basis for documenting the history, lessons learned and future study of the profe ssion. The authors furthe r suggest that case studies not only should be demonstrations of Â“professional distinc tionsÂ” like community relations or crisis communicati on but also should work to examine public relations more holistically as in studying one agency acro ss a number of campaigns or one function across a number of organizations. This study focuses on the NWS and its effo rts to redesign a weat her product. It is an examination of one process, of the public vetting of experimental products, and one case of the product known as the Tropical Cycl one Watch/Warning graphic. Specifically, this study is an examination of whether the NW S designers and their publics are in fact in agreement about the meaning of the tropical cyclone graphic. Th rough the measurement of several variables using both quantitative and qualit ative data gathering techniques, this research seeks to determine if the NW S and the general public agree in their interpretation of the graphi cs, if they share an underst anding, and if they know it.
52 Selection of Subjects The research subjects for this study are cl assified in two categories Â– residents of Florida (general public) and Southwest area broadcast mete orologists. The population for the general public questionnaire was initiall y a convenience sampling of residents of Punta Gorda Metropolitan Sta tistical Area which encompasse s Charlotte County Florida. Using a Public Hearing Contact List supplie d by the Punta Gorda City Clerk Office, residents were contacted through their condom inium or homeowners association. Even numbered association entries of the contact list were chosen. The c ityÂ’s listing contained 136 associations. One additional association wa s added by the researcher because of the obvious oversight of such a larg e homeowner group which resulted in a total of cluster of 137. Association members were contacted prim arily through associati on points of contact and/or boards of directors. Condominium associations, civic associations, and homeowner associations were unable or unwill ing to contact membership via email to request participation in the survey. However, one quasi-government group Team Punta Gorda showed interest in this research and assisted the investigator by sending out a broadcast email to their 500 plus members which ultimately expanded the sample to what became a snowball sample of Florida residents. All 135 respondents participated by completing an online survey hosted on the Univ ersity of South Florida website. The 135 respondents were less than the 384 required number for a population-corrected sample size necessary for generalization. The rationale for initially selecting Ch arlotte County residents as participants stems from FloridaÂ’s history of severe trop ical weather. During the period between 1851 and 2004, Florida sustained 110 of the 273 (or more than 40 percent) of the direct
53 hurricane hits on the mainland U.S. coastline from Maine to Texas. (U.S. Mainland Hurricane Strikes by State, 1851-2004 http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/paststate.shtml ). This history also makes Florida a pa rticularly fertile state in which to study risk and crisis communication. The population demographics provide another unique opportunity to measure attitudes of one population since Flor ida (as of July, 2003) led all states with percentage of residents aged 65 and olde r at 17%. Charlotte County, Florida, where Hurricane Charley made landfall, had the highest pr oportion in the nation with 34% of its population 65 and older (U.S. Census, 2004). Both the location and demographics of this area mark its residents as a vulnerable population. This combination of older citizens in a state with a long history of tropical cyclone activity provides a re search population in which to measure both the attitudes of this population towards the NWS and their pe rceptions of what should be a familiar graphic. This study seeks to sp ecifically measure the levels of coorientation or mutual understanding between Florida (with special emphasis on Punt a Gorda) residents and the designers of the NWS tropical cyclone graphic. A second population to participate in this research was Southwest Florida broadcast meteorologists. A census sampling of broadcast meteorologists, taken from a listing of local and regional stations that are available through the local Comcast Cable Service, was compiled using television station websites. Invitations to participate in the survey were emailed to all broadcasters listed on the websites as meteorologists. After a s econd email invitation and a third request to participate, the investigator collected qualita tive and quantitative information from 7 (out of a total of 19) broadcast meteorologists /weather forecasters. Information collected
54 included broadcaster attitudes relative to th e NWS graphic, broadcaster perceptions of public understanding of weather-re lated constructs and graphi cs, and the meteorologistsÂ’ perceptions of the NWS. Rationa le for selecting this group of participants re lates to their unique position in the dissemination of NW S products to the general public. The investigator explored the possi bility that meteorologistsÂ’ attitudes towards the NWS and its products, as well as their perceptions of the general publ icÂ’s understanding of tropical storm graphics, may provide insights into the publicÂ’s perception of forecasts information and trust of the NWS. Instrumentation This research used two instruments Â– a quantitative questionnai re used to measure public knowledge and understanding of tropi cal storm graphics and a combination qualitative/quantitative questionnaire for br oadcast meteorologists. The quantitative instrument was administered to a snowball sampling of Florida residents. The other instrument was administered to a census sampling of broadcast meteorologists whose stations can be viewed in the Charlotte County area. General Public Questionnaire (Appendix C) Members of the general public were asked to complete a two-section questionnaire designed primarily to capt ure information about the respondentÂ’s knowledge and understanding of tropical st orm graphics. Section one contained demographic questions related to the res pondentÂ’s age, primary residence, sex, and education. Section two of th e questionnaire contained 35 questions relative to the respondentÂ’s general media usage, understa nding of weather and map constructs or conventions, interpretation of graphics, knowledge of weather-related terms, and
55 organizational trust. Questions relating to weather and map constructs were multiple choice. Participants were direct ed to select one correct respon se (Â“pick oneÂ”) or select all that apply. Questions relating to trust used a Likert-like scale ranging from one to seven with one being completely disagree and seve n being completely agree. These questions also provided the respondent to select a no opinion option. Broadcast Meteorologist Qu estionnaire (Appendix D) The broadcaster instrument contained 5 sections and a total of 51 questions of closed and open ended type. Section one of th e instrument contained questions relating to education and professional e xperience. Section two containe d questions related to the broadcastersÂ’ percepti on of the publicÂ’s understanding of weather-related constructs and graphics, and the meteorologist Â’s perception of the NWS and their products. Section three contained questions measuring familiarity and attitudes toward the tropical storm graphic. In section four, broadcasters were asked to predict the general publicÂ’s responses to questions relating to weather and map cons tructs. These questions mirrored the public questionnaire and followed the multiple choice format. Questions relating to trust used a Likert-like scale. The last section containe d open-ended and closed questions relative to meteorologist opinions about the public interpreta tion of the tropical storm graphic. Assumptions and Limitations It is an assumption of this study that this sample is more familiar with the hurricane track graphic because of their Flor ida residence has made them more attentive to the forecasts (J. Grunig, 1997). Additionally, the large number of boaters and boat owners in Florida and Charlotte County are mo re likely than others to be familiar with the NWS, which may have an effect on the study outcomes. The assumption that this
56 sample will be more familiar with the gra phic is also a limitation of the study. The residents of Charlotte County ha ve been exposed to the graphi c when, in the instance of Hurricane Charley, the storm did not follow what some residents argued was the televised predicted path. This seemingly faulty prediction could have an effect on study results, especially in measures of trust of the NWS because many felt they were not afforded sufficient preparation time. Another assumption, and possible limitation of this study is that residents of Punta Gorda are representative of the Charlotte County. Although it is th e central urban center of the Punta Gorda SMA, differences in dem ographics such as income and education may affect the study outcomes. However, if re sidents are better educated, have higher incomes, and more time to watch weather becau se of a retirement st atus, their perception of the graphic and other weat her related factors, it is assumed they should be more informed than the rest of the Charlotte C ounty population in respec t to weather-related terms and concepts. Another limitation of this study was th e online delivery of the questionnaire. Although print copies were offered, no request s were received. Participation may have been reduced for older generations or for those without easy access to the Internet. Additionally, the researcher was made aware, through inquiries, that many of the respondents were academics or professional communicators. A large number of these participants may skew results because they might view the questions differently due to their familiarity with re search instruments. Finally, there is a possible limitation that respondents may not understand the intended meaning of the questions contained in the instrument.
57 Research Questions Using a case study research design, this study includes both quantitative and qualitative data gathering tec hniques to answer the followi ng five research questions: RQ1 : Does the general publicÂ’s knowledge of basic weather terms and concepts match the level necessary to understand the meaning of the hurricane graphic? RQ2 : Are the visual conventions used in the creation of the hurricane graphic understood by the general public as they were intended by the designers? RQ3 : Does the general public understand th e meaning of the hurricane graphic? RQ4 : Does the general public trus t the NWS and its graphical pr oducts such as forecasts? RQ5 : Does the publicÂ’s understanding of the me aning of the hurricane graphic match the broadcastersÂ’ perceptions of the public Â’s understanding of the meaning of the hurricane graphic? Definitions For the purposes of the study the Tropical Cyclone Track and Watch/Warning graphic will be used to measure coorientati on between the general public and the NWS. It would be difficult to measure coorientation of all elements of the graphic because it is presented to the public in a vari ety of modes and media. However, it is the premise of this study that there can be a measure of understand ing of constructs or conventions that are used in this particular desi gn. For this study, the constructs to be measured are scale, time, power, probability and institutional trust. The constructs are defined as follows using in part definitions published by US Geological Survey (USGS, 2002). They are: Scale, relative locati on, direction and distance: Scale for the purposes of this study will refer to the relative size elements of the cone grap hic. This researcher posits
58 that one assumption made by the designers is that viewers will recognize outlines of land mass as particular locations and will have so me understanding of its size. If viewers are to extrapolate the distance of the storm from landmass, as well as area that is covered by the actual cone area, they must have some notion of its scale. Populations are also interested in the size of the storm. Although the cone does not depict the size of the storm it may be assumed. Size is a function of scale. Time: One element of the cone graphic is th e display of predicted storm location over time. These indicators, whether they are black dots or overlapping circles provide a gauge for speed of the storm since they indi cate the distance the storm has moved or is predicted to move over time. Probability: The shaded cone of the graphic is perhaps the most important element of the graphic because it indicates the potential area where the center of the storm could make landfall. The level of accur acy for forecasting the location of the center of the storm diminishes over time. The cone is neither an indicator of size nor the force of the storm. Strength or Power: The graphic indicates the force of the storm by a letter within the time hack dots. The letter D is used to indicate a tropical de pression, S for tropical storm, and H for hurricane. The legend provides a scale of wind speeds for the each of these designations but does not quantif y hurricanes by Saffir-Simpson Scale on the graphic. It also does not i ndicate size of wind bands or area covered by the storm. Current status: The current location of the storm center, its location as a function of latitude and longitude, wind speed and speed of current movement
59 Trust: As defined by J. Grunig and Hon (1999) it is a measure of Â“one partyÂ’s confidence and willingness to open oneself to the other party. There are three dimensions to trust: integrity: the belief that an organization is fair and justÂ… dependability: the belief that an organizat ion will do what is says it will do and competence: the belief that an organizati on has the ability to do what is says it will doÂ” (p. 3). The constructs of scale, time, power, probability, were be measured using multiple choice questions relating to two NW S graphics. The Â“correctÂ” answers were taken directly from the graphic legend, or from common map reading definitions (USGS, 2002). In addition the questionnaire measured the general populationÂ’s understanding of other terms currently used by the NWS in the graphic legend without the benefit of full definition. Understanding of these terms were measured by multiple choice questions and the Â“correctÂ” answers were taken from NW S products, glossary (NWS, July 21, 2006) and other published definitions provided in a hurricane awareness brochure produced by WINK News (Wink, 2006). These term s are defined for this study as: Hurricane: storm with sustained winds gr eater than 73 miles per hour; a pronounced low-circulation that is given a proper name Tropical Storm: A low-pressure circulation with highest sustained winds of 3973 mph and a warm center Warning: Warning is issued when hurricane or tropical storm conditions are expected within 24 hours
60 Watch: Watch is issued when hurricane or tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours. Measurement of the construct of trus t of the NWS by memb ers of the public followed measurements suggested by Gruni g, J. & Hon (1999). Respondents were asked to rate their levels of agreement/disagreemen t on a scale of one to seven for statements related to their relationship with the NWS a nd other weather organizations. The questions were patterned after and related to dimensions of integrity, competence and dependability that have been proposed by J. Grunig, and Hon (1999) as measures of the concept of trust. Tropical Cyclone Track and Watch/Warning Graphic: See Appendix A for technical definition. The NWS and its parent organization, NOAA, have worked toward building consensus through a variety of outreach effort s. They have also responded to feedback from their customers. One notable occasion was their effort to offer alternatives to the Tropical Cyclone Track and Watch/Warning graphic. In late 2004, the NWS offered two expe rimental designs for the cone because some viewers had expressed concern over its Â“messageÂ” prior to the landfall of Hurricane Charley in Punta Gorda, FL. While the NWS believed their predictions were correct, comments indicated that the visual Â“Â…might overly focus the user on an exact forecast track (the line) and not on the larger potential track areaÂ” (NWS, 2004, p. 2). This perception by the NWS, that their graphic was being misunderstood, led them to offer two alternative graphics and queried their views in an on line survey. The public did not vote to accept the new designs bu t the exercise demonstrated a serious attempt by the
61 NWS to correct any design flaws in the gr aphic. What the questionnaire failed to measure, however, was if in fact people Â“m isunderstoodÂ” the origin al graphic. Or, if viewers did not perceive the graphic in the same manner, did they know it. To that end, this study used the corrienta tion model to measure both the quality of the relationship between the public and the NWS as well as provide a measure of consensus of meaning of the cone graphic. Th is use of the model for the NWS is in line with BroomÂ’s (1977) suggestion that Â“coorientational measur es can serve three purposes in public relations planning and programmi ngÂ” (p. 117). By measuring the levels of understanding of particular elements of the graphic, as well as some basic scientific assumptions made by the designers, this study will attempt to uncover either the error in the NWS thinking or the disparity of understanding. One area of particular interest is the level of mutual understanding of design conven tions used to relate scientific related concepts such as probability or risk. This type of inquiry is especially impor tant for organizations that are responsible for warning populations at risk. When organi zations convey safety related information, intended to help audiences make better decisi ons, it is vital that the organizations and their audiences understand each other and know that they do. Â“Without accurate information about the true beliefs of exte rnal publics, dangerous misunderstanding can occurÂ” (Cameron, Mitrook, & Sallot, 1997, p. 47) It is also important that the organization enjoys a level of trust with their publics. Procedures The visual nature of this study preclu ded the use of telephone interviews as a manner of data collection. Offering the su rvey via the World Wide Web was the
62 preferred method. However, due to the co mmon belief that older populations are less likely to use the World Wide Web, the resear cher offered the questionnaire in both electronic and print mediums. Although deliver y of the survey in two very different formats may confound any results, there were no print surveys completed. A pilot study using both questionnaires was conducted with a limited population (three general public respondents and one former weather professional). General Public Questionnaire (Appendix C) Participants for this questionnaire we re recruited through a snowball sample method of Florida residents with emphasis on Charlotte County residents. The Punta Gorda Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) 39460 encompasses all of Charlotte County and Punta Gorda is its Principal City. Accord ing to the definitions and standards of an MSA (OMB, 2005), a Metropolitan Statistical Area is Â“an area containing a recognized population nucleus and adjacent communities that have a high degree of integration with that nucleusÂ” (p. 82228) and as a Â“concept has been successful as a statistical representation of the social and economic linkages between urba n cores and outlying, integrated areas,Â’ (p. 82228). The populati on nucleus for Charlotte County is Punta Gorda. It has the highest concentration of population with 1208 persons per square mile (Census, 2002). Using the 2000 U.S. Census fi gures it was calculated that Punta Gorda City had 11.17% of the housing units and 10.13% of Charlotte CountyÂ’s population. The number of single-family owner-occupied homes in Punta Gorda City is also approximately 11.5% of the countyÂ’s total. The proportion of male/female populations is nearly identical at 47% male and 52% fe male. The number of single-family owneroccupied homes in Punta Gorda City is also approximately 11.5% of the countyÂ’s total.
63 The median age of Punta Gorda City resi dents is nine years older than the county median of 54 and the percentage of population in the labor force is significantly less at 28.8% versus 43.0% of the county residents. Th e differences in age and participation in the workforce may impact the findings of this study, however, it is assumed that an older population who may spend more tim e at home is more likely to be familiar with weather graphics and terms. The initial sampling frame for Punta Gord a was resident members and owners of condominiums and homeowner associations. Gi ven that many did not allow solicitation, this study used a listing of condominium contacts supplied by the Punta Gorda City Clerks Office. The list is not exhaustive and contact information was out of date. Selected associations were contacted either telephonically or email with an explanation of the research. Contacts were as ked for permission to disseminate cards and or emails to their membership inviting partic ipation in the online survey. A total of four associations were contacted. Alternatively, permission was sought to be included in association publications and or posted to comm on areas in three associations. Due to low participation, the investigator produced a nd disseminated 200 business cards printed with the survey title and URL at a senior expo held in Charlotte County as well as selected businesses in the Punta Gorda area. Posted flyers instructed participants where to access the questionnaire online (URL of the website) and how to complete the questionnaire online. These instructions were similar to the ones that reside on top of the questionnaire. A written, hardcopy version of the questionnaire was ma de available but not requested.
64 Broadcast Meteorologist Ques tionnaire (Appendix D) Participants were selected from a gr oup of meteorologists whose broadcast area included Charlotte County. Se lected meteorologists were contacted by email first to request their participation in the study. If th e meteorologist wished to participate, they were provided with the hyperlink to access the questionnaire electroni cally. Participation was limited to those who are practicing mete orologists in the state of Florida. Data Processing and Analysis Both instruments resided on the Inte rnet using a URL provided by Academic Computing of the University of South Florida. Data from both instruments were collected by Academic Computing and formatted in requi red fields as specified by the researcher. Results were exported into MS Ex cel or SPSS version 14.0 as needed. Results of the public questionnaire we re analyzed through conduct of an exploratory factor analysis, crosstabulations, correlations and a series of one-way ANOVAs. The quantitative results of the mete orologist questionnaire were reported as descriptive statistics and co mpared to the corresponding public questionnaire results. The qualitative data were analyzed for trends and insights relevant to perceptions of the general publicÂ’s understanding of weather related constructs, storm graphics, as well as meteorologist perceptions of the NWS. Both the public and broadcaster in struments yielded information on the understanding of weather related terms as we ll as the perceived meaning of the storm graphic. This information was compared to the intended meaning as purported by the NWS. What the NWS thinks the graphic means was be taken from their official website description of the graphic and the information contained in the legend. It was not possible
65 to discern what the NWS as an organization thinks of the perceptions of the general public, but some assumptions of its position on the publicÂ’s knowle dge was taken from official documents and news reports. B ecause NOAA and the NWS list promotion of environmental literacy as a goal in their strategic plan, the researcher made the assumption that the NWS and NOAA have some indications that the general population lacks some fundamental knowledge necessary to understand their work and the resultant products. However, the investigator determined that what broadcaste rs Â“thinkÂ” about the public knowledge of weather-rela ted terms would be useful, in formative, and contribute to the findings of this research. Measurements Residents look to answer some fundament al questions when faced with severe weather. Hurricanes are often forecasted up to five days from landfa ll. As part of that forecast residents often look to have a numbe r of questions answered. Some of these questions are: What are the chances that it will affect me? How will I know if itÂ’s coming here? How long will it take to get here? How long do I have to get ready? How strong will the storm be when it arrives? How big is it? How long will I be affected? The NWS produces a large number of textural forecasts that aim to answer these questions. Their graphics take much of th at information and display it visually.
66 The Graphic One element the news media uses to de fine potential disasters is the tropical cyclone graphic. It is often the first time viewers see themselves in the path of destruction. Produced by the NWS it is known to the public as the Â“Cone of Uncertainty.Â” Its technical name is the Tropical Cyclone Track and Watch/Warning graphic. It is described by the NWS as follows (Figure 1): The Tropical Cyclone Track and Watch/Wa rning graphic contains the storm's forecast track, a cone along the track based upon the average area of uncertainty for the position of the center, and coastal tropical storm and hurricane watches/warnings. The coastal watches and warnings displa y shows an approximate representation of coastal areas under a hur ricane warning (red), hurricane watch (pink), tropical storm warning (blue) and tropical storm watch (yello w). The orange circle indicates the current position of the center of the tropical cyclone. The black line and dots show the NHC forecast track of the center at the times indi cated. The NHC forecast tracks of the center can be in error, and the white areas indicate the increasing average area of uncertainty for the position of the center as a function of time. This product is also issued for subtropical storms. The primary audience is the general public but the graphic is used extensively by public as well as governmental planners, the media, and local emergency personnel. While this explanation highlights the particul ar elements of the graphic and offers an explanation of the designersÂ’ intent, it does not give notice to the considerable assumptions and designer/viewer agreemen ts in the design. Much of the above information, about the meaning of particular elements, is contained in the legend of the
67 NWS version of the graphic. However, to fully understand the graphic, viewers must also be armed with some basic map reading skills as well as a familiarity with graphic conventions such as scale. The first step is to measure the public Â’s acceptance of the graphic as a representation of a tropical cyclone/storm followed by measuring each of the elements of the graphic. By comparing the information provided by the NWS (cognition or definition of the graphic) and that of respondents, leve ls of respondent knowledge of weather-related terms and con cepts were identified. This section included knowledge of the NWS as well as specific tropical/storm te rms such as definitions of a hurricane and Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The second step measured whether the public understood basic map reading and graphic design conventions used in the desi gn of the tropical storm/hurricane graphic. This knowledge was measured by asking res pondents to correctly identify common conventions such as map direction and use of color coding. The third step measured the perception of what the public believes to be the meaning of the graphic as designed by the NWS. This will be measured by using the graphic and asking questions that will require some extrapol ation of the data provided. While the current graphic products provide ad ditional explanation of the white area and cautions that a storm/hurricane are not points but areas of disturbance, those explanations were not provided when the NWS queried st akeholders about the proposed alternative graphic designs. The fourth step was the attempted measure of the trust the public has for the NWS. Through questions adapted from Grunig, and Hon (1999) measurement of trust the questionnaire was designed to measure not only the levels of trust (i ntegrity, competence,
68 and dependability) held by the public for the NW S, but it also highlighted those levels in contrast to local media. While the other six factors proposed by Grunig and Hon (1999) are essential to measuring relationships, it is trust that this researcher believes is most important for this study. Although the collection of other meas ures will provide a more holistic picture of the relati onship the NWS has with the public, for the purposes of predicting and communicating the path of a tropical storm or cyclone, trust seems to be the most important element. Moreover, to rest rict the instrumentÂ’s length, it was decided that the demographic information and conventio n questions needed to be fully covered. The Model The coorientation model used for this study was patterned after both McLeod and ChaffeeÂ’s (1973) and BroomÂ’s (1977) coorient ation models (Figure 3). The boxes on the top refer to measures of the NWSÂ’ definiti on and understanding of their tropical cyclone graphic and the publicÂ’s definition and unders tanding of the same graphic. The bottom boxes are measures of the perceptions held by each group of the othersÂ’ definition/understanding of the graphic. Comparisons of these states are labeled as understanding/agreement and accuracy. Accura cy relates to how closely the publicÂ’s perceptions of the graphic match the NWSÂ’ understanding of the graphic. Congruency relations to how closely the public and the NWSÂ’ understand ing of the graphic matches what they perceive to be the otherÂ’s. 1. Mutual understanding represents the extent to which the NWSÂ’ definition/intended meaning of The Tropical Cyclone Track and Watch/Warning graphic is similar to a publicÂ’s definition/understan ding of the same graphic (understanding & agreement-disagreement on the meaning of the graphic).
69 2. Congruency represents the extent to wh ich the NWS definition/intended meaning of the graphic is similar to its es timate of the other groupÂ’s definition/intended meaning (perceived agreement-disagreement on the definition of the issue). Figure 3 : NWS-Public Consensus of Agreement -Understanding Model ________________________________________________________________________ 3. Accuracy represents the extent to which the NWSÂ’ estimate of the publicÂ’s definition/perception is similar to the otherÂ’ s actual definition/intended meaning of the issue (p. 114). Organizational Trust Â– The National Weather Service It is interesting to note that the NW S and its parent or ganization, NOAA, are located under the umbrella of the Departme nt of Commerce. Both NOAA and the NWS have vision and mission statements are craf ted as meeting both social and economic goals. This connection with the world of bus iness or commerce is evident in their
70 descriptions of audiences as customers a nd their weather predictions as products. But their communication activities are more in the line of good public relations practice. Measurement of the construct of trus t of the NWS by memb ers of the public followed measurements suggested by Gruni g & Hon (1999). Respondents were asked to rate their levels of agreement/disagreement on a scale of 1-to-7 for statements related to their relationship with the NWS and other weather organizations. The questions were patterned after and relate to dimensions of integrity, competence and dependability that have been proposed by Grunig and Hon (1999) as measures of the concept of trust.
71 CHAPTER FOUR: RESULTS This chapter contains the results of da ta collection, statistical tests, and data analysis as outlined in Chapter Three. Results from two online questionnaires are reported in separate sections. The first secti on consists of findings from data gathered from the general public questionnaire. The s econd contains the data collected from broadcast meteorologists. Both sections contain a summary of findings and include distribution frequencies and de scriptive statistics. A third section compares the publicÂ’s responses to those of the broadcast meteorologists. This study is an examination of whethe r the NWS designers and their publics are in agreement about the meaning of the tropical cyclone grap hic. Levels of understanding were measured through isolation of several variables, including understanding of weather related terms, interpretation of graphic conven tions, and the publicÂ’s level of trust of the NWS. Specifically, this study propose d the following research questions: RQ1 : Does the general publicÂ’s knowledge of basic weather terms and concepts match the level necessary to understand the meaning of the hurricane graphic? RQ2 : Are the visual conventions used in the creation of the hurricane graphic understood by the general public as they were intended by the designers? RQ3 : Does the general public understand th e meaning of the hurricane graphic? RQ4 : Does the general public tr ust the NWS and its graphical products such as forecasts?
72 RQ5 : Does the publicÂ’s understanding of the me aning of the hurricane graphic match the broadcastersÂ’ perceptions of the public Â’s understanding of the meaning of the hurricane graphic? Public Respondents Survey Data Demographics Of the 135 people surveyed 76 (56.3%) we re female and 57 (42.2%) were male. In terms of age 56 (41.5%) were born between 1925 and 1945, 50 (37%) were born between 1946 and 1964, 17 (12.6%) were born between 1965 and 1977, 9 (6.7%) were born between 1978 and 1988, and 3 (2.2%) were born between 1911 and 1924. A total of 59 (43.7%) of respondents were age 62 or olde r. An additional 50 (37.0 %) were between the ages of 43 and 61. A total of 125 respondents or 92.2% reporte d completion of at least some college while 97 (71.9%) reported completion of a postsecondary degree. One hundred twenty one (89.6%) of respondents claimed Florid a as their primary residence with 72 respondents (53.3%) of the sample residing in Charlotte County (see Table 1).
73 Table 1 Demographic Frequencies General Public Item N % I was born between: 1925-1945 56 41.5 1946-1964 50 37.0 1965-1977 17 12.6 1978-1988 9 6.7 1911-1924 3 2.2 Sex Female 76 56.3 Male 57 42.2 No Response 2 1.5 Education level completed Bachelors Degree 36 26.7 Some college 28 20.7 Graduate School 18 13.3 Some Graduate School 17 12.6 Doctorate 11 8.1 Post Graduate 9 6.7 High School or GED 7 5.2 Associates Degree 6 4.4 Some High School 3 2.2 My primary residence is located Charlotte County, FL 72 53.3 Other, FL 49 36.3 Other, US 14 10.4 Note. N= 135. Weather Information The majority of the respondents, 82 (60.7 %), reported Â“generallyÂ” getting their weather information from television while 38 (28.1%) Â“generallyÂ” used the internet for their weather needs. Only .7% selected newspa pers for their weather forecasts (see Table 2).
74 As per Table 3 the majority of respo ndents, 102 (75.6%), increase their weather information seeking behaviors when they are aware of an approaching storm. When they know of an approaching storm, a large major ity, 107 (79.3%), Â“usuallyÂ” go to the internet for forecast information. Table 3 Weather Information Seeking Frequencies General Public Item N % When I hear about an approaching storm I usuallyÂ… (Pick ALL that apply): Check the internet for forecasts 107 79.3 Increase my viewing to include other stations or papers 102 75.6 Talk to my family or friends about it 62 45.9 Stay with my regular television viewing or reading habits 40 29.6 Note. N> 135 Â– respondents checked all responses that applied Knowledge of Weather Terms The publicsÂ’ responses to questions rela ting to weather terms and concepts were graded as correct or inco rrect using a key provided by the NWS (see Table 4). The majority of respondents chose the Â“correct Â” answer to all 6 items. The majority, 129 Table 2 Weather Information Sources Frequencies General Public Item N % I generally get information about the weather from: Television 82 60.7 Internet 38 28.1 Radio AM or FM 6 4.4 Weather Radio 4 3.0 Other 2 1.5 Desktop Radio Florida Division of Emergency Management Newspaper 1 .7 Other people 1 .7 No answer 1 .7 Note. N= 135.
75 (95.6%), indicated that hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings are issued by the NWS. Most respondents 124 (91.9%) iden tified hurricanes as storm with winds of more than 73 mph. and the majority, 110 ( 81.5%) correctly equate d the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale with the inte nsity of the storm. The public (n=105, 77.8%) correctly indicated that probable, possible, and potential do not basically mean the same thing and 84 respondents (62.2%) correctly indicated that a hurricane warning meant hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours. While the majority of respondents (n=70, 51.9%) chose the same answer, to the item re lating to the meaning of a tropical storm watch as the one the NWS supplied, the veracity of the answer is questionable because an error in the construction of th e correct answer which should ha ve read 36 rather than 24 hours for a watch
76 Table 4 Knowledge of Weather Related Term s Frequencies General Public Item N % Probable, possible and potential all basi cally mean the same thing...(pick ONE) False 105 77.8 True 26 19.3 Unsure 3 2.2 No answer 1 .7 A tropical storm watch for my area means...(pick ONE) Tropical storm conditions including winds of 39 to 73 mph are possible within the next 24 hours 70 51.9 Conditions in my area are conducive to the development of a tropical storm 52 38.5 A tropical storm is likely to hit my area within the next 24 hours 11 8.1 Unsure 1 .7 No answer 1 .7 A hurricane warning for my area meansÂ…(pick ONE) Hurricane conditions are expected in my area within the next 24 hour 84 62.2 A hurricane will likely hit my area within the next 2 days 26 19.3 Conditions in my area are cond ucive to hurricane development 24 17.8 No answer 1 .7 Hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings areÂ… (check ALL that apply) Issued by the National Weather Service 129 95.6 Are official designations 54 40.0 Issued by local emergency planners 25 18.53 Determined by my local media 3 2.2 Unsure 3 2.2 The Saffir/Simpson Hurricane ScaleÂ…(pick ONE) Is a scale ranging from 1-5 based on the intensity of the hurricane 110 81.5 Unsure 20 Categorizes storms as tropical d epressions, storms or hurricanes 2 1.5 Is a scale used to indicated the size of a storm 1 .7 No answer 2 1.5 A hurricane is characterized byÂ…(check ALL that apply) Winds of more than 73 mph 124 91.9 A pronounced low-pressure circulation 80 59.3 A proper name 55 40.7 Unsure 3 2.0 Note. Answers in italics and bolded are considered Â“correctÂ”Â” Visual Conventions Table 5 shows respondentsÂ’ responses to question testing their understanding of visual conventions. The vast majority of the respondents, (n=131, 97%), correctly
77 indicated that the Figure 1 graphic represen ted the path of a hurricane. A majority, (n=128, 94.8%) know that maps shown in the ne ws are usually oriented to the North and 122 respondents (90.4%) correctly matched the red area of the graphic with that of area under a hurricane warning. Respondents (n=119, 88.1%) indicated co rrectly that the white area represented the Â“area of uncertainty.Â” Respondents were less successful in choosing the correct (n=81, 60%) response that equated the pi nk area with the definition of a hurricane watch and only (n=53, 39.3%) chos e the correct answer to the item related to size of the state of Florida.
78 Table 5 Understanding of Visual Convention s Frequencies General Public Item N % I recognize this graphic (Figure 1) as a representation of the path of a ... Hurricane 131 97.0 Tornado 1 .7 High pressure system 1 .7 Unsure 1 .7 No answer 1 .7 Severe thunderstorm 0 .0 The red area of the Figure 1 graphic represents Â…(pick ONE) Hurricane warning for that area 122 90.4 Hurricane watch for that area 4 3.0 The direction the storm is expected to more 4 3.0 Tropical storm warning for that area 1 .7 Unsure 1 .7 No answer 3 2.2 The pink area of the Figure 1 graphic Â…(pick ONE) Indicates that hurricane conditions ar e possible within 36 hours 81 60.0 Is under a tropical storm watch 41 30.4 Unsure 5 3.7 Is outside of any danger for landfall of the storm 4 3.0 No answer 4 3.0 The solid white area on the map (F igure 1) indicatesÂ…(pick ONE) The area of uncertainty or possibility for the center of the stormÂ’s track and potential landfall 119 88.1 The area to be affected by hurricane force winds 9 6.7 The predicted size of the storm over time 3 2.2 The only areas predicted to be affected by any hurricane or tropical storm force winds 1 .7 No answer 3 2.2 Unsure 0 0.0 The state of Florida is approximatelyÂ…(pick ONE) 100 miles wide at its center 53 39.3 400 miles long from north to south 51 37.8 Unsure 23 17.0 400 miles from Cuba 5 3.7 No answer 3 2.2 U.S. maps shown in the news (like Figure 1) are usually shown with what direction on top? (pick ONE) North 128 94.8 Varies 2 1.5 South 1 .7 West 1. .7 No Answer 3 2.2 East 0 0.00 Note. Answers in italics and bolded are considered Â“correctÂ”
79 Understanding Hurricane Graphics Table 6 shows participantsÂ’ understanding of hurricane graphics. The majority of respondents (n=131, 97.0%) correc tly indicated that the Figure 1 graphic represented the path of a hurricane and its design conveyed information of the storms path. Item 33, a measure of the graphics meaning contained four correct choices. Respondents correctly identified key elements of the graphic de sign with a majority (n=119, 88.1%) indicating that the graphic was an impor tant indicator of the stormÂ’ s path; 118 respondents (87.4%) indicated that the graphic tells them where and (n=108) and 83.3% of respondents indicated that the graphic tells them when a tropical storm or hurricane is expected. Additionally, 103 (76.3%) of respondents corr ectly indicated the graphic contained information about the speed of the stor mÂ’s movement. Of note is the number of respondents (n=37, 27.4%) who inco rrectly indicated that the graphic showed the size of a storm and the small percentage (n=22, 16.3 %) who believe the graphic represents a Â“very reliable forecast.Â”
80 The majority of the participants (n= 116, 85.9%) correctly indicated, that Figure 1 graphic indicated a greater potential for la ndfall in Florida than in Alabama. The majority, (n=110, 81.5%) of the respondents in dicated an understa nding of the center Table 6 Understanding of Hurricane Graphic Frequencies General Public Item N % I recognize this graphic (Figure 1) as a representation of the path of a ... Hurricane 131 97.0 Tornado 1 .7 High pressure system 1 .7 Unsure 1 .7 No answer 1 .7 Severe thunderstorm 0 .0 The graphic in Figure 1Â…(check ALL that apply) Is an important indicator to me of the stormÂ’s path 119 88.1 Tells me WHERE a tropical storm or hurricane is expected 118 87.4 Tells me WHEN a tropical storm or hurricane is expected 108 80.0 Indicates how fast the storm is moving 103 76.3 Tell me the size of the storm 37 27.4 Is just a guesstimate by meteorologists 32 23.7 Is a very reliable forecast 22 16.3 Unsure what it means 1 .7 According to the graphic in Fi gure 1Â…(check ALL that apply) The storm is much more likely to make la ndfall in Florida than in Alabama 116 85.9 Hurricane winds will not be evident in n orthern Florida until 8 PM on Wednesday 44 32.6 The size of the storm will grow as it moves north 23 17.0 The intensity of the storm will diminish as it moves towards northern Florida 4 3.0 Unsure what it means 2 1.5 The center black line in the Fi gure 1 indicatesÂ…(pick ONE) A forecast of the stormÂ’s track within a cone which represents an average area of uncertainty for the stormÂ’s center position 110 81.5 A guesstimate of center of the hurri cane and itÂ’s predicted path 18 13.3 A 95% accurate forecast of the stormÂ’s path over the next 5 days 5 3.7 Unsure 1 .7 No answer 1 .7 The concentric circles on Figure 2 gr aphic indicateÂ…(pick ALL that apply) The area of uncertainty or possibility fo r the center of the stormÂ’s track and potential landfall 108 80.0 The area to be affected by hurricane force winds 35 25.9 The predicted size of the storm over time 15 11.1 The only areas predicted to be affected by any hurricane 8 5.9 Unsure what they mean 8 5.9 Note. N= 135. Some questions ask for respondents to che ck Â“all that applyÂ” and result in N>135
81 black line to be a track within an area of uncertainty, and slightly fewer, (n=108. 80.0%) correctly indicated the concen tric circles of the NWS a lternative graphic, Figure 2, represented an area of uncertainty for the storm center track. Factor Analysis The instrument for the public survey was conceptualized, in part, using items from the Grunig and Hon (1999) Trust scale. Questions from the short scale were reworded to measure the publicÂ’s perceptio ns relating to integrity, competence and dependability of NWS and the local media. Grunig and Hon (1999) published reliability of this scale for five organizations with an average CronbachÂ’s Alpha of .86. Only selected items from the scale were chosen and edited to focus on the NWS as a governmental organization and as the designer and provider of weather forecast products. To determine if any of these 13 opini on variables relating to trust could be grouped into composite variable s a factor analysis was conduc ted using principal factors with iterations rota ted to a Varimax solution using a minimum Eigenvalue of 1.0 on the 13 variables representing orga nizational trust of the NWS and local media. A Rotated Component Matrix revealed two compone nts. A Cronbach coefficient alpha was computed to determine internal consistency and reliability on the first factorÂ’s five items. The second component consisted of two items and to test reliability the Pearson coefficient was computed. Table 7 presents th e two factor solution, wi th variable names, factor loadings, communalities, means a nd standard deviations. The CronbachÂ’s alpha is also listed as a measure of internal reliability of the measures. The analysis also allowed the grouping of questions 9, 10, 12, 14 a nd 15 and questions 19 and 20 into two composite variables.
82 The four-factor solution e xplains 64.23% of the varian ce. Factor 1, Trust in NWS has the strongest loading factors and explains 29.23% of the variance and contains five of the items from the trust scale. Factor 2, Trus t in Local Media contains two items from the trust scale and explains 14.97% of the varian ce. The Pearson Correla tion of the two items in Factor 2 are statistically significant with a moderate relationship (r=.49, p<.001). Subsequently the two factors were collapsed into single indices measuring Trust in the NWS and Trust in Local Media respectively. De scriptive statistics indicated the mean for Trust in the NWS was 5.53 and for Trust in Local Media M =4.26. The results of Factor 3 were not statistically significant a nd Factor 4 contained only one item. Table 7 Means and Standard Deviations for Trust for NWS and Local Media Factor 1: Trust in NWS (64.23% of variance) M=5.53; SD=.77 = .78 Factor Loadings* Commonalities** The National Weather Service is one organizati on that I can count on to make important decisions that may affect people like me .725 .615 I think the National Weather Service does a good job of predicting hurricanes and other severe weather .711 .613 I feel very confident in the National Weather Serv iceÂ’s ability to make storm predictions .725 ..604 I am familiar with the National Weat her Service and what it does .732 .582 The National Weather Service keeps its promises to warn the public about severe storms. .757 .664 Factor 2: : Trust in Local Media M=4.26; SD=.1.35, r =.49, p<.001 If I had to choose between the National Weather Service and my local media, IÂ’d rely on my local forecast .822 .718 My local weather forecasts are generally accurate .830 .786 Factor loadings indicate how much weight is assigned to each factor **Communalities are the portion of variance in each variable explained by underlying factors.
83 ANOVA Interpretation To assist in the explanation of the s ources of variance in the relationship of several demographic variables with levels of trust and attitudes a bout weather forecasts and graphics, the researcher used one-w ay analysis of variance (ANOVA). The dependent variables were Trust in the NWS; Trust in Local Media; Item 7, which related to understanding of television graphics; and It em 8, which related to emotional response to hurricane forecasts. The independent vari ables were generation, sex and education. There was no statistically significant re lationship between the three independent variables and levels of Trust in the NWS. However, generation was found to be statistically significant in levels of Trust of the Local Media (F=2.711, p <.05). The youngest of the respondents, Genera tion Y were far less likely ( M =2.88) to Â“trustÂ” their local media than respondents from the Silent Generation ( M =4.44). Generation Y ( M =2.88) was also less likely to trust the local media than Baby Boomers ( M =4.36). For the two questions relating to attit udes about weather graphics and forecasts, there were only statistically significant differences betw een the sexes (F=5.820, p<.05) In their responses to question 7, which asked if tropical storm track graphics were informative and easy to understand, men ( M =6.12) reported more confidence in their understanding than women ( M =5.64). Men and women were al so significantly different in their choices relating to their emotional response to hurricane forecasts with men indicating that forecasts made them less Â“nervousÂ” ( M =3.55) than they did women, ( M =4.58).
84 Cross Tabulation Analysis To determine any significant differences between groups in terms of their media habits cross tabulation with chi square analysis was conducted. To determine the direction of the statis tically significant differences the expected count had to equal or exceed the observed count. Of the 22 items used in the cross tabulation only three were found to not be statistically si gnificant. Of the remaining 19 items, significant differences in observed frequencies were most notable by generations and educational levels, with sex accounting for the fewest cases. Media Habits The results from this study indicate ( 2 df=24 =58.482, p<.01) that television is more likely to be the primary source of w eather information for the Silent (n=37, 67.3%) and the Baby Boom (n=34, 68.0%) generations wh ile the Internet appears more likely to be the routine source of w eather information for the youngest respondents, namely, Generation X (n=6, 35.3%) and Generation Y (n=8, 88.9%). Respondents who have completed a Batc helorÂ’s degree and higher levels of formal education are more likely ( 2 df=48 =74.063, p<.01 ) to use the Internet than those reporting less formal education: BA (n=12, 33.3%), Some Graduate School (n=9, 52.9%), Graduate School (n=6, 33.3%), Post Gradua te School (n=3, 33.3%), Doctorate (n=4, 36.4%). Respondents with High School (n=4, 66.7%), Some Colle ge (n=23, 82.1%) and those reporting Associates Degrees (n=6, 100%) are more likely to get their weather information from television. There were also generational differen ces in media use when there is an approaching storm ( 2 df=4 =12.151, p<.05). Respondents from the WWII generation (n=2,
85 66.7%) and the Silent generation (n=24, 42.9%) indicated a preference for staying with their regular viewing or reading habits. This was also the case for respondents ( 2 df=8 =24.295, p<.01) with lesser formal education, i.e. Some High School (n=3, 100%), High School or GED (n=4, 57.1%), and Some college (n=14, 50.0%). There also were generational differences in the propensity to talk to family and friends as a storm approaches ( 2 df=4 =11.015, p<.05), with Baby Boom ers (n= 29, 58.0%) and Generation Xs (n=11, 64.7%) more likely to display th is behavior than other generations. Knowledge of NWS and Weather Terminology The majority (85%) of respondents indicat ed that the NWS is a federal agency and part of NOAA but men (93.0%) were more likely than women (78.9%) to make that choice.( 2 df=1=5.022, p<.05). When asked if the words probable, possible and potential mean the same thing the majority of respondents (n= 103, 79.8%) disagreed but while the results between the sexes ( p =.058) and generations ( p =.058) were not statistically significant they may be noteworthy for co mmunicators. Women accounted for 73.1% of the wrong answers and they were twice as likely (n=19, 26.0%) as men (n=7, 12.5%) to incorrectly indicate the terms meant basically the same th ing. Older respondents, the WWII (n=2, 100%) and Silent generation (n=12, 28%) were also more likely to equate the terms while 81.6% of Boom ers, 87.5% of Gen XÂ’s and 88.9% of Gen YÂ’s indicated that the words do not basically mean the same thing. The results were statistically significant, however, for differences between levels of education ( 2 df=8 =18.617, p<.05). Respondents with some high school, some colle ge and a BachelorÂ’s degree were more likely to agree that the terms mean the same thing and accounted for 77% of positive responses.
86 Question 23, which asked for the meaning of a tropical storm watch was not analyzed because of an error in the construc tion of answers. The researcher erred in the editing of the preferred answer which shoul d have stated that the conditions were possible within the next 36 not 24 hours. Th at said, only 70 (52%) of respondents chose the Â“correctÂ” response or the one ch osen by a weather professional. There were statistically si gnificant differences between generations in response to the meaning of a hurricane warning ( 2 df=8 =18.690, p<.05). While the three youngest generations were more likely to answer th e question correctly onl y 84 (62.2%) of the respondents chose the co rrect answer that hurricane warning meant that hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours. The majority (95.6%) of respondents did, however, correctly indicate th at watches and warnings were issued by the NWS. There was a statistically significant difference between the sexes in response to this question ( 2 df=1 =3.896, p<.05). Men (100%) were more lik ely than women (93.4%) to correctly answer the question. Items 18 and 26 were inadvertent repetitions of the same questions but the results were very close with question 26 having 4 more correct responses. Question 18 was not analyzed. For question 26, men (93.0%) were significantly more likely than women (78.9%) to correctly choose answer 26A ( 2 df=1 =5.022, p<.05), identifying NWS as part of NOAA. There were statistically signi ficant differences between generations ( 2 df=4 =11.708, p<.05) with the youngest respondents more likely to correctly choose answer 26B, identifying NWS as part of the Depart ment of Commerce. Generation X (47.1%) and Generation Y (55.6%) were more likely to make the right choice. Men (38.6%) were also more likely than women (15.8%) to know of the NWS connection to Department of
87 Commerce ( 2 df=1 =8.904, p<.01). Respondents with so me graduate school (64.7%), graduate school (50.0%) and those with doc torates (45.5%) also were more likely to know of the NWS connection to Department of Commerce ( 2 df=8 =35.721, p<.05). Questions 29, 30 and 31 asked respondents to choose an answer that matched the intended meaning of a colored portion of the map. These questions aimed to measure agreement/understanding of map design conventions that use color coding to indicate gradations of intensity or other specified information. Question 29 asked what the Â“red area of the Figure 1 graphic representsÂ” and 122 (90.4%) of the respondents chose the correct answer. The correct answer was Â“hu rricane warning for that areaÂ” and it was clearly stated in the mapÂ’s legend. Question 30 asked respondents to choose an answer relating to the pink ar ea of the graphic. Only 81 (60.0 %) of the respondents chose the correct answer, indicates that hurricane conditi ons are possible within 36 hours In this instance, selecting the correct answer requires respondent knowledge of the definition of a hurricane watch because that information is not included in the legend. The three youngest generations were sign ificantly more likely to c hoose the correct answer ( 2 df=8 =29.052, p<.01): Baby Boomers (n=34. 70.8%), Generation X (n=14, 82.4%), and Generation Y (n=9, 100%). There were also st atistically significant differences in the answers to this question ( 2 df=16=31.095, p<.05) for those clai ming an Associates degree (n=4, 66.7%), Bachelors degree (n=26, 76.5%), Some Graduate school (n=15, 93.8%), and Graduate school (n=12, 75%) were more lik ely to answer correctly.The majority of respondents (n=119, 88.2%) correctl y identified the white area of the graphic as the area of uncertainty for the storm track. Younge r respondents from Generation X (n=16,
88 94.1%) and Generation Y (n=9, 100 %) respectively were more li kely to make the correct choice ( 2 df=12 =28.020, p<.05 ). When asked where respondents remembered seeing the graphic, the majority sited television (n=114, 84.4%) but results showed a statistically signifi cant difference among generations ( 2 df=4 =13.902, p<.01). The Silent Gene ration (n=50, 89.3%) and Generation X (n=16, 94.1%) were more likely to choose te levision. The second most cited outlet for recall of the graphic was th e Internet with 98 (73%) of the respondents making that choice. Among those choosing the Internet, th ere was a statistically significant difference between generations ( 2 df=4 =26.934, p<.01) with the three youngest groups more likely to make that choice [Baby Boomers (n=43, 84.0%), Generation Xs (94.1%), and Generation Y, 100%]. Question 33 offered respondents seven altern atives (pick all th at apply) and was designed as an attempt to measure what mean ing viewers derived from the graphic, both as a representation of specific storm informa tion, as well as subject ive assessment of its accuracy. The majority of respondents chose the four correct answers relating to the stormÂ’s expected track and speed. Of thos e four there were significant differences between respondents by generations ( 2 df=4 =9.728, p<.05) and education ( 2 df=8 =17.515 p<.05) in associating the graphic with where a storm is expected. The three youngest groups were more likely to choose this co rrect answer [Baby Boomers (n=45, 90.0%), Generation Xs (n=15, 88.2%) and Generation Y, (n=9, 100%]. Those with some high school (n=2, 66.7%), some college (n=7, 25.0% ) and those that completed graduate school (n=3, 16.7%) were all more likely to mi ss this answer. The co rrect answer to the graphic indicating how fast the storm is moving, was chos en by smallest number of
89 respondents (n=103, 76.3%) and pointed to stat istically significant differences between generations ( 2 df=8=17.168, p<.05). Again the youngest respondents [Baby Boomers (n=42, 84.0 %) Generation X, (n=16, 94.1%) and Generation Y, (n=8, 88.9%)] were most likely to choose the correct answer. For the 16.3% of respondent s who indicated that the graphic represented a very reliable forecast, those with a high schoo l/GED (n=2, 28.6%) along with those with a Some graduate school (n=3, 17.6%), Graduate school (n=7, 38.9%), Post graduate (n=3, 33.3%, and those with Doctorate degrees (n= 3, 27.3%) were significan tly more likely to have faith in the graphic as an accu rate depiction of a storm forecast ( 2 df=8 =17.168, p<.05). Question 36 asked respondents to choos e answers that would not be easily gleaned from the legend. The majority of respondents (n=116, 85.9 %) chose the correct answer, that the storm was much more likely to make landfall in Florida than Alabama, but the more interesting results are from th e incorrect choices. Nearly a third (n=44, 32.6%) of the respondents indicated that hurrican e winds would not be evident in Florida until 8 p.m. on Wednesday. According to the graphic, at 8 p.m. on Wednesday the stormÂ’s center is forecasted to be located on the Fl orida/Alabama line. While these results were significant across generations ( 2 df=8 =23.753, p<.01) there did not seem to be trends or generalizations from the data. Another incorrect answer is the choice made by 23 (17%) of the respondents who incorrectly indi cated that the graphi c showed the size of the storm would grow as it moves north. The only statistically si gnificant difference of note was between men and women ( 2 df=1=5.064, p<.05). While only 17% of the respondents incorrectly indicated that the size of the storm will grow as it moves north, it
90 was statistically significant and interesting that 18 (78.3%) of these incorrect answers were from women. Although only 18.5% (n=25) of the respondent s did not choose the correct answer relating to the graphicÂ’s center black line (Question 38), it was significant ( 2 df=8 =24.944, p<.01) that all of the WWII genera tion (n=3, 100%) chose the answer that indicated the line was a Â“guesst imateÂ” of the stormÂ’s location. The Â“correctÂ” answer was that the line was a forecast of the stormÂ’s track wi thin a cone which represents an average area of uncertainty for the stormÂ’s center position. The WWII (66.7%) and the Silent (37.5%) generations also departed from the majority of respondents on Question 39 relating to the meaning of the concentric circles on Figure 2. Both of these groups were statistically different ( 2 df=4=12.265, p<.05) than others in interpreting the concentric circles as an area to be affected by hurricane winds rather than an area of uncertainty. Correlations To determine possible relationships betw een Factors of Trust for NWS and Trust of Local Media and questions relating to ease of understanding of graphics and nervous emotional response to severe weather forecasts a simple correlation statistical test was performed. There were two sta tistically significan t correlations found. Both were weak associations between Question 7, related to the informative nature and ease of understanding of tropical stor m graphics, and Trust for NWS (r=.34, p<.01) and Trust of Local Media (r=.19, p<.05). An additional correl ation statistical test was performed to determine if an association was evident between Question 19 and Question 20. Question 19 asked respondents if they had to choose between the NWS and my local media, IÂ’d
91 rely on my local forecast Question 20 asked respondents if their local forecasts are generally accurate There was a statistically significan t correlation found with a moderate relationship between the two questions (r=.503, p<.01).indicati ng the reponses are related but did not provide informati on as how they are related. Broadcast Meteorologists Survey Data A meteorologist, according to the Amer ican Meteorological Society, is a person with specialized education, Â“who uses scientific princi ples to explain, understand, observe, or forecast the earth's atmospheri c phenomena and/or how the atmosphere affects the earth and life on the planet (AMS, 2007, para #3 ). For many residents of tropical storm regions, the televi sionÂ’s meteorologist or weathe r reader is often the face of broadcast meteorology. For many viewers th ese broadcasters are often the first and foremost purveyor of critical weather info rmation. Many stations use NWS graphics and information in their severe weather forecasts. As Table 8 indicates, seven working br oadcast meteorologists from southwest Florida stations responded to the 51-item online questionnaire. A ll of the respondents have some college education and three (48 %) have completed graduate school or post graduate work. All reported at least six y ears of weather forecasti ng experience and all but one had at least six years of weat her broadcasting expe rience. Two of the broadcasters reported more than 20 years i nvolvement in weather broadcasting. Three of the broadcasters reported professional designations afforded by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Two hold th e AMS Seal of Approval and one the CBM. One respondent listed receipt of an Emmy for weather graphics.
92 Table 8 Demographic Frequencies Broadcast Meteorologists Item N % Education level completed Bachelors Degree 2 28.6 Graduate School 2 28.6 Some College 1 14.3 Some Graduate School 1 14.3 Post Graduate 1 14.3 I have been involved in weather forecasting forÂ… 6-10 years 2 28.6 16-20 years 2 28.6 11-15 years 1 14.3 21-25 years 1 14.3 26+ years 1 14.3 I have been involved in weather broadcasting forÂ… 6-10 years 2 28.6 1-5 years 1 14.3 11-15 years 1 14.3 16-20 years 1 14.3 21-25 years 1 14.3 26+ years 1 14.3 N=7 The broadcasters who responded to the su rvey indicated they believe the media do a good job in preparing the public for severe weather ( M =5.71) and their stationÂ’s forecasts are extremely important to the public in their decision making ( M =6.57). As a group they think visuals and gr aphics are important tools ( M =6.86) for preparing populations at risk. The Broa dcasters indicated the NWS provides them accurate ( M =5.71) and important forecast information ( M =6.29) that is easily understood by meteorologists ( M =6.71).
93 Table 9 Broadcast Meteorologist Opinions of Severe Weather Forecasting Item M SD The media do a good job in preparing the general public for severe weather like hurricanes. 5.71 .488 I am happy with the current status of broadcast coverage of severe weather. 5.00 .816 My station's tropical storm/hurricane forecasts are extremely important to the public in their decisions to make storm preparations or plans to evacuate. 6.57 1.134 I think visuals and graphic representations of weather such as radar and tropical storm track graphics are import ant tools for preparing populations at risk. 6.86 .378 I think the general public understands the basics of meteorology. 4.29 1.496 I think most people rely upon what they hear during a weather forecast. 5.29 .756 I think most people rely upon what they s ee during a weather forecast. 5.29 1.254 My station has adequate systems to measure audience satisfaction of severe weather forecasts and coverage. 4.14 1.069 I think the information provided by the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is accurate. 5.71 .488 I think the information/products provi ded by the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center is easily understood by reporters. 3.43 1.512 I think the information/products provi ded by the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center is ea sily understood by meteorologists 6.71 .488 The NWS/NHC tropical storm and hurri cane forecasts are very important to what I broadcast or predict. 6.29 .756 I think the information and graphic products provided by the National Weather Service and the National Hu rricane Center are easily understood by members of the general public. 3.71 1.380 The NWS products, such as the t ropical storm track, provide the information the general population needs to make better preparation decisions. 4.57 1.397 If the general public had to choose between the National Weather Service and my local media, they rely on their local forecast 5.17 1.722 The general public will say their lo cal weather forecasts are generally accurate 5.43 .976 N=7 Respondents were asked to rate their level of agreement of agreement with the statements on a scale to 1 to 7, with 1 indicating comp lete disagreement and 7 complete agreement.
94 The broadcast meteorologists were mu ch less confident, however, about the general publicÂ’s understa nding of meteorology ( M =4.29); the publicÂ’s ability to easily understand information and graphics supplied by NWS and NHC ( M =3.71); and were even less positive of other reportersÂ’ ease of understanding of NWS informational products ( M =3.43). Meteorologists seemed to believe the public has some confidence in accuracy of local forecasting ( M =5.43) and that the public would pref er their local forecast to a NWS forecast ( M =5.17). Broadcasters seemed ambivalent about whether viewers rely on what they hear ( M =5.29) versus what they see during a weather forecast ( M= 5.29) Broadcasters indicated (n=5, 71.4%) that the public would co nsider the terms probable possible and potential to basically mean the same thing and expected the public to remember the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale was a measure of hurricane intensity (n=6, 85.7%) to measure. Broadcasters were unanimous in their expectations (n=7, 100%) that the public would know a hurricane packed winds of mo re than 73 mph but were less confident in the publicÂ’s correct choice rega rding hurricane warning (n=5, 71.4%). (See Tables 10, 11 and 12 for broadcastersÂ’ responses and Tables 4, 5, and 6 for the respective public response s to these questions.)
95 Broadcaster results suggest they ex pect the public to understand basic map reading tenants such as Nort herly orientation of news ma ps (n=6, 85.7%), and use of a legend to explain color coding. Broadcasters expected the public to understand the red area in Figure 1 represented an area under a hurricane warning (n=6, 85.7%), while the white area showed an area of uncertainty fo r the stormÂ’s predicted path (n=5, 71.4%). Table 1 0 Knowledge of Weather Related Terms FrequenciesBroadcast Meteorologists Item N % The general public will say that.. proba ble, possible and potential all b asically mean the same thing. True 5 71.4 False 2 28.6 Unsure 0 0 No answer 0 0 To the general public a tropical storm watch for their area means... Tropical storm conditions including winds of 39 to 73 mph are possible within the next 24 hours 5 71.4 Conditions in my area are conducive to the development of a tropical storm 0 0 A tropical storm is likely to hit my area within the next 24 hours 2 28.6 Unsure 0 0 No answer 0 0 To the general public a hurricane warning for their area meansÂ… Hurricane conditions are expected in my area within the next 24 hour 5 71.4 A hurricane will likely hit my area within the next 2 days 1 14.3 Conditions in my area are cond ucive to hurricane development 1 14.3 No answer 0 0 The general public will say that hurricane a nd tropical storm watches and warnings are... Issued by the National Weather Service 6 85.7 Are official designations 3 42.9 Determined by my local media 2 28.6 Unsure 2 28.6 Issued by local emergency planners 1 14.3 The general public will say the Saffi r/Simpson Hurricane ScaleÂ… Is a scale ranging from 1-5 based on the intensity of the hurricane 6 85.7 No answer 2 28.6 Categorizes storms as tropical d epressions, storms or hurricanes 1 14.3 Is a scale used to indicated the size of a storm 1 14.3 Unsure 0 0 The general public will say a hurricane is characterized byÂ… Winds of more than 73 mph 7 100 A proper name 5 71.4 A pronounced low-pressure circulation 3 42.9 Unsure 1 14.3 Note. N= 7. Some questions ask for respondents to c heck Â“all that applyÂ” and result in N>7 Answers in italics and bolded are considered Â“correctÂ”Â”
96Table 11 Understanding of Visual Conventions FrequenciesÂ– Broadcast Meteorologists Item N % The general public will r ecognize this graphic (Figure 1)as a representation of the path of a ... Hurricane 7 100.0 Tornado 0 0 High pressure system 0 0 Unsure 0 0 No answer 0 0 Severe thunderstorm 0 0 To the general public the red area of the Figure 1 graphic represents... Hurricane warning for that area 6 85.7 Tropical storm warning for that area 1 14.3 Hurricane watch for that area 0 0 The direction the storm is expected to more 0 0 Unsure 0 0 No answer 0 0 To the general public, the pink area of the Figure 1 graphic... Indicates that hurricane conditions ar e possible within 36 hours 2 28.6 Is under a tropical storm watch 2 28.6 Is outside of any danger for landfall of the storm 2 28.6 Unsure 1 14.3 No answer 0 3.0 To the general public, the solid white area on the map (Figure 1) indicates... The area of uncertainty or possibility for the center of the stormÂ’s track and potential landfall 5 71.4 The only areas predicted to be affect ed by any hurricane or tropical storm force winds 1 14.3 No answer 1 14.3 The area to be affected by hurricane force winds 0 0 The predicted size of the storm over time 0 0 Unsure 0 0 The general public will indicate that the sta te of Florida is approximatelyÂ…. 400 miles long from north to south 3 42.9 Unsure 2 28.6 100 miles wide at its center 1 14.3 No answer 1 14.3 400 miles from Cuba 0 0 The general public will say that US maps shown in the news (like Figure 1) are usually shown with what direction on top? North 6 85.7 No Answer 1 14..3 Varies 0 0 South 0 0 West 0 0 East 0 0 Unsure 0 0 Answers in italics and bolded are considered Â“correctÂ”
97 When asked to predict the pub licÂ’s responses to items related to understanding of the Figure 1 graphic, broadcasters fully expect ed the public to rec ognize the graphic as a representation of a hurricane path (n=7, 100%) but expected fewer public respondents to understand it as a prediction of the stormÂ’ s location (n=5, 71.4%) or itÂ’s speed (n=3, Table 1 2 Understanding of Hurricane Graphic Fr equencies Â– Broadcast Meteorologists Item N % The general public will r ecognize this graphic (Figure 1)as a representation of the path of a ... Hurricane 7 100 Tornado 0 0 High pressure system 0 0 Unsure 0 0 No answer 0 0 Severe thunderstorm 0 0 The general public will indicate that the graphic in Figure 1... Is an important indicator to me of the stormÂ’s path 5 71.4 Tells me WHERE a tropical storm or hurricane is expected 5 71.4 Tells me WHEN a tropical storm or hurricane is expected 4 57.2 Indicates how fast the storm is moving 3 42.9 Is just a guesstimate by meteorologists 3 42.9 Tell me the size of the storm 1 14.3 Unsure what it means 1 14.3 Is a very reliable forecast 0 0 To the general public the graphic (Figure 1)indicatesÂ….. The storm is much more likely to make la ndfall in Florida than in Alabama 6 85.7 Hurricane winds will not be evident in n orthern Florida until 8 PM on Wednesday 3 42.9 The size of the storm will grow as it moves north 1 14.3 The intensity of the storm will diminish as it moves towards northern Florida 0 0 Unsure what it means 0 0 To the general public the center black line in the Figure 1 graphic indicates... A guesstimate of center of the hurri cane and itÂ’s predicted path 3 42.9 A forecast of the stormÂ’s track within a cone which represents an average area of uncertainty for the stormÂ’s center position 2 28.6 A 95% accurate forecast of the stormÂ’s path over the next 5 days 1 14.3 Unsure 1 14.3 No answer 0 0 The general public will say the concentric circles on Figure 2 graphic indicate.. The area of uncertainty or possibility for the center of the st ormÂ’s track and potential landfall 4 57.2 Unsure what they mean 3 42.9 The predicted size of the storm over time 2 28.6 The area to be affected by hurricane force winds 1 14.3 The only areas predicted to be affected by any hurricane 1 14.3 Note. N= 7. Some questions ask for respondents to check Â“all that applyÂ” and result in N>7
98 42.9%). Most notably the broadcasters di d not expect the pub lic to understand the meaning of the graphicÂ’s center black line as a forecast line within a cone of uncertainty. Only 2 (28.6%) of the respondents predicted the public to answer th at question correctly while 3 (42.9%) expected the public to cons ider the line a guesstim ate of the stormÂ’s path. Additionally, many broadcasters did not expect the public to understand the concentric circles in Figure 2 to represen t an area of uncertainty with only 4 (57.2%) indicating the public would be able to unders tand an unfamiliar graphic (see Table 12). Broadcasters were asked what they thought (open comment section) were the most effective tools or methods to assist pub lic understanding of weat her forecasts. Six of the seven respondents said a combination of graphics and clear and easy to understand explanations were necessary. Six of the seven Broadcaste rs also indicated they use the same weather graphics vendor with some also listi ng the NWS, NHC, and some uni versities as suppliers. When asked what changes they might make to the NWS Tropical Storm Track graphic, three of the six recommended the rem oval of the center line. Coorientation Perceptions When compared question by question, broa dcast meteorologists closely predicted many of the publicÂ’s responses relating to thei r knowledge of weather related terms with the exception of the question re garding the terms probable, possible and potential (see Table 13).
99 Table 1 3 Knowledge of Weather Related Terms Frequenc iesComparison Public and Broadcasters Item NÂ…Â… Â…% Â….. NÂ…Â…...% Probable, possible and potential all basica lly mean the same thing..(pick ONE) False 105 77.8 2 28.6 True 26 19.3 5 71.4 Unsure 3 2.2 0 0 No answer 1 .7 0 0 A tropical storm watch for my area means...(pick ONE) Tropical storm conditions including winds of 39 to 73 mph are possible within the next 24 hours 70 51.9 5 71.4 Conditions in my area are c onducive to the development of a tropical storm 52 38.5 0 0 A tropical storm is likely to hit my area within the next 24 hours 11 8.1 2 28.6 Unsure 1 .7 0 0 No answer 1 .7 0 0 A hurricane warning for my area meansÂ…(pick ONE) Hurricane conditions are expected in my area within the next 24 hour 84 62.2 5 71.4 A hurricane will likely hit my area within the next 2 days 26 19.3 1 14.3 Conditions in my area are cond ucive to hurricane development 24 17.8 1 14.3 No answer 1 .7 0 0 Hurricane and tropical storm watc hes and warnings areÂ… (check ALL that apply) Issued by the National Weather Service 129 95.6 6 85.7 Are official designations 54 40.0 3 42.9 Issued by local emergency planners 25 18.53 2 28.6 Determined by my local media 3 2.2 2 28.6 Unsure 3 2.2 1 14.3 The Saffir/Simpson Hurricane ScaleÂ…(pick ONE) Is a scale ranging from 1-5 based on the intensity of the hurricane 110 81.5 6 85.7 Unsure 20 2 28.6 Categorizes storms as tropical d epressions, storms or hurricanes 2 1.5 1 14.3 Is a scale used to indicated the size of a storm 1 .7 1 14.3 No answer 2 1.5 0 0 A hurricane is characterized byÂ…(check ALL that apply) Winds of more than 73 mph 124 91.9 7 100 A pronounced low-pressure circulation 80 59.3 5 71.4 A proper name 55 40.7 3 42.9 Unsure 3 2.0 1 14.3 Note. N= 135. Some questions ask for respondents to che ck Â“all that applyÂ” and result in N>135 Answers in italics and bolded are considered Â“correctÂ”Â”
100 Five of the seven broadcasters (71.4%) inco rrectly predicted the publicÂ’s response would indicate that they believed the terms have the same meani ng when previously reported results indicated that 77.8% of the public did not believe the terms have the same meaning. For other terms, such as defi nition of Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, definition of a hurricane as winds of more than 73 mph, and hurricane warning as conditions expected within 24 hours, the me teorologists predicted that more of the general public would answer correctly. However, the public outperformed the meteorologistsÂ’ predictions when asked que stions regarding visual conventions and hurricane graphics (Tables 14 and 15).
101 Table 14 Understanding of Visual Conventions FrequenciesÂ–Comparison Public and Broadcasters Item N % N % I recognize this graphic (Figure 1) as a representation of the path of a ... Hurricane 131 97.0 7 100.0 Tornado 1 .7 0 0 High pressure system 1 .7 0 0 Unsure 1 .7 0 0 No answer 1 .7 0 0 Severe thunderstorm 0 .0 0 0 The red area of the Figure 1 graphic represents Â…(pick ONE) Hurricane warning for that area 122 90.4 6 85.7 Hurricane watch for that area 4 3.0 1 14.3 The direction the storm is expected to more 4 3.0 0 0 Tropical storm warning for that area 1 .7 0 0 Unsure 1 .7 0 0 No answer 3 2.2 0 0 The pink area of the Figure 1 graphic Â…(pick ONE) Indicates that hurricane conditions ar e possible within 36 hours 81 60.0 2 28.6 Is under a tropical storm watch 41 30.4 2 28.6 Unsure 5 3.7 2 28.6 Is outside of any danger for landfall of the storm 4 3.0 1 14.3 No answer 4 3.0 0 3.0 The solid white area on the map (F igure 1) indicatesÂ…(pick ONE) The area of uncertainty or possibility for the center of the stormÂ’s track and potential landfall 119 88.1 5 71.4 The area to be affected by hurricane force winds 9 6.7 1 14.3 The predicted size of the storm over time 3 2.2 1 14.3 The only areas predicted to be affect ed by any hurricane or tropical storm force winds 1 .7 0 0 No answer 3 2.2 0 0 Unsure 0 0.0 0 0 The state of Florida is approximatelyÂ…(pick ONE) 100 miles wide at its center 53 39.3 3 42.9 400 miles long from north to south 51 37.8 2 28.6 Unsure 23 17.0 1 14.3 400 miles from Cuba 5 3.7 1 14.3 No answer 3 2.2 0 0 U.S. maps shown in the news (like Figure 1) are usually shown with what direction on top? (pick ONE) North 128 94.8 6 85.7 Varies 2 1.5 1 14..3 South 1 .7 0 0 West 1. .7 0 0 No Answer 3 2.2 0 0 East 0 0.00 0 0 Unsure 0 0.00 Note. N= 135. Answers in italics and bolded are considered Â“correct
102 When asked to predict the pub licÂ’s responses to items related to understanding of the Figure 1 graphic, broadcasters fully expect ed the public to rec ognize the graphic as a representation of a hurricane path (n=7, 100%) versus th e public (n=131, 97%) but expected fewer to understand it as a pred iction of the stormÂ’s location (n=5, 71.4%) versus the public (n=118, 87.%) when it was expected (n=4, 57.2%), versus the public (n=108, 80.0%), or itÂ’s speed (n=3, 42.9%) versus the public (n=103, 76.3%). Most notably the broadcasters di d not expect the public to understand the meaning of the graphicÂ’s center black line as a forecast line within a cone of un certainty. Only two or 28.6% of the respondents predicted the public to answer that question correctly versus the 110 or 85.9% who did. The broadcasters (n= 3, 42.9%) also expect ed the public to consider the line a guesstimat e of the stormÂ’s path vers us the 18 or 13.3% who did.
103 Table 15 Understanding of Hurricane Graphic Frequencies Co mparison Public and Broadcasters Item N % N % I recognize this graphic (Figure 1) as a representation of the path of a ... Hurricane 131 97.0 7 100 Tornado 1 .7 0 0 High pressure system 1 .7 0 0 Unsure 1 .7 0 0 No answer 1 .7 0 0 Severe thunderstorm 0 .0 0 0 The graphic in Figure 1Â…(check ALL that apply) Is an important indicator to me of the stormÂ’s path 119 88.1 5 71.4 Tells me WHERE a tropical storm or hurricane is expected 118 87.4 5 71.4 Tells me WHEN a tropical storm or hurricane is expected 108 80.0 4 57.2 Indicates how fast the storm is moving 103 76.3 3 42.9 Tell me the size of the storm 37 27.4 3 42.9 Is just a guesstimate by meteorologists 32 23.7 1 14.3 Is a very reliable forecast 22 16.3 1 14.3 Unsure what it means 1 .7 0 0 According to the graphic in Fi gure 1Â…(check ALL that apply) The storm is much more likely to make la ndfall in Florida than in Alabama 116 85.9 6 85.7 Hurricane winds will not be evident in n orthern Florida until 8 PM on Wednesday 44 32.6 3 42.9 The size of the storm will grow as it moves north 23 17.0 1 14.3 The intensity of the storm will diminish as it moves towards northern Florida 4 3.0 0 0 Unsure what it means 2 1.5 0 0 The center black line in the Fi gure 1 indicatesÂ…(pick ONE) A forecast of the stormÂ’s track within a cone which represents an average area of uncertainty for the stormÂ’s center position 110 81.5 3 42.9 A guesstimate of center of the hurri cane and itÂ’s predicted path 18 13.3 2 28.6 A 95% accurate forecast of the stormÂ’s path over the next 5 days 5 3.7 1 14.3 Unsure 1 .7 1 14.3 No answer 1 .7 0 0 The concentric circles on Figure 2 gr aphic indicateÂ…(pick ALL that apply) The area of uncertainty or possibility fo r the center of the stormÂ’s track and potential landfall 108 80.0 4 57.2 The area to be affected by hurricane force winds 35 25.9 3 42.9 The predicted size of the storm over time 15 11.1 2 28.6 The only areas predicted to be affected by any hurricane 8 5.9 1 14.3 Unsure what they mean 8 5.9 1 14.3 Note. N= 135. Some questions ask for respondents to che ck Â“all that applyÂ” and result in N>135 In general, the results seem to indicate th at the broadcasters expected the public to be more conversant with particular severe weather terms but less able to understand the
104 graphic of Figure 1. Many members of th e public (M=5.52) considered the storm graphics to be informative and easy to unders tand, but this contrasts with some of the results, particularly with the aforementioned resp onses regarding watches and warnings Most dangerous of the levels of c oorientation according to Broom (1977) is dissensus, where parties think they agree but do not. If the public thinks they understand the graphic but in fact do not and the user s of the graphic think the public does not, but for the wrong reasons, then future efforts to al leviate the difference may exacerbate rather than cure the problems.
105 CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSION It is only through communication th at we as individuals, publics and organizations can come to understand each other. Understanding comes not from a single engagement but through a continuous process. In 1953 Newcomb posite d coorientation as a relational term to describe a state of Â“simu ltaneous orientation toward one anotherÂ” that required twoÂ–way communication. According to Broom (1977) th is coorientation results in a consensus of understanding that takes into account actual agreement as well as the partiesÂ’ perceptions of agreement. This common understanding depends upon Â“accurate perceptions from all partie s involvedÂ” (Austin & Pinklet on, 2001, p. 62). To know if we reach a consensus of understanding we mu st measure the levels of accuracy and agreement of those perceptions. In all communication work, especially in the realm of public relations, we must strive to verify a common understanding. In a world that is rapidly changing, with emphasis on diversity and inclusion, verify ing a common understanding is vital to creating shared meaning. For organizations su ch as the National Weather Service (NWS) simply communicating their forecasts is not su fficient. To be effective, they must know people understand their warnings. The NWS has a vast number and variety of relationships with organizations that use their products. For the tr opical cyclone graphic alone, the NWS listed their audiences as a continuum starting with federal agencies and the media and ending with the general
106 public. Additionally, each person in these audiences looks through his or her own perceptual looking glass. To add to the co mplexity is NWSÂ’ multifarious communication environment with its mix of scientific, governmental, and corporate organizational cultures. While many of us might like to think a vi sual or graphic representation is fairly straightforward, Kosttelnick and Hassett ( 2003) remind us that Â“Â…readers seldom encounter visual language in perceptual, soci al or historical vacuumsÂ” (p. 3). While designers have little or no control over how their visuals are used, they can work to develop a relationship with their publics through the development and use of visual conventions. For NWS graphic designers to efficiently communicate with visual language it will require Â“constant cooperation among designers and readersÂ” (Kosttelnick and Hassett, 2003, p. 3). This research was an effort to use one graphical product of the NWS and query the public for their perceptions of its meaning. Selected broadcasters were also asked for their opinions about severe weather forecasts as well as their percep tions of the publicÂ’s understanding of forecast products. The inst ruments were designed to answer five research questions and to s ee if the graphicÂ’s constructi on holds any clues to those perceptions. RQ1 : Does the general publicÂ’s knowledge of basic weather terms and concepts match the level necessary to understand th e meaning of the hurricane graphic? The results of this study, as well as the many which preceded it (FEMA & USACE, 2005; Morrow, 2004) lead to the conclusion that the terms watch and warning are problematic for the general public as we ll as professionals. Respondents in this study
107 did well (80% or better corre ct response) with weather-re lated vocabulary, concepts, and graphic interpretations except when it came to the terms watch and warning When one considers the majority of this studyÂ’s popul ation to be mature, well educated, and predominately residents of a hurricane prone state, these results are especially noteworthy. In view of the errors made in construction of questi on 23 and the number of incorrect choices made by both professionals and laymen alike, the problem with the terms may point to an issue beyond definiti on alone. With both words beginning with a Â“wÂ” and being relatively close in length, it may be possible that visually they may be too alike as well. The confusion over these terms may have a substantial impact on levels of understanding of the graphic. If one of the central messa ges of the tropical cyclone graphic is to warn residents of an im pending storm landfall, then viewers must understand from the graphic where and when it is forecasted to occur. Â“ReadingÂ” the graphic without the benefit of a narrative would be difficult if residents do not remember the definition of a watch as a Â“conditions are poss ible within 36 hoursÂ” or warning that indicates conditions are expected within 24 hours or less. Levels of knowledge were not consiste nt, however, across demographic segments. The results of this study revealed that ther e were differences in levels of knowledge of weather related terms and concepts with th e youngest respondents scoring significantly better in some of the knowledge questions. This result may be linked to their significantly higher percentage of Internet use, where graphics can be ex amined longer, have legends, are sometimes accompanied by a narrative forecast, and in some cases can be enlarged.
108 RQ2 : Are the visual conventions used in the creation of the hurricane graphic understood by the general public as they were intended by the designers? Overwhelmingly, the respondents recognized Figure 1 as a graphic depiction of a hurricane path (n=131, 97.0%). They overw helmingly understand (95.8%) that in most news products, U.S. maps are oriented to th e North. They seem to understand that colors are used to represent different sectors of in formation such as tropical watch and warning areas and were used to differentiate landma ss from water. Other information may have been gleaned from the graphic and as a resu lt correct answers to questions may not be a measure of knowledge of the graphic components. For instance the title of the legend was Â“Hurricane IvanÂ” and explanation of the pi nk, red and white areas of the graphic were also explained in the legend. However, there was neither compass rose (an indicator of direction such as north or south) nor scal e (indicator of distance on the map relative to distance on the ground) evident. The NOAA in signia was prominent on the graphic as was the National Weather Service Logo. The graphic does not indicate the size of the storm nor does it utilize perspective, to indicate size relative to position, but th e results of questions 33 and 36 may indicate some interpreted the graphic that way. Res pondents (27.4%) indicated the graphic Â“tells me the size of the stormÂ” and 17% answered Â“the size of the storm will grow as it moves north,Â” which may indicate two distinct or related misinterpr etations. The first misinterpretation is that some graphic element shows the size of the storm (possibly the orange center location marker or white ar ea). The second misinterpretation may be a result of misunderstanding of the white area or cone of uncertainty. Instead of interpreting the widening cone, as an increasing ly larger area of statistical uncertainty for
109 the storm track, it may be confused with persp ective that would indica te Â“the size of the storm will grow as it moves north.Â” RQ3 : Does the general public understand the meaning of the hurricane graphic? Question 33 was intended to determine wh ether the public understood Figure 1 graphic as a forecast product detailing storm specific information. As reported, respondents correctly identified key elements of the graphic design with a majority (n=119, 88.1%) indicating that the graphic was an important indicator of the stormÂ’s path. Respondents also (n=118, 87.4%) indicated that the graphic tells them where and (n=118, 87.4%) and the majority of respondents (n= 108, 80.0%) indicated that the graphic tells them when a tropical storm or hurricane is expected. Additionally, 103 (76.3%) of respondents correctly indicated the graphic contained informa tion about the speed of the stormÂ’s movement. Question 36 asked responde nts storm specific questions and was intended to require respondents to extrapol ate meaning from the graphical conventions used in Figure 1 to conclude where a nd when the hurricane would most likely make landfall. With 116 or 85.9% of the respondent s correctly indicating that the storm was much more likely to make landfall in Florida than in Alabama, it may indicate that the majority of respondents understood the white ar ea overlapping the outline of the state of Florida as the potential landfall area. However, the seeming misinterpretation of the time hacks indicating the stormÂ’s center location with arrival of hurricane winds (n=44, 32.6%) is an indicator th at those who incorrectly choose th at option have not considered the size of the storm as a factor. Additiona lly, 23 respondents (17%) of the respondents incorrectly indicated that the graphic show ed the storm Â“grow as it moves north.Â” Of
110 those respondents there were a larger percentage of wome n than men who made that choice. The answer to this research question is probably a relative one. With so much information included in the graphic it may be a subjective determination that depends upon how much of the Â“necessaryÂ” information included in the graphic is processed and understood. To answer this question definitiv ely would require some benchmarks from the designers, as to what information was critical to understand the graphic, as well as consideration of the informati onal needs of the viewer. In the case of Figure 1, a viewer living in Miami may understand the graphic enough or get sufficient information to dismiss the storm as a threat. A resident of Punta Gorda, however, may not fully satisfy her or his information needs without further info rmation. To decide if the storm is a threat to Punta Gorda, residents may need to more closely examine the graphic for information. To fully understand the forecast, viewers may need additional information such as a map scale to determine the relative proximity of the cone and as well as an idea of the size of the storm. As an attempt to measure understanding of another NWS graphic, the last question asked the public to examine a previously o ffered alternative watch/ warning graphic that was likely to be unfamiliar to respondent s. Almost as many respondents -80% for Figure 2 versus 81% for Figure 1 -answered the question correctly. This result could point to the importance of a clear legend to understanding of a graphic. This conclusion could also be supported by comparison of the number of correct responses to Questions 29, and Question 30. The first asked for an answ er which was explicit ly provided in the legend, and 90.4% (n=122) of the respondents chose the correct answer. In contrast,
111 Question 30 asked respondents to answer without all the nece ssary information available in the legend and only 81 or 61% of the re spondents correctly chos e -hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours as an answer. Although there were significant difference s between groups in a large number of the questions, the results of the public questi onnaire seem to indicate that the respondents do give meaning to the graphic in ways cons istent with the designersÂ’ (NWS) intent. The public looks to the graphic, as evidenced by the results of Question 33, with an expectation of learning the pred icted path of a storm and when it was expected to make landfall. While they may understand what the graphic should tell them, they may not do as well in gleaning storm specific information. This may be compounded by some respondentsÂ’ attitudes about the forecast behind the graphic with only 22 (16.3%) of respondents indicating that they believe the graphic to be a very reliable forecast The oldest respondents seemed to choose more incorrect answers to the graphics questions than other groups. This may be rela ted to their reported reliance on television weather where graphics are only shown for a limited time, and sometimes without the benefit of verbal or textural explanation. RQ4 : Does the general public trust the NWS and its gr aphical products such as forecasts? The respondents to this survey, regardle ss of sex, education or age, are familiar with the NWS (M=5.58), believe the NWS doe s a good job of predicting hurricanes and other severe weather (M=5.59) and is an organization that I can count on to make important decisions that may affect people like me ( M =5.38). Respondents indicated that they would rely more on a NWS than local forecast and in general held the NWS to a
112 higher level of trust (M=5.52) than the local media (M=4.28). Although levels of trust of the NWS were level across generations, there was a statistically significant difference between generations in levels of trust of local stations with the youngest generation expressing the least amount of trust. Generation Ys were far less likely (M= 2.88) to Â“trustÂ” their local media than respon dents from the Silent Generation ( M =4.44). Generation Y ( M =2.88) was also less likely to trus t the local media than Baby Boomers ( M =4.36). This result could be re lated to a much higher Intern et usage level for weather information among this group. Levels of trust di d not seem to be related to accuracy of forecasts. While competence is a factor of the Grunig and HonÂ’s (1999) trust scale, weather prediction may be still be viewed by respondents as a difficult and inexact science and thus NWS is given some leew ay for accuracy of its predictions. RQ5 : Does the publicÂ’s understanding of th e meaning of the hurricane graphic match the broadcastersÂ’ perceptions of the publicÂ’s understanding of the meaning of the hurricane graphic? Although a major focus of this study is the visual components of a hurricane graphic, it seems that the accompanying voice track on broadcasts and explanatory text included in graphic legends are critical to the communi cation of severe weather information. Six of the seven broadcaste rs cited the importance of knowledgeable explanations by broadcasters, but both the public and meteor ologists, as groups, seemed ambivalent in their responses regarding the pr imacy of visual or audio information from a broadcast forecast. Considering this uncertainty, one of th e more surprising and interesting results was the difference between the professionals Â’ expectations and the general publicÂ’s
113 responses regarding the terms probable, potential and possible The majority of broadcasters predicted that the terms were interchangeable as far as the public was concerned while 78% of the public disagreed. Th is result is interesting because it seems to indicate that broadcasters may need to be as precise in their word choices as they are in their graphic depictions. Th is dichotomy of emphasis on verbal versus visual explanations is evident wh en study results from Hurrica ne Charley are examined. When broadcasters were asked in this study to choose a cause for the publicÂ’s confusion of CharleyÂ’s landfa ll, 71% chose the publicÂ’s mi sinterpretation of the NWSÂ’ track graphic as the culprit while 14.3% said it was the publicÂ’s misi nterpretation of the local forecast. One responde nt placed the miscues on Â“poor communication by NHC.Â” These results are inte resting when compared to the results of MorrowÂ’s (2004) field research in the aftermath of the storm. In a study (Morrow, 2004) conducted in the aftermath of Hurricane CharleyÂ’s landfall in Punta Gorda, Â“near ly everyone interviewed said they thought the storm was going to hit TampaÂ” (p. 10) and a number of meteorologists placed the blame on the publicÂ’s misplaced emphasis on the graphicÂ’s cen ter line. However, in four of the five exemplary quotes chosen by the researcher, th e interviewees were quoted using the words Â“they said,Â’ Â“we kept hearingÂ” and Â“I heardÂ” when referr ing to the stormÂ’s predicted landfall in Tampa rather than Â“I saw.Â” The author goes on to say that the residentsÂ’ complaints regarding the predictions were in co ntrast to the reality of the accuracy of the NHCÂ’s forecast and that Â“in reality, the Nationa l Hurricane Center did an excellent job of forecasting the stormÂ” (p. 10). Morrow (2004) suggests the disconnect may be the publicÂ’s response to a history of warnings (cry -wolf effect) with no serious impact or Â“too
114 much attention to the center of the forecas t trackÂ” (p. 10). Perhaps the misunderstanding can be traced to word choices of the meteorol ogists to explain the predicted path rather than in the forecast graphic details. From results of this study, meteorologis ts seemed to believe the public has more confidence in accuracy of local forecasting ( M =5.43) than the public reported ( M =4.82). The broadcasters ( M =5.17) also overestimated the publicÂ’s preference ( M =3.68) for local versus NWS weather forecasts. While it seems that the general public does not recall hurricane related definitions and concepts as well as predicted by the mete orologists, it appears the respondents to this study do understand aspects of the hurricane gr aphic better than me teorologists expected. Respondents understand the graphic as a representation of a hurricane track and look to it for information of its speed and forecasted landf all. Of particular no te is the number of correct responses to the meani ng of the graphicÂ’s center black line. Broadcasters expected only 42.9% of the public to correctly answer that que stion while 81.5% of the respondents answered correctly. This may be more significant than some of the other results because the legend does not direc tly address the meaning of the line. Since Hurricane Charley, several scho lars and meteorologists have expressed concern over the effects of th e graphicÂ’s center black line on viewersÂ’ expectations of storm tracks. This studyÂ’s results may indi cate that, when it co mes to the publicÂ’s understanding of the graphic, there is what Bloom (1977) refers to as false consensus (when parties disagree but thi nk they agree) between broadcasters and the NWS and the public regarding their unders tanding of the graphic
115 While the public ( M =5.84) indicated that the graphi cs are informative and easy to understand, broadcasters ( M =3.43) indicate that they are not well understood by the public. Figure 4 : NWS-Public Consensus of Agreement Understanding Model Results ________________________________________________________________________ Coorientation Model Applying the coorientation model to this studyÂ’s results indicate that there are areas of misunderstanding that impact leve ls of agreement between the NWS and the public. Results also indicate that there are problems with congruency as well as accuracy of perceptions.
116 According to Broom (1997) these results indi cate that there is a lack of consensus between the NWS and the public regarding th e meaning of the Tropical Cyclone Track Watch/Warning Graphic. It a ppears that the public thinks they understand (as indicated by the few unsure responses to the survey) the graphic as intended by the NWS but answers to the questionnaire indicate the public does not understand many items including the critical terms Watch and Warning Additionally, the NWSÂ’ believes the public misinterprets the meaning of the gra phic because of a focus on the center black line while results indicate the public does unde rstand the meaning of the line but misreads the graphicÂ’s indication of watches and warnings. It seems the public easily uses the graphic legend to determine wher e the watches and warnings ar e in effect, but they do not seem to understand the meaning of these design ations, particularly when it comes to time frames for possible or probable landfall. These results indicate there is disagreement between the NWS and the public on the meaning of the graphic, but more tr oubling is the possibility of a state of false consensus With such dire consequences resultin g from misunderstanding of severe storm warnings, it is important that the NWS, emergenc y planners, and broadcast meteorologists know if there is disagreement among them. They also must know and agree on why they disagree if efforts to improve consensus are to be effective.
117 CHAPTER SIX: CONCLUSIONS The results of this study are important to providers of emergency information must be aware of how their messages are interpreted and unders tood. Misunderstanding of critical information can lead to loss of life. Results of this study indicate that the general public and the National Weather Se rvice do not share a common understanding of selected weather related terms and meaning of a NWS informational graphic. While the vast majority of resp ondents recognized the Tropical Cyclone Track Watch/Warning Graphic and understood much of the inform ation it conveyed, 38% of study respondents did not seem to remember or understand the meaning of the terms Watch and Warning These results indicate that too many memb ers of the public would be subject to unnecessary risk due to a preventable mis understanding. While these terms or conditions are only one aspect of the gra phic they represent critical in formation for populations at risk. Additionally, the results of this study i ndicate that weather forecasting professionalsÂ’ perceptions of the publicÂ’s unde rstanding of the graphic are inaccurate. Their perceptions that the publicsÂ’ misunderstanding of the graphi c is the result of misi nterpretation of the center black line may not be correct. That the NWS, and the broadcast meteorologists seemingly share this presumption may result in misplaced efforts to improve public understanding. The results of this study indicate an overwhelming majority of the public recognized the Figure 1 graphic as a represen tation of a path of a hurricane. Respondents
118 readily (relatively few Â“unsureÂ” respons es) answered questions regarding the meteorological constructs of tr opical storms and hurricanes as well as ones aimed at their associated traits of wind a nd movement. Respondents seemed to accept the graphic as representation of a storm that could or had existed outside of their immediate environment and seemed to agree with the representations of many of the conventions used by map makers such as color co ding, scale, and car dinal direction. Although only seven broadcasters responded to the second questi onnaire, and it is unknown as to how many stations they represent, it is nota ble that six of the seven reported using the same graphic package vendor for their stationÂ’s graphics. Many also reported that the information they receive from the NWS and the NHC is used in the development of their forecasts. These limited resources for graphics and forecast information appears to support NelkinÂ’s (1987) contention that much of what we hear from the media about risk and scientific information is often the result of few authoritative sources. The results of this study support others (FEMA, 2005) that report most people still initially hear about severe weather from televi sion. The majority of respondents from this study generally rely upon television for their weather information. As active audiences who become information seeking (Grunig, J. E., 1997) an even larger majority increase their viewing to include other stations or pape rs in light of an approaching storm while a large majority reported checking the in ternet for forecasts. Additionally many respondents reported talking to friends or family about an approaching storm, which supports Singer and EndrenyÂ’s (1993) assertion that percepti ons of risk are mediated by more than a single factor.
119 The results of this study indicate that the National Weather Service enjoys a good reputation among respondents and is trusted by the public and meteorol ogists alike. What is also evident is that both the NWS and meteorologists believe there is a difference between their understanding of the hurricane graphic and those of the public. It is interesting to note that the fault of the misunderstanding is ofte n left at the feet of the receivers rather than the se nders of the information. As long as the NWS and the NHC continue efforts to engage their publics in product design and delivery, the organizations may be able to maintain their high levels of public trust. But diligence on the part of designers and scientists alike must be maintained if a cons ensus of understanding is to be built and maintained among forecasters and their critical audiences of emergency planners and the general public. While respondents generally rate the NWS as a reliable and competent agency, they do not consistently rate their local w eather providers as well. What is not known, and is probably worthy of further investigati on, is what, if any, rela tionship the loss of a familiar NHC director, Mr. Max Mayfield will have on the publicÂ’s levels of trust for the center. It seems NHC staffers are aware acutely aware of th e possibility that spokespersons do effect public trust. In an unusual move in a governmental organization, the staff publicly revolted against Maxfield Â’s replacement and precipitated his recent removal (July 2007). In addition to changes in leadership, private sector competition may challenge the NHC and NWS as well. With the advent of newer technologies and more private weather prediction entities, it will be interesting to see if the NWS can maintain its position as a trusted purveyor of severe weather forecasting. As local media begin to do more of their
120 own forecasting and present more detailed and dramatic graphic displays, the NWSÂ’ reputation may suffer. Local media, however, may take a page from the NWSÂ’ public outreach efforts and their policy of limiting public access to some of their forecast models. While a number of southwest Florida media outlets spend considerable time and money on hurricane awareness campaigns, they may also need to examine how their forecasts are perceived. Research, by either the stations or the vendors of broadcast graphics, might benefit public understanding if broadcasters and viewers are both prepared for new graphics packages before substantive format changes are made. One recent case is the adoption of a new graphic package that is in tended to show moisture levels. This new model uses red to represent dry air. This can be confusing to viewer s who are used to red meaning high levels of disturbances as in the case of thunderstorms, which are often accompanied by large amounts of rain. Confusion in communication between gene rations has always been fraught with difficulties. New communicati on technologies are exacerbating the problem. Email, blogs, and text messaging are indicators of a growing communication culture that relies on abbreviated and informal content. Coupled with the use of hype rbole and sensational media content this de-formalization of langua ge my affect understa nding of technical language and may be an area of concern for emergency communicators, especially in the descriptions of potential ris k. While weather scientistsÂ’ foremost concern may be the accuracy of their forecasts, th ey also must consider the accuracy of the perceptions of those forecasts if they are to be effective in warning populations at risk of severe weather.
121 Recommendations Results from this study indicate that the National Weather Service should continuously endeavor to thoroughly resear ch the clarity and understanding of the communiqus. This study particularly recomm ends that the NWS should clarify and or change its use of the terms of Watch and Warning The NWS may also look to deconstruct and prioritize the ideas or concepts it wishes to convey in their Watch/Warning Track graphic especially as appears to the general public. As evidenced by the seemingly large difference between re sponses to questions 29 and 30, perhaps the Watch/Warning graphic as well as broadcasted and written forecasts could be changed as an interim step to improve understanding. If the NWS considers time to be a critical element of watches and warnings then the addition of the ti me frames of 24 and 36 hours to graphic legends and textural or broadcasted forecasts might focus viewers on time considerations in their decisions to evacuate or prepare in advance of for severe weather. Another area worthy of research may be in the examination of the words, such as probable and possible used to explain severe weather forecasts. Not only could the words used by broadcast meteorologists be exam ined for their effects but the text version of forecasts supplied by the NWS may yield insight into public perceptions as well. According to the National Weather Service, forecasts were formerly developed using atmospheric data measures, which were then prepared in narrative form. The written forecasts were used as the basis for graphic development. Today, forecasts are first developed graphically and then converted by co mputer program into textural versions for dissemination (S. Kiser, personal communica tion, January 31, 2007). This would indicate
122 that the language used is consistent across similar type storms and could provide a good opportunity to examine how choices might affect perceptions of forecasts This study explores an area of communicat ion research that has not been evident in much of the work done in the area of di saster studies and risk communication. If we must rely upon graphic depictions of risk to guide our behaviors, th en the graphics must make sense to us. This study identifies areas that deserve further re search and provides at least a start in the cross discipline work th at will be necessary for the development of measures that can contribute to the build ing and maintenance of consensus between organizations and their publics. This study is limited by the lack of probability sampling, self reporting by respondents, no restrictions to participation, and the exclusiona ry effects on participation due to its online delivery. It is also limited by the presentation of only one storm track of an actual storm, which was fairly straightforward and may have been familiar to respondents. Examining viewer pe rceptions of visuals, like this graphic, is confounded by the nature of the instrument which cannot replicate an actual br oadcast nor induce the emotional state of the viewers who may be facing a natural disaster. Additionally, forecasts are often Â“heardÂ” over time a nd perceptions of storm tracks could be significantly different depending upon where vi ewers see graphics. Perceptions of storm track could also be effected by other information viewers ma y have heard or read about the storm prior to viewing the graphics. The use of the coorientation model seems to an effective tool in measuring levels of consensus of meaning when it comes to visual communication. However, the addition of diverse focus groups, experimental de sign to test new graphic options, and
123 presentation of alternative m odes of delivery would add to u nderstanding of how graphics are perceived. Understanding of viewers pe rceptions many help designers develop new and better ways to communicate concepts as complex as risk.
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132 Appendix A Alternative Tropical Cyclone Graphics: Solicitation for Comments
135 Appendix B NOAA Press Release (April 9, 2005)
136 Appendix C General Public Questionnaire Tropical Storm and Hurricane Forecast Questionnaire This questionnaire is sponsored by the Un iversity of South Florida School of Mass Communications. It is an effort to garn er your opinion about terms and graphics used by the mass media to warn resident s of severe weather. Your comments are important and your voluntary participation is appreciated. No personal information will be collected and your answers and comments will remain confidential. Please take a few moments to fill out this survey. If you would prefer to fill out a hand written survey, please contact L.M. Geggis at lgeggis@mail. usf.edu and we will send you a copy. You may also use that email address to provide any additional comments. The results of this questionnaire will be published in a masterÂ’s thesis and its findings may contribute to the understanding of vi sual communication. Pl ease answer every question, including those that require a short written response. Thank you in advance for your valuable input. SECTION I This first section will allow us to get to know a little bit about you. I was born between: 1911-1924 1925-1945 1946-1964 1965-1977 1978-1988 My primary residence is located in...(FILL in the blanks) State: County:
137I am male female I have completed the follo wing level of education Some High School High School or GED Some college Associates Degree Bachelors Degree Some Graduate School Graduate School Post Graduate Doctorate SECTION II In this next we will ask about how an d where you get your weather related information and how you would rate it. I generally get information abou t the weather from...(pick one) Television Newspaper Radio AM or FM Other people Weather Radio Internet Other: When I hear about an approaching storm I usually..(check ALL the boxes that apply) Stay with my regular televisi on viewing or reading habits Increase my viewing to includ e other stations or papers Check the Internet for forecasts Talk to my family or friends about it Unsure
138In this section we will ask you to rate your level of agreement with the following statements. Please choose an answer from a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 indicating totally disagree and 7 completely agree. The graphics used on television and the Internet to show tropical storm/hurricane tracts are informative and easy to understand. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No opinion Weather forecasts about hurricanes make me nervous. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No opinion The National Weather Service is one organization that I can count on to make important decisions that may affect people like me. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No opinion
139 I think the National Weather Servic e does a good job of predicting hurricanes and other severe weather. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No opinion I think the news media uses the hurricane season as a way to improve their audience size. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No opinion I feel very confident in the National Weather Service's ability to make storm predictions. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No opinion
140 The National Weather Service is more interested in commercial ventures than they are about people like me. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No opinion I am familiar with the National Weather Service and what it does. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No opinion The National Weather Service keeps its promises to warn the public about severe storms. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No opinion
141 The National Weather Service is twice as good at predicting big storms, like hurricanes, as they were ten years ago. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion The National Weather Service treats people like me fairly and justly. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion The National Weather Service is ...(check ALL that apply) a federal agency that is part of NOAA the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration part of the Department of Commerce a private organization that produces the Weather Channel unsure
142If I had to choose between the National Weather Service and my local media, I'd rely on my local forecast. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No opinion My local weather forcasts are generally accurate. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion
143 SECTION III This section asks your opinion about weather forecasts I recognize this graphic (Figure 1)as a representation of the path of a ...(pick ONE) Hurricane Tornado Severe thunderstorm High pressure system Unsure Probable, possible and potential all ba sically mean the same thing...(pick ONE) True False Unsure A tropical storm watch for my area means...(pick ONE) A tropical storm is likely to hit my area within the next 24 hours Tropical storm conditions including winds of 39 to 73 mph are possible within the next 24 hours Conditions in my area are condusive to the development of a tropical storm Unsure
144A hurricane warning for my area means...(pick ONE) Hurricane conditions are expected in my area within the next 24 hours Conditions in my area are conducive to hurricane development A hurricane will likely hit my area within the next 2 days Unsure Hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings are...(check ALL that apply) Issued by the National Weather Service Are official designations Determined by my local media Issued by local emergency planners Unsure The National Weather Service is...(check ALL that apply) a federal agency that is part of NOAA the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration part of the Department of Commerce a private organization that produces the Weather Channel Unsure The Saffir/Simpson Hurri cane Scale...(pick ONE) is a scale ranging from 1-5 based on the the intensity of the hurricane is a scale used to indicate the size of a storm categorizes storms as tropical de pressions, storms or hurricanes Unsure A hurricane is characterized by...(check ALL that apply) a pronounced low-pressure circulation winds of more than 73 mph a proper name Unsure
145 The red area of the Figure 1 graphic represents...(pick ONE) hurricane warning for that area tropical storm warning for that area hurricane watch for that area the direction the storm is expected to move Unsure
146The pink area of the Figure 1 graphic...(pick ONE) is under a tropical storm watch indicates that hurricane conditio ns are possible within 36 hours is outside of any danger for landfall of the storm Unsure The solid white area on the map (Figure 1) indicates...(pick ONE) the area to be affected by hurricane force winds the predicted size of the storm over time the area of uncertainty or possibility fo r the center of the storm's track and potential landfall the only areas predicted to be affected by any hurricane or tropical storm force winds Unsure
147 I remember seeing this graphi c on... (check ALL that apply) television newspapers Internet I do not recognize it
148The graphic in Figure 1 ...(check ALL that apply) tells me WHEN a tropical storm or hurricane is expected tells me WHERE tropical storm or hurricane is expected is a very reliable forecast is just a guesstimate by meteorologists is an important indicator to me of the storm's path tells me the size of the storm indicates how fast the storm is moving Unsure what it means The state of Florida is approximately...(pick ONE) 100 miles wide at it's center 400 miles long from north to south 400 miles from Cuba Unsure US maps shown in the news (like Figure 1) are usually shown with what direction on top? (pick ONE) North South East West Varies Unsure
149 According to the graphic Figure 1..(check ALL that apply) the storm is much more likely to make landfall in Florida than in Alabama hurricane winds will not be evident in northern Florida until 8 PM on Wednesday the size of the storm will grow as it moves north the intensity of the storm will diminish as it moves towards northern Florida Unsure what it means I pay more attention to the weather forecaster than I do to any graphics I see. (choose ONE answer that matches your level of agreement) 1. Totally disagree 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Completely agree No Opinion
150 The center black line in the Figu re 1 graphic indicates... (pick ONE) a 95% accurate forecast of the st orms' path over the next 5 days a forecast of the storm's track within a co ne which represents an average area of uncertainty for the storm's center position a guesstimate of center of the hurricane and its predicted path Unsure
151 The concentric circles on Figure 2 graphic indicate..(pick ALL that apply) the area to be affected by hurricane force winds the predicted size of the storm over time the area of uncertainty or possibility fo r the center of the storm's track and potential landfall the only areas predicted to be affected by any hurricane Unsure what they mean
152 Appendix D Broadcast Meteorologist Questionnaire Severe Weather Forecasts Broadcast Meteorologists' Perceptions of Public Understanding This questionnaire is sponsored by the Univ ersity of South FloridaÂ’s School of Mass Communications. It is an effort to garner your opinion about the general public's understanding of tropical storm forecasts. It also seeks to obtain your opinion of two National Weather Servic e graphical products. Your comments are important and your voluntary participation is appreciated. No personal information will be collected and your answers and comments will remain confidential. Please take a fe w moments to fill out this survey. If you would prefer to fill out a hand written survey, please co ntact L.M. Geggis at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a copy. You may also use that email address to provide any additional comments you may have. The results of this questionnaire will be published, along with a results of second questionnaire aimed at the general public, in a masterÂ’s thesis. Please answer every question. Thank you in advance for your valuable input.
153SECTION I This first section will allow us to get to know a little bit about you. I have completed the following level of education...(pick ONE) Some High School High School or GED Some college Associates Degree Bachelors Degree Some Graduate School Graduate School Post Graduate Doctorate I have been involved in weather forecasting for...(pick ONE) 1-5 years 6-10 years 11-15 years 16-20 years 21-25 years 26+ years other: I have been involved in weather broadcasting for...(pick ONE) 1-5 years 6-10 years 11-15 years 16-20 years 21-25 years 26+ years
154 Please list any professional designations you hold. SECTION II This next section asks for your opinio n of severe weather forecasting. In some cases we will ask you to rate your level of agreement with the statements. For those questions please choose an answer from a scale to 1 to 7, with 1 indicating complete disagreement and 7 complete agreement. Other questions will ask you to fill in your comments and opinions. The media do a good job in preparing the general public for severe weather like hurricanes. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion
155 I am happy with the current status of broadcast coverage of severe weather. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion My station's tropical storm/hurricane forecasts are extremely important to the public in their decisions to ma ke storm preparations or plans to evacuate. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion I think visuals and graphic representations of weather such as radar and tropical storm track graphics are important tools for preparing populations at risk. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree
156 No Opinion I think the general public understands the basics of meteorology. 7. Completely Aagree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion In your opinion what are the most effective tools or methods that can be used to help the public understand weather forecasts? I think most people rely upon what they hear during a weather forecast. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4.
157 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion I think most people rely upon what they see during a weather forecast. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion My station has adequate systems to me asure audience satisfaction of severe weather forecasts and coverage. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion What kind of feedback have you or your station received about severe weather forecasts or coverage? Plea se note both positive and negative comments from the public and other sources.
158 I think the information provided by the National Weat her Service (NWS) and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is accurate 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion
159 I think the information/products prov ided by the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center is easily understood by reporters. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion I think the information/products prov ided by the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center is easily understood by meteorologists. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion What "suppliers" of weather data or pr oducts do/did you rely upon for your forecasts? Do you prefer any one over another? If so, why?
160 The NWS/NHC tropical storm and hurricane forecasts are very important to what I broadcast or predict. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion
161 I think the information and graphic products provided by the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center are easily understood by members of the general public. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion The NWS products, such as the tropical storm track, provide the information the general population needs to make better preparation decisions. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No. Opinion Section III This section of the questionnaire concerns the National Weather Service (NWS) Tropic al Cyclone Track and Watch/Warning Graphic.
162 I am familiar with the NWS Tropical Cyclone Track and Watch/Warning graphic (Figure 1) often referred to as the "Cone of Uncertainty" Yes No Unsure What do you consider to be the key information contained in the NWS (Figure 1) graphic?
163 Are there any changes to the components of this graphic (Figure 1) that you have adopted or would like the NWS to consider (i.e. color, shading, etc.)? If you could invent or design a graphic that described the path of a tropical storm or hurricane, what information would you include for the general public?
164Section IV This section is intended to capture your perceptions of the general public's understandi ng of weather re lated terms and graphics. Please answer the following questions as you think the general public will answer them. If the general public had to choose between the National Weather Service and my local media, they'd rely on their local forecast. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No opinion The general public will say their lo cal weather forecasts are generally accurate. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion
165 The general public will recognize this gr aphic (Figure 1)as a representation of the path of a ...(pick ONE) Hurricane Tornado Severe thunderstorm High pressure system Unsure The general public will say that..probable, possible and potential all basically mean the sa me thing...(pick ONE) True False Unsure To the general public a tropical stor m watch for their area means...(pick ONE) A tropical storm is likely to hit my area within the next 24 hours Tropical storm conditions including winds of 39 to 73 mph are expected within the next 24 hours Conditions in my area are conducive to the development of a tropical storm Unsure
166 To the general public a hurricane warning for their area means...(pick ONE) Hurricane conditions are expected in my area within the next 24 hours Conditions in my area are conducive to hurricane development A hurricane will likely hit my area within the next 2 days Unsure The general public will say that hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings are...(check ALL that apply) Issued by the National Weather Service Are official designations Determined by my local media Issued by local emergency planners Unsure The general public will say the Saffir /Simpson Hurricane Scale...(pick ONE) is a scale ranging from 1-5 based on the intensity of the hurricane is a scale used to indicate the size of a storm categorizes storms as tropical de pressions, storms or hurricanes Unsure The general public will say a hurricane is characterized by...(check ALL that apply) a pronounced low-pressure circulation winds of more than 73 mph a proper name Unsure
167 To the general public the red area of the Figure 1 graphic represents...(pick ONE) hurricane warning for that area tropical storm warning for that area hurricane watch for that area the direction the storm is expected to move Unsure
168 To the general public, the pink area of the Figure 1 graphic...(pick ONE) is under a tropical storm watch indicates that hurricane conditio ns are possible within 36 hours is outside of any danger for landfall of the storm Unsure To the general public, the solid white area on the map (Figure 1) indicates...(pick ONE) the area to be affected by hurricane force winds the predicted size of the storm over time
169 the area of uncertainty or possibility fo r the center of the storm's track and potential landfall the only areas predicted to be affected by any hurricane or tropical storm force winds Unsure Members of the general public will say they remember seeing this graphic (Figure 1) on... (check ALL that apply) television newspapers world wide web I do not recognize it
170 The general public will indicate that th e graphic in Figure 1...(check ALL that apply) tells them WHEN a tropical storm or hurricane is expected tells them WHERE tropical storm or hurricane is expected is a very reliable forecast is just a guesstimate by meteorologists is an important indicator to them of the storm's path tells them the size of the storm indicates how fast the storm is moving Unsure what it means The general public will indicate that the state of Florida is approximately...(pick ONE) 100 miles wide at it's center 400 miles long from north to south 400 miles from Cuba Unsure
171The general public will say that US maps shown in the news (like Figure 1) are usually shown with what direction on top? (pick ONE) North South East West Varies Unsure To the general public the graphic (Figure 1)indicates..(check ALL that apply) the storm is much more likely to make landfall in Florida than in Alabama hurricane winds will not be evident in northern Florida until 8 PM on Wednesday the size of the storm will grow as it moves north the intensity of the storm will diminish as it moves towards northern Florida Unsure what it means The general public will say they pa y more attention to the weather forecaster than they do to any graphics they see. (choose ONE answer that matches your level of agreement) 1. Totally disagree 2. 3. 4.
172 5. 6. 7. Completely agree No Opinion To the general public the center black line in the Figure 1 graphic indicates... (pick ONE) a 95% accurate forecast of the st orms' path over the next 5 days a forecast of the storm's track within a co ne which represents an average area of uncertainty for the storm's center position a guestimate of center of the hurricane and its predicted path Unsure
173 The general public will say the concentric circles on Figure 2 graphic indicate..(pick ALL that apply) the area to be affected by hurricane force winds the predicted size of the storm over time the area of uncertainty or possibility fo r the center of the storm's track and potential landfall the only areas predicted to be affected by any hurricane Unsure what they mean If the general public had to choose between the National Weather Service and their local media, they'd rely on their local forecast. 7. Completely Agree 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Completely Disagree No Opinion SECTION V This last section asks for your opinions about the the NWS Tropical Cyclone Track Watch/Warning graphic.
174 Do you think the general public interprets this graphic (Figure 1) in the same way that you do? Why or why not? What do you think people miss, if anyt hing, when they see weather graphics like the tropical storm/hurricane track graphic?
175 Are you familiar with this (Figure 2)pr eviously proposed alternative to the tropical cyclone graphic? Yes No Unsure Do you believe one of these graphics (Figure 1, Figure 2) conveys storm track and watch warning information better than the other? If so, which one and why.
176 In your opinion was the confusion over where Hurricane Charley (2004)would make landfall the result of: local meteorologistÂ’s forecasting errors local meteorologists misinterpretation of the NWS's tropical storm/hurricane graphic public's misinterpretation of the NWS's tropical storm/ hurricane track graphic forecasting errors by NWS public's misinterpretation of local meteorologistÂ’s forecast no opinion/unfamiliar with issues of confusion about Hurricane Charley forecast other: