Defining Vulnerable Population & Exploring Socio-Environmental Predictors of Heat Wave Risk Perceptions

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting


Association of American Geographers (AAG)


San Francisco, CA

Publication Date



Extreme heat events are the deadliest natural hazard in the United States and are expected to increase in both severity and frequency in the coming years due to the effects of climate change. Heat waves can negatively affect vulnerable individuals and communities in many ways including exacerbating pre-existing health issues, depleting food and water supplies, damaging susceptible ecosystems, and placing great stress upon local resources. The risks of climate change and weather-related events such as heat waves to a population can be assessed by examining the biophysical hazards in conjunction with human vulnerability and individual perceptions of hazards. This project intends to explore potential socio-environmental predictors of risk perceptions by utilizing U.S. nationally-representative survey data on individual risk perceptions of heat waves. Additionally, this study seeks to identify and describe the unique population subgroups (defined by socio-environmental control variables) that do not perceive themselves to be at risk. Understanding how people perceive hazards, what influences their beliefs, and placing them in environmental context will enable policy-makers to more effectively implement strategies for risk prevention, mitigation, and communication. Furthermore, as climate change risks are further defined, this cognizance will help identify vulnerable populations and enhance adaptive capacities.

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