Date of Award:

12-2018

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Environment and Society

Advisor/Chair:

Peter D. Howe

Co-Advisor/Chair:

S.-Y. Simon Wang

Third Advisor:

Courtney Flint

Abstract

Remembering negative experiences with extreme heat may promote future protective actions and provide insight to improve heat risk awareness and communication practices. This two-part thesis found 1) that experiencing heat-related health symptoms predicted what Americans would do to protect themselves and others during subsequent heat waves; and 2) that Utah professionals regard heat-related experience as an important factor in how they responded to extreme heat events.

In the first study, a US national survey showed that personal experience with heat-related health symptoms was related to the tendency to say that one engaged in different protective behaviors, while other factors like risk perception and temperature were less related to self-reported behaviors. Sociodemographic factors such as age, race, and gender were related to Americans’ reported efforts to check on other people during a heat wave—with African-Americans, women, and older adults being more likely to do so— but did not have much relationship with how people personally protect themselves.

The second study found that heat experience was an important factor in how public officials and media broadcasters manage extreme heat situations. Interviews of professionals in Utah revealed that experience with heat impacts influenced public forecasters, practitioners, and media members alike in their heat risk decisions and messaging practices even though official heat risk communication products in Utah were somewhat unfamiliar. This study also found that public forecasters recently changed how they measure extreme heat to better communicate the dangers of dry heat in the Intermountain West. This change will likely cause more official heat alerts to be issued in this region.

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