Date of Award:

12-2019

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Environment and Society

Advisor/Chair:

Peter D. Howe

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Courtney Flint

Third Advisor:

Jordan Smith

Abstract

Communicating the risks related to extreme heat is important and essential for saving lives. This study looks at how tourists think about extreme heat in a hot and dry environment. It looks at relationships between an individual’s local climate, their thoughts about the current weather conditions, and demographics. The results from this study are intended to help tourist agencies, emergency managers and emergency planners, and policymakers in creating and carrying out communication strategies for extreme heat.

Thoughts about and physical responses to weather are different for everyone and shaped by personal experiences. How one thinks and feels about the weather is influenced by a lifetime of personal experiences, unique to each person. However, the connection between an individual’s experience and that of his/her understanding of weather-related risk, more specifically risk in extremely hot conditions, has yet to be studied. From 1988 to 2017 extreme heat events have killed more people in the US than any other weather-related hazard (i.e. tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, etc.). By understanding how an individual perceives weather conditions, we can begin to better understand best practices for communicating the risks of extreme heat with the intent of saving lives.

There are three primary findings from this study. First is that visitors were likely to overestimate the temperature when it was cooler, but underestimate the temperature when it was hotter. Second, risk perceptions of visitors did not increase during hotter days. Lastly, visitors were not more likely to perform protective behaviors, such as checking the weather or carrying water, on hotter days. If extreme heat conditions do not influence visitors’ behaviors, they are placing themselves more at risk to extreme heat exposure.

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504f13049c83162157ae4861ceb4384f

Included in

Geography Commons

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