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Public Perceptions of Hurricane Modification


Kelly Klima, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburg, PA 15213, USA;


If hurricane modification were to become a feasible strategy for potentially reducing hurricane damages, it would likely generate public discourse about whether to support its implementation. To facilitate an informed and constructive discourse, policymakers need to understand how people perceive hurricane modification. Here, we examine Florida residents’ perceptions of hurricane modification techniques that aim to alter path and wind speed. Following the mental models approach, we conducted a survey study about public perceptions of hurricane modification that was guided by formative interviews on the topic. We report a set of four primary findings. First, hurricane modification was perceived as a relatively ineffective strategy for damage reduction, compared to other strategies for damage reduction. Second, hurricane modification was expected to lead to changes in projected hurricane path, but not necessarily to the successful reduction of projected hurricane strength. Third, more anger was evoked when a hurricane was described as having changed from the initially forecasted path or strength after an attempted modification. Fourth, unlike what we expected, participants who more strongly agreed with statements that recognized the uncertainty inherent in forecasts reported more rather than less anger at scientists across hurricane modification scenarios. If the efficacy of intensity-reduction techniques can be increased, people may be willing to support hurricane modification. However, such an effort would need to be combined with open and honest communications to members of the general public.