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Keywords:

  • Climate change belief;
  • experience;
  • flood;
  • heat;
  • risk perception;
  • weather

Public perception research in different countries has suggested that real and perceived periods of high temperature strengthen people's climate change beliefs. Such findings raise questions about the climate change beliefs of people in regions with moderate climates. Relatively little is known about whether public concerns about climate change may also be associated with perceived changes in other weather-related events, such as precipitation or flooding. We examine the relationship between perceived changes in weather-related events and climate change beliefs among U.K. residents at a time of below-average winter temperatures and recent flooding. National survey data (n = 1,848) revealed that heat waves and hot summers were perceived to have become less common during respondents’ lifetimes, while flooding, periods of heavy rainfall, coastal erosions, and mild winters were perceived to have increased in frequency and cold winters were perceived to be unchanged. Although perceived changes in hot-weather-related events were positively associated with climate change beliefs, perceived changes in wet-weather-related events were found to be an even stronger predictor. Self-reported experience of “flooding in own area” and “heat-wave discomfort” also significantly contributed to climate change beliefs. These findings highlight the importance of salient weather-related events and experiences in the formation of beliefs about climate change. We link our findings to research in judgment and decision making, and propose that those wishing to engage with the public on the issue of climate change should not limit their focus to heat.