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Focusing the heat: Extreme weather risk perception in the United States

Heat waves are more dangerous than tornadoes, statistically. They kill more people than sharks, and put more human lives at risk than blizzards, floods or lightning storms. But they lack a certain dramatic flair, making it surprisingly difficult for many people to grasp and evaluate the real danger lurking behind their devastating effects. Recognizing those risks could be a matter of life or death – especially as a changing climate is making dangerous extreme heat events more and more likely every year in the United States.  Certain people get it. Low-income communities in Dallas, Texas understand the mortal danger. So do young women in Phoenix, Arizona and black populations in Peoria, Illinois. Many people in wealthy suburbs, though, are fairly oblivious – according to new research from Peter Howe in Utah State University's Department of Environment and Society in the S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources. Based on a national survey and high-detail maps, Howe and his colleagues found that some patterns showing whether people understood the risks of extreme heat events are explained by local temperatures, but characteristics such as economics, race and ethnicity also changed how people perceived the threat.  Read more...



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