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Award Abstract #1331490

Hazards SEES Type 2: Hazard Prediction and Communication Dynamics in the Modern Information Environment

NSF Org: AGS
Div Atmospheric & Geospace Sciences
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Initial Amendment Date: September 16, 2013
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Latest Amendment Date: July 29, 2014
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Award Number: 1331490
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Award Instrument: Continuing grant
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Program Manager: Chungu Lu
AGS Div Atmospheric & Geospace Sciences
GEO Directorate For Geosciences
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Start Date: September 15, 2013
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End Date: August 31, 2017 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $2,992,994.00
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Investigator(s): Rebecca Morss morss@ucar.edu (Principal Investigator)
Chris Snyder (Co-Principal Investigator)
Christopher Davis (Co-Principal Investigator)
Olga Wilhelmi (Co-Principal Investigator)
Heather Lazrus (Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: University Corporation For Atmospheric Res
3090 Center Green Drive
Boulder, CO 80301-2252 (303)497-1000
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NSF Program(s): SEES Hazards
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Program Reference Code(s): 0000, 1525, 4444, OTHR
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Program Element Code(s): 8087

ABSTRACT

When hazards threaten in today's world, information abounds. Scientific predictions are improving rapidly, and information and communication technology has dramatically changed how people access, combine, and share information. Yet existing paradigms for hazard preparedness and warning provide limited knowledge and tools for understanding how forecast and warning information is communicated and used. To address this gap, this project will investigate how interactions among different sources and types of information influence risk interpretations and behavioral responses as a hurricane approaches and comes onshore, in the context of evolving meteorological predictions and modern information-delivery systems. This project brings together concepts, methods, and expertise from computer and information science, atmospheric and related sciences, and social and behavioral sciences to address three research questions: (1) How does evolving information about hurricane risk propagate through the information system as a hurricane approaches? (2) How does communication of risk in the modern information environment alleviate or exacerbate societal vulnerability to hurricanes in general, and of the most vulnerable members of the public in particular?; and (3) Given ongoing developments in science and technology, how can hurricane forecast and warning information and its communication be improved? These questions will be investigated by integrating the study of the real-world hazard information system with computational physical and social modeling. Researchers will collect and analyze data from social media streams, interviews, and focus groups that include an emphasis on more vulnerable populations. This research will be combined with high-resolution ensemble hurricane and storm-surge modeling, as well as experiments in a computational laboratory that couples the hurricane and storm surge modeling with agent-based modeling of social actors who pursue, process, and transmit such information.

The intellectual merit of this effort rests both in advancement of fundamental knowledge in each sub-discipline and in forging new connections among disciplines to address integrative questions in hazards research. The social media, interview, and focus group research will build new understanding of how hazard information from different sources, in the digital and non-digital spheres, is accessed, combined, interpreted, and acted upon. This work will also advance vulnerability science by combining theory from several fields to examine how risk communication, information and communication technology, and social networks influence vulnerability and adaptive capacities as a hazard approaches. Associated weather and storm surge modeling research will build fundamental understanding about coupled probabilistic hurricane and storm surge forecasting and the predictability of storm surge across lead times. Scenarios derived from the output of this modeling will be used to develop visual risk communication prototypes that combine geospatial physical and societal information in new ways. Coupled hurricane/agent-based modeling experiments will enable a novel exploration of information system dynamics and emergent behaviors in a controlled setting. Through integration across research components, this project will build new understanding of how physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and human-centered computing can join to transform hazard risk communication and help prevent hazards from becoming disasters.

Relative to Broader Impacts, findings from this project are expected to be of utility to operational weather and storm surge forecasters, public officials, emergency practitioners, media personnel, and members of the public to improve how they create and communicate information about approaching hurricane risks. These improvements will motivate actions to reduce harm from hurricanes, enhance capacities, reduce vulnerabilities, and over time contribute to increased sustainability. These findings will also be applicable to other hazards for which there is some predictive skill. To promote application of findings, the project includes collaborations with practitioner partners in the hurricane forecasting, emergency management, media, and digital volunteer communities. The project will also cross-train senior and postdoctoral researchers and graduate students in interdisciplinary approaches and methods, helping to build an interdisciplinary workforce capable of solving the complex issues of hazard resilience and sustainability.

 

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