Thinking outside the polygon: a study of tornado warning perception outside of warning polygon bounds

Abstract

When the National Weather Service (NWS) issues a tornado warning, the alert is rapidly and widely disseminated to individuals in the general area of the warning. Historically, the assumption has been that a false-negative warning perception (i.e., when someone located within a warning polygon does not believe they have received a tornado warning) carries a higher cost than a false-positive warning perception (i.e., when someone located outside the warning area believes they have received a warning). While many studies investigate tornado warning false alarms (i.e., when the NWS issues a tornado warning, but a tornado does not actually occur), less work focuses on studying individuals outside of the warning polygon bounds who believe they received a warning (i.e., false-positive perceptions). This work attempts to quantify the occurrence of false-positive perceptions and possible factors associated with the rate of occurrence. Following two separate storm events, Oklahomans were asked whether they perceived a tornado warning. Their geolocated responses were then compared to issued warning polygons. Individuals closer to tornado warnings or within a different type of warning (e.g., a severe thunderstorm warning) are more likely to report a false-positive perception than those farther away or outside of other hazard warnings. Further work is needed to understand the rate of false-positive perceptions across different hazards and how this may influence warning response and trust in the National Weather Service.

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Acknowledgements

This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. OIA-1301789.

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Correspondence to Makenzie J. Krocak.

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Krocak, M.J., Ernst, S., Allan, J.N. et al. Thinking outside the polygon: a study of tornado warning perception outside of warning polygon bounds. Nat Hazards 102, 1351–1368 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-03970-5

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Keywords

  • Tornado warnings
  • Risk analysis
  • Information reception
  • False alarm effect