Seeing is Believing? An Examination of Perceptions of Local Weather Conditions and Climate Change Among Residents in the U.S. Gulf Coast. Academic Article uri icon


  • What role do objective weather conditions play in coastal residents' perceptions of local climate shifts and how do these perceptions affect attitudes toward climate change? While scholars have increasingly investigated the role of weather and climate conditions on climate-related attitudes and behaviors, they typically assume that residents accurately perceive shifts in local climate patterns. We directly test this assumption using the largest and most comprehensive survey of Gulf Coast residents conducted to date supplemented with monthly temperature data from the U.S. Historical Climatology Network and extreme weather events data from National Climatic Data Center. We find objective conditions have limited explanatory power in determining perceptions of local climate patterns. Only the 15- and 19-year hurricane trends and decadal summer temperature trend have some effects on perceptions of these weather conditions, while the decadal trend of total number of extreme weather events and 15- and 19-year winter temperature trends are correlated with belief in climate change. Partisan affiliation, in contrast, plays a powerful role affecting individual perceptions of changing patterns of air temperatures, flooding, droughts, and hurricanes, as well as belief in the existence of climate change and concern for future consequences. At least when it comes to changing local conditions, "seeing is not believing." Political orientations rather than local conditions drive perceptions of local weather conditions and these perceptions-rather than objectively measured weather conditions-influence climate-related attitudes.

published proceedings

  • Risk Anal

altmetric score

  • 57.83

author list (cited authors)

  • Shao, W., & Goidel, K.

citation count

  • 62

complete list of authors

  • Shao, Wanyun||Goidel, Kirby

publication date

  • November 2016