Interpreting climate data visualisations to inform adaptation decisions

Joseph Daron, Susanne Lorenz, Piotr Wolski, Ross Blamey, Christopher Jack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

The appropriate development of graphical visualisations to communicate climate data is fundamental to the provision of climate services to guide climate change adaptation decisions. However, at present there is a lack of empirical evidence, particularly in Africa, to help climate information providers determine how best to communicate and display climate data. To help address this issue, an online survey, primarily targeted at the African vulnerability, impacts and adaptation community, was designed and disseminated widely. The survey examines the interpretation of climate data as a function of the style and information content of graphical visualisations. It is shown that choices made when constructing the visualisations, such as presenting percentile information versus showing the range, significantly impact on interpretation. Results also show that respondents who interpret a higher likelihood of future changes to climate, based on the visualisation of climate model projections, express greater confidence in their interpretations. The findings have relevance to the climate risk community in Africa and elsewhere across the world, and imply that a naïve approach to visualising climate data risks misinterpretation and unjustified levels of trust, with the potential to misinform adaptation and policy decisions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalClimate Risk Management
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2015

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