With Hurricane Ian approaching, our attention turned, once again, to weather maps and hurricane tracking. IDSC Visualization Director Alberto Cairo, PhD, was called on by The New York Times (update to “Those Hurricane Maps Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean”), the Financial Times, and by Axios, to lend his expert opinion on “storm communication”.
Concerned with “how we each perceive and process risk information about novel threats, as well as understand the storm graphics seen on television and online” Axios writer Andrew Freedman emphasized that we initially thought Hurricane Ian would strike the Florida Panhandle or Big Bend area as a Category 2 storm. A term called “‘anchoring,’ or setting their storm expectations to the initial forecast information [we] received.”
As Hurricane Ian took a more southerly course, the article contrasted the “American” and “European” forecast models in the overall “big picture” of the storm’s speed and real-time forecasting, and concluded that lead to an “unusually short window of time [36 hours] to convince coastal residents to evacuate.”
As an alternative, the Axios article entitled “How Hurricane Ian caught so many off guard” quoted Prof. Cairo: “What areas may experience a storm surge? What areas may experience strong winds? Those types of graphics exist, and the National Hurricane Center is actually making an effort to push those graphics [rather than] the cone.”