Climatologists' methods of climate science communication to agriculture in the North Central Region of the United States

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Wilke, Adam
Major Professor
Lois Wright Morton
Committee Member
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Agriculture is particularly sensitive to environmental risks associated with uncertain atmospheric conditions, such as extreme weather events and variable climate patterns. As a result, it is important for farmers and the agricultural sector to access current climate science information while developing management portfolios to remain resilient and productive while adapting to and mitigating against environmental risks. State and extension climatologists have a unique role in collecting climate science information and disseminating this information to public data users, such as farmers. Because of complex social, cultural, and political factors that hinder the transfer of current scientific consensus on weather and climate knowledge from scientists to decision makers, it is important to understand how this information is communicated.

This study presents data from surveys (N=19) and interviews (N=13) with state and extension climatologists in the North Central Region of the United States regarding their perceived roles and currently employed patterns of communication. Results are analyzed utilizing an adaptation of Fischoff's (1995) stages of uncertain risk communication, and Pielke's (2007) idealized roles of science in society. Findings indicate that the majority of climatologists in this region are focused on providing objective information in the role of a pure scientist. A lesser number of climatologists acknowledge the need to frame information as relevant and important, while considering connections of science to societal impacts. Very few climatologists recognize communication strategies of engaging and building trust with the audience, while outlining and enlarging options for individual and collective decision makers, including public policy development.

There is an urgent need for agriculture to adapt to extreme weather events and variable climate conditions so that local communities and the global society may continue to obtain food, fiber, feed, and fuel. Climatologists have an important role in communicating current knowledge regarding climate systems to assist agriculture in remaining resilient and productive. As society demands scientific information to assist in individual and collective decision making, scientists will be tasked with making connections between science and societal impacts. By relating scientific research to risk management and hazard mitigation, climatologists will be taking the necessary steps to help farmers, as well as society.

Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2013