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PLOS ONE  2012 

Wind Speed Perception and Risk

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049944

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Background How accurately do people perceive extreme wind speeds and how does that perception affect the perceived risk? Prior research on human–wind interaction has focused on comfort levels in urban settings or knock-down thresholds. No systematic experimental research has attempted to assess people's ability to estimate extreme wind speeds and perceptions of their associated risks. Method We exposed 76 people to 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 mph (4.5, 8.9, 13.4, 17.9, 22.3, and 26.8 m/s) winds in randomized orders and asked them to estimate wind speed and the corresponding risk they felt. Results Multilevel modeling showed that people were accurate at lower wind speeds but overestimated wind speeds at higher levels. Wind speed perceptions mediated the direct relationship between actual wind speeds and perceptions of risk (i.e., the greater the perceived wind speed, the greater the perceived risk). The number of tropical cyclones people had experienced moderated the strength of the actual–perceived wind speed relationship; consequently, mediation was stronger for people who had experienced fewer storms. Conclusion These findings provide a clearer understanding of wind and risk perception, which can aid development of public policy solutions toward communicating the severity and risks associated with natural disasters.


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