Emergency Management & Public Administration

Document Type


Publication Date



To better understand interpretations of National Weather tornado warning polygons, 145 participants were shown 22 hypothetical scenarios in one of four displays deterministic polygon, deterministic polygon + radar image, gradient polygon, and gradient polygon + radar image. Participants judged each numerical strike probability (ps ) and reported the likelihood of taking seven different response actions. The deterministic polygon display produced ps that were highest at the centroid and declined in all directions from there. The deterministic polygon + radar display, the gradient polygon display, and the gradient polygon + radar display produced ps that were high at the centroid and also at its edge nearest the tornadic storm cell. Overall, ps values were negatively related to resuming normal activities, but positively correlated with expectations of resuming normal activities, seeking information from social sources, seeking shelter, and evacuating by car. These results replicate the finding that participants make more appropriate ps judgments when polygons are presented in their natural context of radar images than when the polygons are presented in isolation and that gradient displays appear to provide no appreciable benefit. The fact that ps judgments had moderately positive correlations with both sheltering (a generally appropriate response) and evacuation (a generally inappropriate response) provides experimental confirmation that people threatened by actual tornadoes are conflicted about which protective action to take.

Publication/Presentation Information

International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 2018, 30(Part A), 132–144.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.