Who remembers a hot summer or a cold winter?

A paper from researchers at Yale and Utah State University that analyses survey data to determine whether people’s perception of weather is affected by their belief in climate change.


Recent research has shown that personal experiences of climate extremes lead to heightened awareness of global warming risks, however bias and motivated reasoning also play a role. This paper outlines why your belief in global warming changes whether you think it was colder last winter or hotter last summer.


We are now living in the age of climate impacts – where previously climate change was incremental and not as noticeable, people are now becoming aware of changes in their local climate.

Belief in global warming affects perception of the weather.

  • People who were dismissive of climate change were 40% less likely than those who were alarmed about climate change to report that the summer of 2011 was warmer than normal.
  • The difference in perceptions between people who were doubtful or dismissive about climate change and the people who are concerned about climate change was larger than any of the measured demographic variables.


Concern about global warming doesn’t make you more likely to underplay cold weather.

  • While people who were dismissive about climate change were more likely to claim the summer was not hotter than usual, people who were alarmed or concerned about climate change were not likely to claim the winter was warmer than normal.
  • Respondents who were alarmed or concerned about global warming didn’t change their concern in response to a cold winter.


Temperature extremes were more noticeable for respondents than rain and drought – the differences between groups in the survey data was not significant when looking at precipitation compared to temperature extremes.

The researchers ultimately found that the data supported their hypothesis that global warming beliefs bias people’s recollection of seasonal climate through motivated reasoning, with the strongest effect among those who do not believe global warming is happening.

Photo via (cc) Amy Huva 


Date: 2013
Strategic Approach: Audiences, Framing
Strategic Approach: Audiences, Framing

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