Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Austin Becker


To better communicate the risks of storm surge, scientists and engineers are employing novel 3d visualizations. In many cases, these visualizations are deliberately used in, or leak into mass media contexts that are not addressed by current frameworks for hazard communication. These frameworks discourage the use of 3d visualizations due to a long-standing gap in basic research as to how graphics and visualizations alter perceptions of risk.

A survey (n=735) was employed to assess how 3d visualizations of storm surge depicted in recognizable contexts were perceived and altered perceptions of risk. Results of the survey demonstrate that place recognition and affective responses (instantaneous subconscious emotional judgements that have been shown to alter risk perception) contribute to the likely effectiveness of visualizations.

This effectiveness, however, is tempered by a range of “backfire” effects such as the discounting of the legitimacy of the visualizations based upon their style, or the discounting of risks based on the nonconformity of the visualization to the viewers previous assumptions regarding the extents of storm surge.

Alternate models of the persuasive effects of visualizations are presented, together with a recommendation that visualization research continue to investigate how the assumptions of audiences (e.g., expectations for how graphics should appear), alter perceptions to foster the development of shared assumptions, and thus improved risk communication.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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