OK EPSCoR Climate Researchers: Surveying Oklahoman's Perceptions

The Oklahoma EPSCoR research team, representing more than a dozen disciplines and four institutions from across the state, is working to advance understanding of how socio-ecological systems can adapt sustainably to climate variability.  They are examining complex human, climate and natural resource systems, while addressing three interlinked research focus areas: an observatory network, a forecasting system, and a decision-support system.  
In the first year of the EPSCoR research project, significant gains have been made in the observatory network focus area, with the development of the Meso-Scale Integrated Socio-geographic Network (M-SISNet) sampling frame.  
EPSCoR researchers have implemented the M-SISNet’s five-year “Oklahoma Weather, Society and Government Survey” to learn how Oklahomans perceive weather patterns and climate, how they use energy, and their thoughts on societal and government issues.   Six hundred and seven Oklahomans from 72 counties participated in wave one of the survey this year.  The random, address-based, state-wide sample will be increased to include up to 3,000 respondents in the coming months.  Most participants will take the survey online.
M-SISNet survey observations will be paired with weather data from the Oklahoma Mesonet and social data from the U.S. Census. This integrated approach will provide an infrastructure to understand and model Oklahomans’ behaviors, attitudes and preferences related to land, water, weather and energy use over time, and how their perceptions and reactions are shaped by their belief systems.  
“Until now, we’ve had excellent scientific data on weather in Oklahoma (gathered via the Mesonet), but didn’t have such good data on Oklahoma residents’ subjective perceptions of weather,” explained Dr. Carol Silva, co-principal investigator for the M-SISNet group.  “So, one of the things we are doing is asking Oklahomans about their perceptions of weather and climate, and then matching their perceptions with this hard scientific data—no one has done this before, in the way we are doing it.  By integrating data from human, natural and technological systems, we have the potential to make connections that have previously been overlooked,” she said.  
Do Oklahomans perceive weather and climate accurately?  Since their behaviors may be influenced by their perceptions, it is important to know whether or not our state’s residents are accurately assessing weather and climate in the state and what types of actions they are taking in the areas of water use, energy use, property use and emergency preparation in response to these perceptions.
To find answers, the M-SISNet survey will be fielded up to 18 times (approximately quarterly) before the Oklahoma EPSCoR grant concludes in May 2018.  
Thank you to Nina Carlson for her assistance with this story.