Art courtesy of painter John Brosio.


Social psychology seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual behavior and thought in social situations. It is also concerned with applying this knowledge to understanding the behavior of groups in various contexts. CIRA is utilizing social psychology to develop a better understanding of how weather messaging — such as severe weather warnings, or climate information — is received and acted upon by the general public.


SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: The social science group is offering two short, online courses designed to acquaint physical scientists with some of the basic concepts of social science. The approximately 30-minute sessions are offered through CIRA’s VISIT program. The first session is titled, “A brief introduction to social science: A course for physical scientists,” the second, “Designing an effective survey: A beginning course for physical scientists.” Both courses are available in a recorded format online at sessions. Select from the list of available courses.

Project: General Response Problems:


Among its many duties, the National Weather Service (NWS) is responsible for issuing public warnings for all hazardous weather events across the United States (US). Such events include hurricanes, tornadoes, hazardous winter weather, flash floods, and many others. Technology and research have allowed significant improvements to be made in the detection of most varieties of severe weather. But when this information is passed along to those who may be adversely affected there can be bottlenecks and problems that prevent this information from getting to those in need of it. This research will look at various facets of warning communications in an attempt to identify and remove these potential roadblocks.

Vila, O., Fast, L.C. Weaver, J.F., & Miller S. (2015).

Severe weather warnings: Lifetime experiences and resilience help determine response.

Presented at the 27th APS Annual Convention, May 21-24, 2015, New York, NY, USA


APS 2015 – Severe Weather Warning Response

Weaver, J.F., Gruntfest, E., & Levy, G.M. (2000).

Two floods in Fort Collins, Colorado: Learning from a natural disaster.

Bull, Amer. Met. Soc., 81(10), 2359-2366



Weather Response National Survey:

This is a revised survey based on the pilot study which was run during the 2013 Spring and 2014 Fall semester at Colorado State University. Currently, we’re hoping to gain a nationally representative sample of at least 2,000 participants from across the United States. Below is the link to the survey; please pass this link on through social media sites and help us gather our intended sample! Answers are anonymous and each participant will be entered separately in a drawing to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

Updates on the details and results of the survey will be provided once data collection is completed. Please email any of the researchers if you have questions about the current research.


John Weaver, M.S.

Primary Investigator


Lindsey Harkabus, Ph.D.

Primary Investigator


Olivia Vila, B.S.

Primary Investigator

Public Response to Weather Warning — Pilot Study at CSU completed:

  • The pilot study has been completed and improved in order to launch the national survey.

Public survey questionnaire approved by Institutional Review Board (IRBs), Colorado State University and Troy University

Project: Emergency Manager Demographics:

Emergency managers (EMs) and National Weather Service (NWS) forecasters routinely work together during natural disasters involving weather. Such disasters include hurricanes, tornadoes, severe windstorms, severe winter storms, wildland fires and so on. Emergency managers and their staff are often the first point of contact for NWS forecasters during a developing weather calamity. This study is designed to provide demographic information on the emergency management community — information that should help facilitate improved communications between these two key groups. The data provided via the “Data” tab are from a quality-controlled version of the larger Excel file collected during the demographic study. This larger file will appear for public use sometime in the future. Meanwhile, if you would like to use any of these preliminary results/graphs please acknowledge us as, “graphs (data) courtesy of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), website:

Fast, L.C., Weaver, J.F., Miller, S, &Ferrin, T. Jr. (2015).

Training effects on emergency management activation response.

Journal of Organizational Psychology, 16(1), 71-77


JOP 16 — Download

Fast, L.C., Weaver, J.F., Ferrin, T., Vila, O., & Miller S. (2013).

Training effects on emergency management activation response.

Presented at the 26th annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science, to be held in San Francisco, CA, 22-25 May 2014.


Training Effects — Download

Weaver, J.F., Harkabus, L.C., Braun, J., Miller, S., Cox, R. Griffith, J. & Mazur, R.J. (2013).

A demographic study of U.S. emergency managers.

Bulletin of the International Association of Emergency Managers, 30, 10, 16 (cont).



Harkabus, L.C., Weaver, J., Miller, S. (2013).

Understanding emergency management: Factors affecting disaster preparedness and outcomes.

Presented at the 121st Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, July 31 – August 4, Honolulu, Hawaii.


APA 2013 EM Demographics

  • October 22, 2013
    Paper submitted to 26th annual APS convention
  • October 1, 2013
    Emergency Management study highlighted in IAEM Bulletin
  • February 23, 2013
    Returned revised manuscript to the Bull. of the AMS
  • June 29, 2012
    Investigators and Acknowledgments
    Principal Investigators: John F. Weaver, Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) at Colorado State University (CSU); Lindsey C. Harkabus, Department of Psychology, CSU.
    Other Investigators: Rob Cox, Science and Operations Officer (SOO), John Griffith, Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM), Rebecca Mazur Forecaster, National Weather Service Forecast Office, Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Jeff Braun, Forecaster, National Weather Service Forecast Office, Riverton, Wyoming
    There are numerous people to thank for their assistance in the successful recruitment of participants for this study. However, first, we want to offer our deepest appreciation to the many busy emergency managers who took 30 minutes or more from their busy days to get involved. To have nearly 1,100 professionals nationwide complete this survey is an amazing testament to the helping attitude of the emergency management community. It was an amazing turnout; greater than we’d expected.
    On to those who helped us recruit participants. We would like to express appreciation to a large number of National Weather Service (NWS) personnel who supported us in the distribution of the survey link. Many WCMs contacted their local emergency managers following a request by Scientific Services Division Chiefs, Pete Browning (Central Region) and Craig Schmidt (Western Region), respectively. Robert Laplante and Gary Garnet from the Cleveland, OH forecast office did the same for us in Ohio and even brought in some participation from surrounding states. Also, Rhett Milne, WCM, Reno, NV went above and beyond in his area, and Chris Landsea and Matthew Green from the National Hurricane Center helped us fill in Florida. Tanja Fransen, WCM Glasgow, MT assisted in a big way by putting us in contact with some folks who are very active in the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM). This helped us expand the study into areas where we didn’t get NWS support and where our “cold call” emails had failed. Specifically, we would like to mention Bob Goldhammer, former emergency manager for Des Moines, IA, and IAEM Regional Vice President, as well as Eric Holdeman homeland security director of the Port Of Tacoma, and blogger for Emergency Management Magazine. Finally, special thanks to Karen Thompson, Editor for the International Association of Emergency Managers magazine.
    Other emergency responder groups that provided support include the Texas Department of Public Safety, the New York State Emergency Management Association, the Maine Emergency Management Agency, and the New Jersey Emergency Management Association. Also, special kudos to Mike Gavin, President of the Colorado Association of Emergency Managers. His efforts provided an extraordinary response in that state. Finally, we need to add David Hartin from Tuscaloosa Alabama, Keli Cain from the Public Information Office of the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management, and Scott Boss from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management for his help obtaining responses from the south.
    I tried to keep as accurate a record as possible, but I probably left one or more helpful souls out of this list.  It seems like there were more.  If you are someone I overlooked, please drop me an email at and I will correct the oversight.  Just include your name and affiliation and I’ll add you to the list.

Project: Global Warming Messaging:

Over the past several years, those supporting — as well those opposing — the theory that anthropogenic global warming represents a danger to the environment have used a number of persuasion techniques to convey their concern. In spite of these efforts, there has been little, if any, change in societal attitude in the U.S. That is, the percentages of people supporting each point-of-view has remained approximately the same. The goal of this project is to discover why climate messaging has been relatively ineffective and what, if anything, can be done to change those results.

Weaver, J.F., Harkabus, L.C. & Miller, S. (2013).

Polarizing messages change nothing: A realistic look at messaging effects on environmental attitudes.

Presented at the 14th Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Jan 17-19, 2013, New Orleans.


Final SPSP 2013 Poster Presentation (Global Warming Attitudes)

Weaver, J. F. & Harkabus, L.C. (2012).

Polarizing messages change nothing: A realistic look at messaging effect on environmental attitude.

To be presented at the 14th Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Jan 17-19, 2013, New Orleans, LA. ABSTRACT


SPSP 2013 – abstract

  • August 28, 2013
    New study combines several data sets
  • December 19, 2012
    Conference Poster