Tailoring the visual communication of climate projections for local adaptation practitioners in Germany and the UK

Produced as part of the Managing climate risks and uncertainties and strengthening climate services CCCEP research programme theme

Visualisations are widely used in the communication of climate projections. However their effectiveness has rarely been assessed amongst their target audience. Given recent calls to increase the usability of climate information through the tailoring of climate projections, it is imperative to assess the effectiveness of different visualisations. This paper explores the complexities of tailoring through an online survey conducted with 162 local adaptation practitioners in Germany and the UK. The survey examined respondents’ assessed and perceived comprehension of visual representations of climate projections as well as preferences for using different visualisations in communicating and planning for a changing climate.

We show that even within a fairly homogenous user group, such as local adaptation practitioners, there are clear differences in respondents’ comprehension of and preference for visualisations. We found that a sizeable proportion of the respondents (UK: 27.3%, DEU: 39.7%) have the highest assessed comprehension score for a graph format other than the one they perceive to be the easiest to understand. Respondents use what they think they understand the best, rather than what they actually understand the best. These findings highlight that audience-specific targeted communication may be more complex and challenging than previously thought.

A revised version of this paper is available in a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions A