Beyond the blue blob: Salience and perceived legitimacy of alternative sea level rise visualizations

Peter Stempel, Austin Becker, Pam Rubinoff, Scheri Fultineer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Experts in climate communication have long understood that depictions of potential extreme events may overwhelm audiences and be discounted in favour of more salient, near-term concerns. Despite this guidance, many coastal resilience processes rely on conventional visualizations of sea level rise that combine representations of worst-case storm events with high levels of sea level rise due to expert preferences or availability of modelling. To make projections salient and relatable to existing environmental signals, we advocate for separating depictions of the effects of sea level rise from depictions of storm surge and for depicting impacts of sea level rise that are relevant to near-term adaptation decisions such as roads obstructed by astronomical high tides. We test effects on perceptions of salience of sea level scenarios, storm surge risk, and legitimacy of visualizations as a first step toward testing the hypothesis that alternative sea level rise visualizations will be more effective tools for engaging the public in coastal resilience processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-122
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Digital Landscape Architecture
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Architecture
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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