Experiencing days in which the temperature exceeds previous highs for that time of year affects people’s perception of weather trends, a study finds.

Published in Scientific Reports, the study finds that living in an area with record-breaking heat effectively increases perceptions that the weather is getting hotter.

In December 2022, the authors surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,605 United States adults to determine whether more frequent record-breaking weather events affect weather change perceptions. The participants were asked, “To the best of your knowledge, how did excessive daytime heat across the United States in 2022 compare with previous years?”

Timothy Hyde, postdoctoral fellow in the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Public Policy and Dolores Albarracín, professor at Penn and director of the Science of Science Communication Division linked answers to this question with meteorological data collected by the National Climatic Data Center from 1949, when meteorologists first implemented a reliable record of climatic data, to 2022. Doing so allowed the researchers to determine which days in 2022 constituted a heat record in a particular area before correlating heat recordings with perceptions that temperatures were higher relative to previous years.

The study found that while record-breaking heat days have little or no effect on beliefs in the existence of climate change, they do affect evaluations of how much hotter the weather has become compared to previous years. This effect of record-heat days is such that the difference in answers between a respondent who experienced no record-breaking heat days and another who experienced 16 record-breaking heat days is as large as the average difference in responses between independent and Democratic respondents.

Read the full article about weather trends by Martin Repetto at Futurity.