Date of Award

Summer 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Susan L. Cutter


Our current understanding of tornado risk, risk perception, and protective action behavior lacks proper spatial consideration of local physical and social geographic contexts. This investigation asks how the conceptual drivers of tornado risk (geographic context, risk perception, and response) interact to create the spatiality of tornado risk. The study proposes that the inclusion of geographic context and its influence on perception and behavior produces differential tornado risk and seeks to determine which factors contribute to such variability. A novel, researcher-designed Tornado Risk of Place (TROP) conceptual model guides the methodological framework, incorporating statistical and geospatial analytics in an Illinois State case study. The study first develops quantifiable indicators of physical and social domains at the Illinois county level to measure the geographic context of tornado risk. The questionnaire data from a representative sample of Illinois residents provide individualized assessments of risk perception and response behavior. Community knowledge is incorporated into tornado risk understanding and adaptation by employing individual-level survey construct data alongside the county-level context indices. A Structural Equation Model framework assesses the existence and strength of the linear relationships between tornado context, perception, and behavior. An evaluation of the variability captured by the TROP conceptual drivers across the study area determines the spatiality of tornado risk. Geographic assessments of tornado risk outcomes among formal and functional regions include urban-rural counties, National Weather Service County Warning Areas, emergency management regions, and more. Results of the study indicate tornado risk drivers included in the TROP model vary statistically and spatially throughout Illinois. County-level local and physical risk context significantly influence individuals’ risk perceptions, directly determining tornado risk responses. The spatial assessment results find significantly different tornado risk outcomes in urban areas, Northern Illinois, StormReady® counties, and the Chicago region, highlighting the need for targeted emergency management strategies to reduce societal tornado risk. Enhanced tornado risk assessments may decrease disproportionate impacts and protect vulnerable populations commonly bearing the brunt of hazard risk burdens. The findings of this investigation can thus help inform policy decisions to mitigate vulnerabilities and improve severe weather preparedness, response, and recovery.


© 2023, Sarah L. Jackson

Included in

Geography Commons