Although climate change and energy are intricately linked, their explicit connection is not always prominent in public discourse and the media. Disruptive extreme weather events, including hurricanes, focus public attention in new and different ways offering a unique window of opportunity to analyze how a focusing event influences public discourse. Media coverage of extreme weather events simultaneously shapes and reflects public discourse on climate issues. Here, we analyze climate and energy newspaper coverage of Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012) using topic models, mathematical techniques used to discover abstract topics within a set of documents. Our results demonstrate that post-Katrina media coverage does not contain a climate change topic, and the energy topic is limited to discussion of energy prices, markets, and the economy with almost no explicit linkages made between energy and climate change. In contrast, post-Sandy media coverage does contain a prominent climate change topic, a distinct energy topic, as well as integrated representation of climate change and energy, indicating a shift in climate and energy reporting between Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.
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Cody EM, Stephens JC, Bagrow JP, Dodds PS, Danforth CM. Transitions in climate and energy discourse between Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. 2017 Mar 1;7(1):87-101.