Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

American Studies

First Advisor

Rigal, Laura

First Committee Member

Kinsey, Joni

Second Committee Member

Yablon, Nicholas

Third Committee Member

Diffley, Kathleen

Fourth Committee Member

Oates, Thomas


Geographies of Responsibility: The Cultural Logic of 21st Century Weather Emergencies analyzes the role of narrative in contemporary severe weather events. The speed and diversity of media through which we now communicate "the weather" significantly impact how U.S. communities experience these events and their possible social, cultural, and political meanings. This project explores four weather emergencies, covering physical geographies of the far northwest, Great Plains, mid-Atlantic, and Caribbean, that were circulated and reframed via a range of media--from newspapers to television, social, and new media--who discussed these events, and to what ends. Chapter 1 examines reporting on the 2004 Alaska wildfires directed at U.S. national and Alaska state communities to explore the importance of the "nation" as a continuing relevant relative spatial scale. Chapter 2 investigates the 2007 Greensburg tornado and subsequent "green" (re)development of the town. Chapter 3 analyzes the 2010 "Snowmageddon" blizzards in Washington, D.C., which initiated "playful" acts that highlighted how urban economic realities and historical social geographies of race are embedded in particular urban sites. Chapter 4 explores the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which evoked economies of responsibility across multiple scales of mobilization that reiterated the cultural and historical "weather map" laid down by Hurricane Katrina. These mass mediated weather events each mobilized attention and response through narratives that evoked an emergency to communities across multiple geographic scales put into relationships with one another through storylines far more complex than an analysis of how "global" and local weather systems co-create each other.


Blizzard, Earthquake, Natural Disaster, Tornado, Weather Emergency, Wildfire


ix, 289 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 260-289).


Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Marie Ambrose