Using synoptic weather types to predict visitor attendance at Atlanta and Indianapolis zoological parks


Defining an ideal “tourism climate” has been an often-visited research topic where explanations have evolved from global- to location-specific indices tailored to tourists’ recreational behavior. Unfortunately, as indices become increasingly specific, they are less translatable across geographies because they may only apply to specific activities, locales, climates, or populations. A key need in the future development of weather and climate indices for tourism has been a translatable, meteorologically based index capturing the generalized ambient atmospheric conditions yet considering local climatology. To address this need, this paper tests the applicability of the spatial synoptic classification (SSC) as a tool to predict visitor attendance response in the tourism, recreation, and leisure (TRL) sector across different climate regimes. Daily attendance data is paired with the prevailing synoptic weather condition at Atlanta and Indianapolis zoological parks from September 2001 to June 2011, to review potential impacts ambient atmospheric conditions may have on visitor attendances. Results indicate that “dry moderate” conditions are most associated with high levels of attendance and “moist polar” synoptic conditions are most associated with low levels of attendance at both zoological parks. Comparing visitor response at these zoo locations, visitors in Indianapolis showed lower levels of tolerance to synoptic conditions which were not “ideal.” Visitors in Indianapolis also displayed more aversion to “polar” synoptic regimes while visitors in Atlanta displayed more tolerance to “moist tropical” synoptic regimes. Using a comprehensive atmospheric measure such as the SSC may be a key to broadening application when assessing tourism climates across diverse geographies.

Document Type




Consumer behavior, Synoptic scale classification, Thermal aversion, Tourism climatology, Tourism, recreation, and leisure, Zoological parks

Publication Date


Journal Title

International Journal of Biometeorology