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Landscape views can be dynamic; many of the elements within an environmental vista may change from one moment to the next. Features such as a vibrant sunrise or sudden storm are often brief and unexpected, they are ephemeral, and might significantly alter the way an environment is perceived and experienced. Yet existing research has tended to focus on appraisals of urban and rural scenes under uniformly clement, ‘blue-sky’ conditions, with few studies considering how diurnal rhythms and fleeting meteorological processes might impact landscape appraisals. To address this gap, we conducted an online experiment that presented participants (n = 2,509) with either an urban or natural virtual setting, strictly matched in terms of scenic structure, within which six ‘ephemeral phenomena’ were applied. We assessed ratings of beauty, awe, and willingness-to-pay to visit in each condition. Supporting existing findings, results demonstrated the natural setting was generally rated more positively than the urban setting. However, ephemeral phenomena substantially moderated this effect, with rainbows, storms, and nightfall each reducing the divergence. Sunrise and sunset were the most valued conditions within both environments, outcomes that were partially mediated through increased ratings of beauty and awe. We find that whilst an urban-nature dichotomy exists in landscape appraisals, acknowledging the effects of ephemeral, non-structural phenomena could have important implications for landscape research and design.
Smalley, A. J., & White, M. P. (2023). Beyond blue-sky thinking: Diurnal patterns and ephemeral meteorological phenomena impact appraisals of beauty, awe, and value in urban and natural landscapes. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2023.101955