This study devises a novel approach for defining extreme weather events and assessing their effects on human participation in recreation and tourism, based on a case study of attendance at the Toronto Zoo (Toronto, ON, Canada). Daily zoo attendance data from 1999 to 2018 was obtained and analyzed in connection with daily weather data from local weather stations for the maximum temperature, minimum temperature, total precipitation, and maximum wind speed. The “climatic distance” method, used for evaluating representative weather stations for case studies in applied climatology, was employed to rank and select surrounding weather stations that most accurately captured daily weather observations recorded at the Toronto Zoo from 1990 to 1992. Extreme weather events can be defined as lying in the outermost (most unusual) 10 percent of a place’s history. Using this definition as the foundation, a percentile approach was developed to identify and assess the effects of extreme weather events across the following thresholds: the 99th percentile, the 95th percentile, and the 90th percentile, as well as less than the 1st percentile, less than the 5th percentile, and less than the 10th percentile. Additionally, revealed, theoretical, and binary thresholds were also assessed to verify their merit and determine their effects, and were compared to the extreme weather events defined by the percentiles approach. Overall, extreme daily weather events had statistically significant negative effects on zoo attendance in Toronto, apart from a few cases, such as the positive effect of usually warm daytime temperatures in the winter and usually cool nighttime temperatures in the summer. The most influential weather event across all seasons was extremely hot temperatures, which has important implications for climate change impact assessments.
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