1.2 Extreme weather and community-based climate adaptation: An integrated framework with an application to extreme heat

Monday, 18 July 2011: 10:45 AM
Salon A (Asheville Renaissance)
Rebecca E. Morss, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and O. Wilhelmi, L. Dilling, M. H. Hayden, and G. Meehl

Anthropogenic climate change is projected to increase the frequency and magnitude of some types of extreme weather, and population and property at risk from extreme weather are increasing. Consequently, some of the most severe impacts of anthropogenic climate change may be experienced through changes in extremes. As a result, adaptation to weather extremes in a changing climate is of growing interest to scientists and policy makers. Yet extreme weather causes substantial damage and disruption now, and people make decisions every day that affect risk from extreme weather. Thus, one cannot discuss strategies for adapting to weather extremes in a changing climate without considering societal vulnerability to weather extremes more generally. We present a framework that integrates physical and social science perspectives on climate change, extreme weather, and its impacts to examine how macro-scale drivers, extreme weather conditions, social vulnerability, and coping and adaptation decisions interact to influence societal outcomes. Because impacts of and responses to extreme weather events are often focused at the household and community level, we emphasize interactions among weather and climate, societal characteristics, and decisions at local scales, within the larger-scale context that shapes them. This suggests that improving outcomes requires understanding and addressing interactions among the components of the framework from a bottom-up perspective, through participatory, community-based efforts, in conjunction with top-down work. Because vulnerability is complex and managing extreme weather risk in changing climatic and societal conditions requires flexibility, it is especially important to understand key contributors to vulnerability and learn how to enhance adaptive capacity in specific contexts. The approach is illustrated through a study of urban societal vulnerability and adaptive capacity to extreme heat in Phoenix, AZ. Household-level surveys revealed differential vulnerability among the neighborhoods as well as a diverse level of awareness regarding the resources provided by the state, county and city agencies. The results identify challenges and opportunities in communicating information about extreme heat to diverse urban audiences. They also highlight how the framework can be used to develop strategies for reducing vulnerability and building capacity to adapt to heat stress and other extreme weather hazards.
- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner