L2.1 Severe Thunderstorms and Their Impacts: Past, Present, and Future

Tuesday, 14 January 2020: 1:30 PM
151B (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Walker S. Ashley, Northern Illinois Univ., DeKalb, IL

Recent extreme weather events and their impacts illustrate that we are increasingly vulnerable to weather hazards despite advances in science and technology. When it comes to future disasters, will societal exposure and vulnerabilities overshadow potential climate change-driven shifts in severe storm risk? What kind of severe storm impacts can we expect in a world undergoing both rapid environmental and societal change? What are some of the potential solutions to the contentious and multifaceted problem of weather and climate disaster policy?

Initially, I will discuss the history of how scientists have understood hazards and disasters, and how shifts in our perspectives and conceptualizations of disasters over the last century have informed policy. Using the severe thunderstorm as a marker, I will examine how changes in hazard risk and the human-built landscape are driving weather disaster potential. From the physical perspective, I will summarize recent implicit and explicit numerical modeling efforts that are assessing how the climate of severe thunderstorms will change in the 21st century. From the societal perspective, I will assess where, and to what extent, growth in the human-built landscape has led to increased disaster potential and, moreover, how future developed landscape changes will influence future disaster likelihood. I will discuss how social, or human, vulnerability is the root cause to hazard impacts and disaster magnitudes. These underlying social processes and structures—often far removed from the physical hazard event itself—result in inequalities that influence how disasters manifest in the human landscape. If our goal is to successfully reduce hazard impacts and build societal resilience to disasters, then the physical, social, and behavioral sciences must learn from each other and work together to inform policy from the local to global level. I will conclude with a discussion of the challenges and opportunities for reducing hazard impacts in our rapidly changing world.

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