87th AMS Annual Meeting

Tuesday, 16 January 2007: 3:30 PM
Vulnerability to disasters in Puerto Rico: Incorporating the social, physical and built environment to radar scanning srategies
206A (Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center)
Jenniffer M. Santos, Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware, Newark, DE; and J. Miller, A. González, M. G. Beaton, and X. Ortiz
Poster PDF (2.0 MB)
For the past three years the Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA), a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center, has conducted research to develop a new weather observing system that will enhance our ability to observe, predict, and respond to severe storms, tornadoes, floods, and other atmospheric phenomena. The main objective of CASA is to develop of a dense network of small, low-power, low-cost radars with the ability to sample below the troposphere where many atmospheric events develop. CASA is currently conducting interdisciplinary research through the implementation of three proof-of-concept test beds in Oklahoma, Texas, and Puerto Rico. This paper describes a research project conducted as part of the Puerto Rico test bed that links meteorological, hydrological, and social science components of CASA's research. Research in the social aspects of disasters asserts that technology is not socially neutral and that it should be implemented upon consideration of the characteristics of the population and how it might affect population sectors differently. Therefore, an assessment of the interaction between the social, physical, and built environment is necessary to understand the contexts in which this new technology will be implemented and develop ways to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters.

Given its climatology and geography, Puerto Rico, is susceptible to weather events including tropical storms, hurricanes, and floods. When such events affect a socially vulnerable population, disaster can occur. As a result of changing social and demographic patterns, there has been a significant increase in population density, in the proportion of the elderly and physically disabled population, and an increasing concentration of residents in flood and/or landslide prone areas. Therefore an assessment of the interaction between weather phenomena, the built environment, and the social characteristics of Puerto Rico is imperative to determine where to allocate resources and how to use Collaborative Adaptive Sensing techniques. The primary objective of this research effort within CASA is to develop and implement a quantitative model that considers how Puerto Rico's social, political, economic, geographic, climatological, physical, infrastructural, and demographic factors that may influence the capacity of the population living within these areas to plan, anticipate, withstand, respond and recover in an extreme weather event. This holistic approach affords an opportunity to implement scanning strategies that provide better coverage of at-risk geographies with higher vulnerability indexes. Therefore, the proposed model will be an integral part of determining the location of the dense radar network and how the radar should scan the atmosphere. The technology that CASA is developing could be potentially more valuable if it adapts to the specific context and characteristics of Puerto Rico and its residents.

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