Assessing Decision Support Services in Urban Centers in the Northeast: the Risk of Flooding Driven by Coastal Storms

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner
Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 1:45 PM
226C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Malgosia Madajewicz, Columbia University, New York City, NY

The densely populated urban corridor along the northeastern Atlantic coast of the United States is highly vulnerable to a range of climate impacts, especially coastal storms, sea level rise, flooding due to rainfall, and heat waves. The northeastern urban centers, such as New York City (NYC) and Boston, have been leaders in the effort to understand and prepare for current and future climate risks. Both cities have reached out to researchers who study climate and climate impacts. Their experience provides an opportunity to assess what are good practices in designing collaboration between urban decision makers and researchers to develop climate information that is useful for decision-making.

This paper describes the approaches to assessing climate decision support services in an urban setting undertaken by the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN). CCRUN is a Regional Integrated Science and Assessment (RISA) project funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate and Societal Interactions program that is working with decision makers in the urban centers on the northeastern Atlantic coast to support decisions designed to build resilience to climate risks. CCRUN's approach consists of two components, both of which are currently focusing on the risk of flooding driven by coastal storms. Coastal storms are at the top of the climate adaptation agendas in NYC and Boston.

The first component of CCRUN's approach to studying decision support services focuses on documenting changes in the outcome that climate decision support services are ultimately aiming to influence, which is resilience to climate risks. We will report preliminary results from a study that is documenting the impacts of Hurricane Sandy and the relief and recovery process after the storm in two neighborhoods of NYC that were hardest hit by the storm. The results will be based on in-depth interviews with leaders of the relief and recovery efforts and a survey of residents in each neighborhood.

The study serves three purposes. First, it documents the degree of resilience in two coastal neighborhoods that are most often affected by coastal storms at the time that Hurricane Sandy hit. The data serve as a baseline against which we can compare changes in resilience over time by comparing impacts and the relief and recovery processes after future storms. We will then use complementary sources of information to assess the contribution of climate decision support services to the changes in resilience that are taking place. Second, the study provides information about what happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to city decision makers and to local community groups who played critical roles in the relief and recovery process. We can assess the impacts that this information had on resilience after future storms that hit the study neighborhoods. Third, the study assesses which ways of providing relief and recovery assistance after hurricane Sandy worked well and which ones did not and what were the information gaps.

We will also report preliminary results from a study that is assessing the effectiveness of providing information about the risk of coastal flooding to urban communities, using an approach that can attribute impacts to the information being provided. We are conducting surveys before and after we provide information in two coastal neighborhoods in Boston and in control communities to assess the impacts that the education has on awareness of risk and on actions undertaken to make the community more resilient to coastal flooding.

In the second component of CCRUN's approach to studying decision support services, we focus on process rather than on the ultimate impacts that are of interest. We will report preliminary results from research that is examining how decision makers in the NYC government use information about coastal flooding risk. We are collecting information through in-depth interviews.

The paper will also discuss methodological challenges involved in assessing the impacts of climate information.