Living with Extreme Weather: An Integrated Workshop to Understand and Improve Societal Resilience

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 5:00 PM
226AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Alicia J. Knoedler, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and K. K. Droegemeier, L. P. Rothfusz, J. T. Ferree, J. Henderson, K. Nemunitis, L. Myers, and D. Nagele

Despite substantial advances in technology and our understanding of the atmosphere, it has become clear in recent years that extreme weather (e.g., tornadoes, hurricanes, flash floods, straight-line winds, blizzards, hail storms) though a manifestation of the atmosphere and hydrosphere fundamentally represents a social and behavioral science challenge to society. Experience shows that physical science, engineering and technology alone cannot prevent hundreds of people from dying each year, or mitigate the substantial deleterious impacts on built infrastructure and the economy. One only needs to look at recent disasters, ranging from Hurricane Sandy and the Joplin, Missouri tornado to the deadly Colorado flash floods of 2013 -- for which weather forecasts and warnings were timely and of high quality -- to recognize the validity of the aforementioned proposition.

Although the destruction of property might have in many cases been unavoidable, the loss of life, and extreme societal disruption, could have been reduced and perhaps even eliminated with a better understanding of the social and behavioral dimensions of extreme events. Making progress toward the bold goal of dramatically and consistently decreasing mortality from extreme weather requires -- in addition to advances in physical science, engineering and technology -- solutions to deep, fundamental questions that engage multiple disciplines, including those in the social, behavioral and economic sciences (SBES).

Toward that end, this paper describes results from a novel, multidisciplinary workshop, supported jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), that brought together researchers from across the United States in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences, as well as physical sciences, engineering, technology and operational domains. The purpose of the workshop was to take the first step toward building mutual understanding of fundamental research challenges and questions in the area of extreme weather, and the manner in which they can be addressed in a truly systemic, interdisciplinary manner toward the goal of reducing human mortality. We emphasize in the paper the creation and sustainability of multi-disciplinary collaboration networks, describe the research problems identified, outline next steps toward a comprehensive, national research program, and overview how the research will be both conducted and tested within the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed, a formal framework in which experimental technologies and strategies are applied in a true real-time weather forecast environment.