J3.4 Need for Relevant and Actionable Climate Information in Extreme Weather Mitigation Planning: Why the Gap Still Persists

Tuesday, 12 January 2016: 4:15 PM
Room 255/257 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Hana Putnam, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; and N. Selover, N. Chhetri, K. Galluppi, and A. Cox

The Emergency and Risk Management Communities, charged with planning for hazards and disasters, attempt to incorporate climate change information into their mitigation plans. However, these efforts are confounded by significant deficiency of “actionable” climate information available to them. This community defines actionable climate information as guidance that coincides with FEMA's 5-year Hazard Mitigation Plan Update Cycle, as well as with the municipal, county, and state planning cycles, which are generally projections of 2-10 years into the future. The mitigation process is the primary means by which the emergency management community aims to reduce destruction to property and loss of lives in the long-term. The current FEMA-prescribed mitigation process is considered to be ill informed with regard to climate-derived, extreme weather events particularly in the 2-10 year planning horizon. It is projected that changing climatic patterns could result in destructive weather events of greater intensity, duration, or frequency. Participation in several mitigation planning meetings as part of the NOAA-SARP funded project, allowed the team insight into how little future-looking weather guidance or climate pattern change information are actually used for planning purposes. In other words, planners relied almost exclusively on their recent memories, hearsay, or personal beliefs to make decisions regarding planning. The void of actionable climate information and its (lack of) effective use potentially left communities highly vulnerable and at risk of significant losses especially of property and infrastructure.

Supplemented through in-depth interviews (40+) with stakeholders ranging from local to state levels, including the private sector, and personnel with roles in Emergency Support Functions and critical infrastructure, preliminary analysis shows that overwhelmingly the climate information supplied during these mitigation meetings do not address the timeframe pertinent to the community's planning cycles. Currently climate guidance exists for four time frames only: NOWcasts, 6-10 day forecasts; seasonal outlooks that out to 12 months or so; and climate model projections for long-term, like 2030, 2050 or 2100. There is no climate information between the seasonal outlooks. and the long-term projections for 2030 which are quite vague.

If actionable climate information were available and mandated in the mitigation process, more informed decisions could potentially be made in terms of what projects would yield the greatest reduction in damage-related costs to the emergency and risk management communities. With such climate guidance, community mitigation planners would be able to more accurately assess their potential hazards, project resulting cascade of impacts, their vulnerability, and evaluate consequences more effectively. Reliable assessments will enable the mitigation teams to identify and prioritize risks more accurately, and thus identify realistic projects that could yield the greatest benefits to protecting life, property, and the social well-being of the community. This NOAA-SARP funded project aims to provide a roadmap, identifying knowledge gaps between mitigation planning and the provision of actionable climate information regarding mitigating potential extreme weather events impacts.

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