5.4 Communication for Preparedness to Climate Extremes in the Intermountain West

Tuesday, 12 January 2016: 4:00 PM
Room 333-334 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Gregg M. Garfin, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; and S. Leroy

Climate challenges faced by municipalities in the Intermountain Southwest differ greatly from the headline-grabbing hurricanes, storm surges, and sea level rise faced by coastal cities in the United States. Often, the Intermountain Southwest's challenges are slow onset or persistent phenomena, like drought and multi-day storms or heat waves, or indirect effects of climate and weather, like wildfires and post-fire floods and debris flows. To address challenges unique to the region, fifteen municipalities have banded together to form the Western Adaptation Alliance (WAA), a knowledge-exchange consortium, led by urban sustainability directors, planners, and program managers. WAA cities include Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder, Aspen, Salt Lake City, Park City, Las Vegas, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, and El Paso, This project was designed to assist WAA managers in communicating with key constituencies in their communities to broaden support for action on climate adaptation, and to improve preparedness.

For the WAA managers, the emphasis was on the impacts of extreme events, rather than statistical or meteorological definitions. To catalogue extreme events and identify the iconic and well-recognized events that will encourage meaningful communication, the research team used a multi-pronged approach, which included: Interviews with key informants, documentation of key weather and climate-related thresholds related to city operations, review of National Weather Service warnings, alerts, and declarations, examination of natural hazard and weather-related disaster databases, documentation of economic impacts, and risk reduction activities taken prior to or after extreme events, and analyses of climate and weather data parameters. For each WAA city, we inventoried major extreme events of five key climate impacts: temperature extremes, floods, drought, fire, and episodes of strong winds. We recorded specific actions taken following those events, developed written and web-based illustrated narratives for each class of impact, fact sheets, infographics, and created a toolkit for the impact identified by managers as the highest priority---extreme heat events.

The work was performed in collaboration with the WAA managers, and could be described as consultative-collaborative, on a co-production of knowledge scale ranging from contractual (unidirectional knowledge flow) to collegial (where researchers actively develop stakeholder capacity). In addition to describing the process and products of this work, we will report on outcomes from an August 2015 workshop and fall 2015 follow-up, in which the research team will document WAA success, obstacles and opportunities, in communicating and disseminating these products.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner