Can Climate Signals Inform Emergency Management? Preliminary Evidence

Kris Wernstedt 1 , Patrick Roberts 2  and Matthew Dull 3
  • 1 Virginia Tech
  • 2 Virginia Tech
  • 3 Virginia Tech

The emergency management community has widely discussed the long-term implications of global climate change for weather-related hazards such as floods, hurricanes, and droughts, but the community has paid relatively little attention to the connection between these hazards and shorter-term seasonal climate fluctuations (e.g., El Niño). This paper explores the potential for applying recent scientific and technical advances in the use of seasonal climate information to improve how emergency managers address such hazards risks and their associated disaster losses. The preliminary analysis presented here begins with a brief review of evidence from the research literature linking mid- and long-term forecasts to flood planning and management. We report on a small telephone survey of emergency managers involved in flood planning and management in 26 Oregon and Washington counties that experience interannual climate-variation that can increase the frequency or intensity of flooding. Our survey findings help illuminate the opportunities and obstacles for using climate science to inform emergency management. We then present results of a 2008 survey of emergency managers and educators that asks about the use of climate information for a wider range of weather-related hazards. We conclude by summarizing the opportunities for and obstacles to the use of climate information in emergency management.

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The Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (JHSEM) publishes original, innovative and timely articles describing and assessing research and practice in the fields of homeland security and emergency management. JHSEM promotes a comprehensive and dynamic perspective, providing readers with up-to-date information regarding the evolving nature of the homeland security and emergency management fields.

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