Future Heavy Rainfall and Flood Risks for Native Americans under Climate and Demographic Changes: A Case Study in Oklahoma

Zhi Li aSchool of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Theresa Tsoodle aSchool of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Mengye Chen aSchool of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Shang Gao aSchool of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Jiaqi Zhang aSchool of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Yixin Wen bDepartment of Geography, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

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Tiantian Yang aSchool of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Farina King cDodge Family College of Arts and Sciences, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Yang Hong aSchool of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Abstract

Climate change has posed inequitable risks to different communities. Among communities of color in the United States, Native Americans stand out because 1) they desire resources to sustain resilient nations and 2) they have developed nature-based solutions through experiences with local climate-related challenges, which can provide deep insight for the whole society. Projection of climate risks for Native Americans is essential to assess future risks and support their climate-ready nations, yet there has been lack of useable information. In this study, we projected three climate hazards—heavy rainfall, 2-yr floods, and flash floods—for tribal nations in Oklahoma. To break down into tribal jurisdictions, we utilize a coupled regional climate model at 4 km and flash-flood forecast model at 1 km. A hazard–exposure–vulnerability risk framework is applied to integrate both climate and demographic changes in a high-emissions scenario. It is found that 1) Indigenous people are the most vulnerable community in Oklahoma; 2) heavy rainfall and 2-yr floods have marked increases in risks at 501.1% and 632.6%, respectively, while flash floods have a moderate increase (296.4%); 3) Native Americans bear 68.0%, 64.3%, and 64.0% higher risks in heavy rainfall, 2-yr flooding, and flash flooding, respectively, than the general population in Oklahoma; 4) in comparing climate and demographic changes, it is seen that population growth leads to greater climate hazard risks than does climate change; and 5) emerging tribal nations are projected to have 10 times as much population, resulting in great exposures to climate extremes. This study can raise awareness of the impact of climate changes and draw attention to address climate injustice issues for minoritized communities.

Significance Statement

This study examines the impact of climate change on a marginalized community—Native Americans in Oklahoma, home to 39 federally recognized tribal nations. We utilized the high-resolution climate simulation at 4-km resolution and hydrologic simulation at 1-km resolution to aggregate three climate extremes to tribal jurisdictions. We find that climate and demographic changes disproportionately put many Native Americans at risk. The heavy rainfall, 2-yr floods, and flash floods are all projected to have increased risks by 501.1%, 632.6%, and 296.4%, respectively. Those risks are 68.0%, 64.3%, and 64.0% higher than the state average for the general population, respectively. We urge proper attention to tribal nations to address climate injustice issues as a whole with the acknowledgment of their distinct relationships to their homelands as sovereign peoples.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Yang Hong, yanghong@ou.edu

Abstract

Climate change has posed inequitable risks to different communities. Among communities of color in the United States, Native Americans stand out because 1) they desire resources to sustain resilient nations and 2) they have developed nature-based solutions through experiences with local climate-related challenges, which can provide deep insight for the whole society. Projection of climate risks for Native Americans is essential to assess future risks and support their climate-ready nations, yet there has been lack of useable information. In this study, we projected three climate hazards—heavy rainfall, 2-yr floods, and flash floods—for tribal nations in Oklahoma. To break down into tribal jurisdictions, we utilize a coupled regional climate model at 4 km and flash-flood forecast model at 1 km. A hazard–exposure–vulnerability risk framework is applied to integrate both climate and demographic changes in a high-emissions scenario. It is found that 1) Indigenous people are the most vulnerable community in Oklahoma; 2) heavy rainfall and 2-yr floods have marked increases in risks at 501.1% and 632.6%, respectively, while flash floods have a moderate increase (296.4%); 3) Native Americans bear 68.0%, 64.3%, and 64.0% higher risks in heavy rainfall, 2-yr flooding, and flash flooding, respectively, than the general population in Oklahoma; 4) in comparing climate and demographic changes, it is seen that population growth leads to greater climate hazard risks than does climate change; and 5) emerging tribal nations are projected to have 10 times as much population, resulting in great exposures to climate extremes. This study can raise awareness of the impact of climate changes and draw attention to address climate injustice issues for minoritized communities.

Significance Statement

This study examines the impact of climate change on a marginalized community—Native Americans in Oklahoma, home to 39 federally recognized tribal nations. We utilized the high-resolution climate simulation at 4-km resolution and hydrologic simulation at 1-km resolution to aggregate three climate extremes to tribal jurisdictions. We find that climate and demographic changes disproportionately put many Native Americans at risk. The heavy rainfall, 2-yr floods, and flash floods are all projected to have increased risks by 501.1%, 632.6%, and 296.4%, respectively. Those risks are 68.0%, 64.3%, and 64.0% higher than the state average for the general population, respectively. We urge proper attention to tribal nations to address climate injustice issues as a whole with the acknowledgment of their distinct relationships to their homelands as sovereign peoples.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Yang Hong, yanghong@ou.edu
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