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Thomas W. Corringham and Daniel R. Cayan

Abstract

This paper quantifies insured flood losses across the western United States from 1978 to 2017, presenting a spatiotemporal analysis of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) daily claims and losses over this period. While considerably lower (only 3.3%) than broader measures of direct damages measured by a National Weather Service (NWS) dataset, NFIP insured losses are highly correlated to the annual damages in the NWS dataset, and the NFIP data provide flood impacts at a fine degree of spatial resolution. The NFIP data reveal that 1% of extreme events, covering wide spatial areas, caused over 66% of total insured losses. Connections between extreme events and El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) that have been documented in past research are borne out in the insurance data. In coastal Southern California and across the Southwest, El Niño conditions have had a strong effect in producing more frequent and higher magnitudes of insured losses, while La Niña conditions significantly reduce both the frequency and magnitude of losses. In the Pacific Northwest, the opposite pattern appears, although the effect is weaker and less spatially coherent. The persistent evolution of ENSO offers the possibility for property owners, policy makers, and emergency planners and responders that unusually high or low flood damages could be predicted in advance of the primary winter storm period along the West Coast. Within the 40-yr NFIP history, it is found that the multivariate ENSO index would have provided an 8-month look-ahead for heightened damages in Southern California.

Open access
Travis M. Williams and William R. Travis

Abstract

Weather index insurance is a popular means of mitigating agricultural risks. Drought is a significant cause of lost agricultural production, and so precipitation index–based plans are common. Simple “percent of normal” indices are often used because they are easy to calculate and communicate to policyholders. However, the ability of such indices to reflect production losses is limited, reducing the ability of insurance to efficiently mitigate risk. This is especially true in rangeland livestock production given the cumulative effects of rainfall and other factors on range production and the complex relationships between range and livestock weight gain, which is the rancher’s main product and source of income. More sophisticated drought indices incorporate the complexities of drought into their design and would, in theory, serve as more appropriate payment triggers. This study uses a suite of drought indices to test correlation with production and the behavior of insurance based on those indices. Payout patterns based on each index were simulated within the actuarial framework of a precipitation-based insurance program aimed at livestock producers. Results were compared with the program’s precipitation index, showing that drought indices have higher correlations with range production, a tendency to incentivize growing-season protection, more even geographic distributions of risk, reduced policyholder ability to seek higher payments through strategic coverage choices, and increased provider ability to adjust payment patterns to reduce the risk of nonpayment given loss.

Open access
R. H. Moss, S. Avery, K. Baja, M. Burkett, A. M. Chischilly, J. Dell, P. A. Fleming, K. Geil, K. Jacobs, A. Jones, K. Knowlton, J. Koh, M. C. Lemos, J. Melillo, R. Pandya, T. C. Richmond, L. Scarlett, J. Snyder, M. Stults, A. M. Waple, J. Whitehead, D. Zarrilli, B. M. Ayyub, J. Fox, A. Ganguly, L. Joppa, S. Julius, P. Kirshen, R. Kreutter, A. McGovern, R. Meyer, J. Neumann, W. Solecki, J. Smith, P. Tissot, G. Yohe, and R. Zimmerman

Abstract

As states, cities, tribes, and private interests cope with climate damages and seek to increase preparedness and resilience, they will need to navigate myriad choices and options available to them. Making these choices in ways that identify pathways for climate action that support their development objectives will require constructive public dialogue, community participation, and flexible and ongoing access to science- and experience-based knowledge. In 2016, a Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) was convened to recommend how to conduct a sustained National Climate Assessment (NCA) to increase the relevance and usability of assessments for informing action. The FAC was disbanded in 2017, but members and additional experts reconvened to complete the report that is presented here. A key recommendation is establishing a new nonfederal “climate assessment consortium” to increase the role of state/local/tribal government and civil society in assessments. The expanded process would 1) focus on applied problems faced by practitioners, 2) organize sustained partnerships for collaborative learning across similar projects and case studies to identify effective tested practices, and 3) assess and improve knowledge-based methods for project implementation. Specific recommendations include evaluating climate models and data using user-defined metrics; improving benefit–cost assessment and supporting decision-making under uncertainty; and accelerating application of tools and methods such as citizen science, artificial intelligence, indicators, and geospatial analysis. The recommendations are the result of broad consultation and present an ambitious agenda for federal agencies, state/local/tribal jurisdictions, universities and the research sector, professional associations, nongovernmental and community-based organizations, and private-sector firms.

Open access
Scott E. Kalafatis, Jasmine Neosh, Julie C. Libarkin, Kyle Powys Whyte, and Chris Caldwell

Abstract

Climate scientists are increasingly called upon to collaborate with policy makers to develop climate science–informed policy decisions. However, there are concerns that existing professional and cultural boundaries will remain persistent barriers to fulfilling the potential promise of these collaborations. The perception that scientists will be learning by doing while pursuing these efforts does little to assuage these concerns because more research is needed into how scientists actually learn to collaborate more effectively. Using interviews with 18 individuals identified by their peers as particularly successful participants in collaborations between Native American Tribes and climate science organizations, this paper offers suggested practices and examines learning processes underlying the development of these suggestions. The development of the list of suggested practices highlights the extent to which having the right attitude, taking the right actions, and cultivating the right processes are intertwined factors associated with success in these collaborations. Analysis of the learning processes underlying interviewees’ suggestions for suggested practices offered five sources of information that frequently led interviewees to reflect on their experiences and gain new knowledge from them. Despite these common trends, each interviewee described a reflection system that they had cultivated to continually monitor and enhance their work in collaborations that was personalized and distinctive from those the other interviewees used. Increased attention to these tailored reflection systems offers a path forward for understanding how experiential learning can most effectively enhance climate change decision support.

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Brooke Fisher Liu, Michael Egnoto, and JungKyu Rhys Lim

Abstract

Mobile home residents experience higher fatality rates from tornadoes than “fixed home” residents. Yet, research on how mobile home residents understand and respond to tornado warnings is lacking. Such research can help meteorologists and their partners better communicate tornado risk. We conducted four surveys with residents of the southeastern United States. This region has the highest concentration of tornado fatalities and killer tornadoes, in part because of the high density of mobile homes. Findings reveal that today’s tornado warning system inadequately prepares mobile home residents to respond safely to tornadoes. The study offers recommendations for how to improve tornado communication for mobile and fixed home residents.

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Saeideh Maleki, Saeid Soltani Koupaei, Alireza Soffianian, Sassan Saatchi, Saeid Pourmanafi, and Vahid Rahdari

Abstract

Negative impacts of climate change on ecosystems have been increasing, and both the intensification and the mitigation of these impacts are strongly linked with human activities. Management and reduction of human-induced disturbances on ecosystems can mitigate the effects of climate change and enhance the ecosystem recovery process. Here, we investigate coupled human and climate effects on the wetland ecosystem of the lower Helmand basin from 1977 to 2014. Using time series climate-variable data and land-use changes from Landsat time series imagery, we compared changes in ecosystem status between the upstream and downstream regions. Results show that despite a strong and prolonged drought in the region, the upstream region of the lower Helmand basin remained dominated by agriculture, causing severe water stress on the Hamoun wetlands downstream. The loss of available water in wetlands was followed by large-scale land abandonment in rural areas, migration to the cities, and increasing unemployment and economic hardship. Our results suggest that unsustainable land-use policies in the upstream region, combined with synergistic effects of human activities and climate in lower Helmand basin, have exacerbated the effects of water stress on local inhabitants in the downstream region.

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Maaz Gardezi and J. Gordon Arbuckle

Abstract

Cover crops are grown between periods of regular crop production or planted into crops with the primary purpose of protecting and improving soil health. These crops possess several resilience-enhancing properties that are well suited to help farmers adapt to climate change. Through an “adaptive capacities framework,” we examine how farmers’ adaptive capacities—contextualized within institutional and environmental conditions—can influence their decision to use cover crops. We use generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs) to examine the relative importance of (i) “internal” variables—farmers’ perceived capacity to act; (ii) “external” or “objective” resources—assets and entitlements; and (iii) contextual variables—the institutional and environmental context within which adaptation occurs, as predictors of farmers’ use of cover crops. Our results suggest that several objective and perceived adaptive capacities are positively associated with farmers’ decisions to use cover crops, and formal institutions such as risk management subsidies are correlated with lower use of cover crops.

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Leon S. Robertson

Abstract

The previously found correlation of average annual temperature and motor vehicle travel among U.S. states suggests amplifying feedback of increased carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and warming. This study employed a regression model relating average annual temperature to motor vehicle CO2 emissions among the 48 contiguous states, controlling for other factors that affect travel. Increased emissions were associated with higher temperatures during 2000–14. Application of the model to 2015–16 data indicated that 27 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2015 and 38 million metric tons in 2016 would have not occurred if the average annual temperatures among U.S. states in those years had remained at 2014 levels. A 2018 proposal by the U.S. government to reduce future vehicle fuel economy standards ignored the potential effect of warming on vehicle travel and contained erroneous analyses of the relation of vehicle weight to fatality risk, vehicle scrappage rate to new vehicle sales, and the relation of new vehicle costs to fuel economy. Huge improvement in fuel economy and reduced CO2 emissions based on required hybrid technology are possible at reasonable cost.

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Joshua D. Eachus and Barry D. Keim

Abstract

It has been almost a decade since researchers assessed user preferences in gathering weather information. Maturing channels and increasingly mobile audiences necessitate the need for understanding what channels people use for weather information, what information people want, and how they react to specific content—especially potentially life-saving warnings. Furthermore, geographically compartmentalizing this information will allow communication strategies to be tailored to a more localized audience. As an initiative to this effort, a survey of digitally connected Louisianians found different channel preferences than were found in previous studies. Beyond this study, future research should seek to identify regional preferences since the last broad study on this topic nearly 10 years ago. In the survey, information preferences are collected with Twitter as the focal point, but other channels are included as choices to assess overall user preference. As older channels such as television decline in preference, mobile telephone applications are disrupting previous literature by quickly gaining popularity while studies on their utility remain in short supply. Results show that user channel preferences do not necessarily align with those that best serve weather communication efforts. Facebook, a channel notoriously problematic from a chronology standpoint, is favored by many respondents. On Twitter, there is a disconnect in the type of information respondents report wanting and what type of information generates a response. Interest in warning messages was not coincident with the threat posed by that specific type of weather. The format—wording and construction—of warning messages that generated the most response on Twitter does not align with extensive literature on proper risk communication.

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Avital Li and James Ford

Abstract

This paper identifies and characterizes vulnerability to climatic change in the Ngöbe-Buglé Indigenous community of Playitas, Panama, using a “trajectories of change” approach. Playitas is a community composed of swidden forest farmers that is undergoing rapid rates of change as a result of demographic shifts, regional development, and climate change. Working in collaboration with a community organization, various methods were used to identify and characterize livelihoods, social-ecological dynamics, environmental change, and behavioral responses to change, with the aim of informing future planning in the community. Qualitative methods included semistructured interviews (n = 26), community workshops, and participant observation. Causal-loop diagrams based on field data and the perceptions of community members were created to model trajectories of change. The research reveals that change is driven by both internal and external factors and that the responses of community members create both reinforcing and balancing feedback loops that overall generate increased stress in agricultural systems, social structures, and environmental components. Although community members historically relied on social relationships, Indigenous knowledge, and remoteness as sources of resilience to external disturbances, climate change is acting as a “multiplier” of their existing vulnerabilities and is undermining their capacity to adapt to current and future climatic changes.

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