Integrated analysis of societal vulnerability in an extreme precipitation event: A Fort Collins case study

AMS Citation:
Wilhelmi, O., and R. E. Morss, 2013: Integrated analysis of societal vulnerability in an extreme precipitation event: A Fort Collins case study. Environmental Science & Policy, 26, 49-62, doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2012.07.005.
Resource Type:article
Title:Integrated analysis of societal vulnerability in an extreme precipitation event: A Fort Collins case study
Abstract: Floods, droughts, heat waves, and storms have always been part of human lives because they are a normal part of climate variability. However, the observed trends and projected changes in global climate have the potential to alter patterns of these climatic hazards and extreme weather events. Extreme precipitation is one of the factors that contribute to flash floods, but it is the characteristics of the environment, individuals, and society that can turn these natural phenomena into life-threatening disasters. Past decades of disaster risk research and assessments have lead to many innovative approaches to integrating data across disciplinary domains. Recent advancements in integration of meteorological information with other environmental and social data, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), allow for integrated spatial assessments of societal vulnerability to weather-related hazards. A case study presented in this article builds on the substantial body of previous and ongoing research that is focused on developing improved methods for characterizing and quantifying vulnerabilities to weather hazards, in general, and extreme precipitation events, in particular. Integrating social science into meteorological research and practice has been a key interdisciplinary direction in the meteorological community. Therefore, with specific attention to integrating spatially explicit information on weather and society, this article focuses on interactions between meteorological and social characteristics of an extreme precipitation event that resulted in a flash flood disaster in Fort Collins, Colorado. Using the data from 1997 Fort Collins, Colorado extreme precipitation event, this study constructs a straightforward methodology for integrating meteorological data with readily available societal information into a GIS-based analysis of vulnerable people and places. With the goal of developing specific, targeted interventions and flash flood preparedness and emergency response actions, the analysis of societal vulnerability presented in this paper is specifically focused on the factors affecting population's response and coping capacities to an extreme precipitation event. Challenges associated with data limitations and integration of meteorological and societal data, with diverse units and scales, into a standardized relative vulnerability measure are discussed.
Peer Review:Refereed
Copyright Information:Copyright 2013 Elsevier.
OpenSky citable URL: ark:/85065/d7m909gt
Publisher's Version: 10.1016/j.envsci.2012.07.005
  • Olga Wilhelmi - NCAR/UCAR
  • Rebecca Morss - NCAR/UCAR
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