Current Research

Planning and Preparedness

Addressing disconnects between planners and emergency managers

  • Investigators: Ward Lyles, Rachel Riley, Penn Pennell

    Stakeholders: Planners, emergency managers, public works engineers, and related public officials in six case study locations including Tulsa County OK, Potter County TX, Sedgwick County KS, Payne County OK, Benton County AR, and McLennan County TX

    One of the primary barriers to improving hazard and climate adaptation planning and implementation, aside from staffing and funding limitations which cannot be addressed by RISA teams, is the disconnect between emergency managers, planners, public works engineers, and environmental or resiliency professionals. The professions frequently are disconnected within the structures of city management, in their training and skills, approaches to problem solving and communication, conceptions of public service, and attitudes towards the public. This research project, which began in September 2018, seeks to understand the disconnects on a deeper level and determine how best to address them. Six counties within the SCIPP region that include cities with populations ranging from 50,000 to 400,000 have been selected for inclusion in the study based on several criteria that will facilitate comparison.

    Tasks that have been completed to within the reporting period include: Determining research design, initial prospecting with each city, obtaining plans for each city, establishing a plan coding protocol, and analyzing the content of two Tulsa OK plans. The next steps in this research include coding and analyzing the thirty-five relevant plans across the cohort that were identified during prospecting and interviewing key stakeholders responsible for leading local hazard planning efforts to understand if and how disconnects exists across professional disciplines and with what impacts.

    Objective: 2: Improve the use of climate information, from sub-seasonal and seasonal forecasts to climate change projections, in planning processes

Business Disruption from Hurricane Harvey

  • Investigaors: Michelle Meyer, Walter G. Peacock, Walter M. Peacock, Steven Washington, Joy Semien, Ryke Moore, Melina Matos, Grad Assistant

    Small to medium sized businesses are especially susceptible to the effects of disaster. To gather more in-depth information about how disasters affect businesses, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is launching a study of business disruption in several disasters. One of those locations is the Houston area with Hurricane Harvey.

    NIST’s coastal resilience initiative will focus on the western Gulf Coast (associated with SCIPP). NIST is developing a business disruption survey, which will be administered through SCIPP and the Texas Sea Grant partners to businesses in the affected areas. In the Hurricane Harvey area, a special emphasis will be made to collect data from Hispanic- and Latino owned businesses. Currently, the survey instrument is complete, awaiting approval from the Texas A&M Institutional Review Board.

    Funding: NOAA Office of Chief Economist

Climatology and Trends in Hourly Precipitation for the Southeast United States

  • Investigators: Vincent Brown, Alan Black, and Barry Keim

    This study introduces a climatology of hourly precipitation for four first-order weather stations across Louisiana, investigates possible changes in the hourly precipitation distribution, and links winter (DJF) Gulf of Mexico (GOM) sea surface temperatures (SST) to the frequency of hours with precipitation. Results indicate
    that it precipitates between 431 and 457 h annually, equivalent to roughly 5% of the total annual hours, with distinct seasonal differences. For example, the duration of events is much longer in winter compared to summer, while the number of rainfall events is greater in summer. Using regression techniques, three of the four stations showed a statistically significant increase in 90th percentile hourly events and hourly intensity. At the same time, the frequency of light hourly events (0.254 mm, 1.27 mm, 2.54 mm) decreased. It was also determined that winter GOM SST significantly correlated with the number of hours with precipitation across coastal Louisiana, possibly related to the frequency of synoptic types such as frontal overrunning.

    Objective: 1: Assess changes in the frequency of events that may change hazard exposure profiles in communities within the region

El Niño-Southern Oscillation Impacts on Hourly Precipitation Across the Southeastern United States

  • Investigators: Vincent Brown, Alan Black, and Barry Keim

    The goal of this research was to understand how the El Niño-Southern Oscillation influences hourly precipitation characteristics across the Southeast. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation is known to influence season precipitation anomalies, which are usually expressed in deviations (in totals, usually monthly or seasonal) from normal. To date, no research has investigated how a suite of precipitation characteristics are influenced by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation.

    Objective: 1: Assess changes in the frequency of events that may change hazard exposure profiles in communities within the region

Evaluation of the Utility of a Stakeholder-Driven Climate Hazard Assessment Tool

  • Investigators: Rachel Riley

    Stakeholders: Oklahoma and Arkansas Emergency managers and city and regional planners, FEMA Region VI, climate service providers

    The Simple Planning Tool for Oklahoma and Arkansas climate hazards was developed collaboratively with decision makers to assist individuals with no formal training in meteorology or climatology in obtaining locally-relevant data that is salient to their planning needs and help informs decisions. Evidence from informal evaluations conducted with emergency managers (EMs) and planners and subsequent iterative revisions that will be described below suggests the SPT is usable. However, a formal evaluation was needed to evaluate the SPT’s utility and to more fully understand its impact. Decision support tool evaluation is a relatively new field and several evaluation frameworks exist. Further, climate tool evaluation is underexplored or underreported, but doing so increases the likelihood that such tools are useful to their intended users.

    An online survey was administered in Spring 2019. Analysis is underway to assess awareness and use of the SPT, the saliency, credibility and legitimacy of the tool, perceived reliability and trust of the information contained in the tool, and outcomes and impacts of using the tool.

    Objective: 2: Improve the use of climate information, from sub-seasonal and seasonal forecasts to climate change projections, in planning processes

Probable Maximum Precipitation Study for Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma

  • Investigators: Barry Keim (SCIPP), Bill Kappel (Applied Weather Associates LLC), Whitney Montague (Arkansas Natural Resources Commission), Ed Knight (Louisiana Department of Transportation), Devan Mahadevan (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), Zachery Hollandsworth (Oklahoma Water Resources Board)

    Stakeholders: Dam Owners in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma; Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Dam Safety Offices in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

    Over the next year, this effort will culminate with the production of estimates of Probable Maximum Precipitation (PMP) from 1 square mile to 20,000 square miles and for durations from 1 hour to 120 hours.

    All high hazard dam owners in the four-state region will need to build or remediate their dams to be able to safely pass the flood (probable maximum flood) that is produced by the PMP.

    Preliminary findings indicate that across most of the four state region, PMP estimates will be reduced relative the document that is being superseded – NWS’s Hydrometeorological Report No. 51. As a result, this work will lead to reductions in the overdesign of dams, with estimates of savings ranging between $50-100 million for dam owners in the first year alone. These findings (lower PMP estimates) will also lead to increased water storage capacity during severe storms, which will mitigate flooding damage.

    This project is a joint effort between the client – Applied Weather Associates, with oversight to the project provided by SCIPP (Barry Keim), other state climatologists in the region, dam safety officials from each of the four states, and representatives from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

    Objective: 1: Assess changes in the frequency of events that may change hazard exposure profiles in communities within the region

Trend Analysis of Multiple Extreme Hourly Precipitation Time Series in the Southeast United States

  • Investigators: Vincent Brown, Alan Black, and Barry Keim

    The goal of this research was to determine if there were changes in extreme precipitation time series across the Southeast United States. For example, are the highest magnitude events increasing through time? Is the average duration between hourly precipitation events changing?

    Objective: 1: Assess changes in the frequency of events that may change hazard exposure profiles in communities within the region

Coastal Impacts

August 2016 Southeastern Louisiana Flood

  • Investigators: Vincent Brown, Alan Black, Barry Keim

    Louisiana is the wettest state in the conterminous United States according to data from the National Climatic Data Center and frequently experiences flood producing rainfall events. Despite a long history of heavy rainfall events, Louisiana recently experienced a record breaking precipitation event on 10-14 August 2016 that shattered numerous meteorological and hydrological records. A remarkable 31.39 inches of precipitation was recorded at one location in 48 hours spurring widespread flooding that cost the state of Louisiana billions of dollars. This research seeks to place this storm in a historical context by examining rainfall amounts and corresponding return intervals using the Storm Precipitation Analysis System (SPAS) and describing the meteorological characteristics that came together to produce such a rare event.

    Objective: 4: Assess the impacts of storm surge and flooding events on infrastructure

Communicating Climate Tools to Coastal Stakeholders

  • Investigators: Renee Edwards, Barry Keim, Andrea Miller, Alex Haberlie, Tryfon Boukouvidis, Marisa Karpinski, Josh Eachus (WBRZ in Baton Rouge)

    Stakeholders: Emergency Managers, Broadcast Meteorologists in coastal Louisiana

    Emergency managers are tasked with helping communities prepare for extreme weather events, while broadcast meteorologists provide information about weather that is used by both the general public and by decision-makers. Better understanding of climate tools and greater awareness of communication problems will enhance their abilities to accomplish their mission. Researchers recently administered an online survey of emergency managers and broadcast meteorologists in coastal Louisiana. Currently, researchers are conducting interviews with the listed stakeholders.

    Preliminary findings show that the stakeholders show more variability in their use of climate tools than they show in their perceptions of them. This seems to suggest that their time is limited and they are most likely to turn to tools with which they are most comfortable and have the highest confidence. They face multiple communication challenges such as problems with their audiences not understanding important concepts and terminology.

The Role of Numeracy and Self-Efficacy in College Students’ Understanding of Climate Tools

  • Investigators: Renee Edwards, Barry Keim, Andrea Miller, Alex Haberlie, Tryfon Boukouvidis, Marisa Karpinski, Josh Eachus, WBRZ in Baton Rouge

    Numeracy is related to literacy except that it focuses on mathematical abilities. Self-efficacy is a belief that one is capable of doing something - in this case, understanding the weather and being able to interpret charts and graphs. SCIPP researchers Renee Edwards and Barry Keim are studying the role of numeracy and self-efficacy in college student’s understanding of climate tool. Preliminary results show that numeracy and self-efficacy for charts and graphs enhance the ability to understand climate tools. In addition, students believe that everyone and not just experts such as meteorologists should be able to interpret climate tools such as the hurricane cone of uncertainty.

U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center Energy Resilience Risk Assessment Tool

  • Investigators: Barry Keim, Alan Black, Vincent Brown, Derek Thompson, Nick Grondin, and Stephen Kreller, Lissa Myers (NREL)

    Stakeholders: National Renewable Energy Lab, United States Air Force

    SCIPP has previously partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to develop a climate change resilience plan for the SPR. During that time, mission-critical objectives of SPR were identified and the impact of current climate on SPR’s ability to meet those objectives was assessed.

    This previous work led to NREL partnering with SCIPP researchers again to provide technical assistance for the development of tools. Researchers prepared confidence scores on how climate stressors (e.g., temperature, sea-level rise, precipitation, etc.) would change under different climate model scenarios for 2050 and 2100. The National Renewable Energy Lab is developing a tool / app that highlights Air Force installation vulnerabilities to the climate stressors (i.e. what will potentially be at risk).

    Objective: 4: Assess the impacts of storm surge and flooding events on infrastructure

Drought: Connecting National Efforts to Local Decisions

Improving local capacity of early warning systems for drought across North America

  • Investigaors: Mark Shafer, Commission on Environmental Cooperation (Secretariat), NDMC, NCEI, CPO, NIDIS, APA, along with counterparts in Canada and Mexico

    Stakeholders: Drought information and forecast providers

    SCIPP is participating in this project as a member of the steering committee. SCIPP was invited to participate in the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) meeting held in Norman, Oklahoma, in June 2018. The meeting established an extreme events working group, which developed six potential projects, three of which were selected for funding by CEC in December 2018. One project focused on drought early warning systems was selected. Other leadership from the U.S. group on the project includes the National Drought Mitigation Center, NOAA NCEI, NOAA CPO, NIDIS, and the American Planning Association.

    The economic, environmental, and social impacts of climate extremes across North America are significant. Not constrained by any nation’s borders, drought and its attendant hazards, including wildfire, floods, and landslides, create significant costs for local communities. Coordination and communication between the United States, Canada, and Mexico during recent North American droughts have been essential for minimizing and lessening impacts, such as reduced agricultural productivity, large wildfire outbreaks, and water shortages. Coordinated and integrated drought monitoring and early warning systems may effectively and efficiently mitigate negative drought impacts.

    Current drought early warning systems focus primarily at national and regional levels; at local levels, there remains uncertainty among many local planners, emergency managers, water managers, tribal leaders, the private sector, and other users about which early warning capabilities, monitoring indicators, and existing drought planning tools and resources are most appropriate and cost-effective to support local drought management. Further, it is critical to “nest” local drought early warning systems within larger-scale early warning systems and also to link local systems with other local systems, particularly in regional settings across trans-boundary geographies, in order to ensure effective information flows and rapid, low-cost drought response at all levels, from local to tri-national.

    Objective: 10: Assess gaps in research, products, and services applied to sector needs

Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications

FEMA High Water Initiative

  • Investigators: Vincent Brown, Carol Franze

    Stakeholders: St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana

    As part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the High Water Mark (HWM) Initiative is a community-based awareness program that increases local communities’ awareness of flood risk and encourages action to mitigate that risk. As part of the project, communities post HWM signs in prominent places, hold a high-profile launch event to unveil the signs, conduct ongoing education to build local awareness of flood risk, and complete mitigation actions to build community resilience against future flooding. A variety of audiences, such as local officials, emergency management personnel, community leaders, as well as FEMA Regions, Federal, State, and local entities can learn more about the HWM Initiative in the sections below.

    SCIPP is working with Louisiana Sea Grant on making High Water Mark signs for public view, along with presentations and pamphlets, in Louisiana.

Weather Impacts on Monthly Crawfish Production across Louisiana

  • Team: Vincent Brown, Mark Shirley, and Greg Lutz.

    Stakeholders: Sea Grant and State of Louisiana Crawfish Producers.

    SCIPP and the Louisiana Sea Grant are working on studying the weather impacts on crawfish. The research goal is to understand how weather parameters influence the annual production of crawfish. Results will be communicated through Sea Grant and Marine Extension Project meetings.