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New strategies needed to prepare for flooding and sea level rise

Several new studies are exploring the best risk assessment and risk mitigation practices to prepare for future severe weather events. Due to the extreme weather patterns associated with climate change, past strategies are no longer adequate.

As scientists are considering the possibility of Category 6 hurricanes and sea levels continue to rise, coastal communities are increasingly threatened. Adaptation plans are needed, and researchers are urging local officials to perform risk assessments to identify the biggest dangers in their areas.

There is considerable debate about which adaptation strategies can realistically reduce the vulnerability of communities. Some measures, such as building sea walls, can inadvertently increase long-term vulnerability. To demonstrate, researchers led by Tom Logan at the University of Michigan used models combining land use changes and tsunami-inundation. The team has also found that educating a community on hazard awareness can successfully reduce vulnerability.

In another study, a team led by Tamsin Lyle of Ebbwater Consulting Inc. has been working with the city of Vancouver to thoroughly assess flood risk and risk tolerance.

“Some of the tools that we developed and will be presenting push boundaries in terms of coupling flood impacts and likelihoods with non-stationary climate hazards,” said Lyle. “We have added a third dimension to traditional ideas and methods. This was effective at showing how flood mitigation actions work over time.”

In Louisiana, six billion dollars has been allocated to the Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, which is a 50-year plan for reducing flood risk and preventing land loss. The plan involves flood risk reduction measures such as elevating homes, floodproofing commercial properties, and buying out high-risk assets.

However, the plan still lacks a solid implementation strategy as well as established mitigation standards. Dr. David R. Johnson at Purdue University is leading a team of researchers that has identified the best strategies for implementing the plan. Their recommendations, which are based on a wide range of future climate conditions, will improve upon the expected risk reduction of similar projects.

The studies will be presented at the 2018 Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) Annual Meeting at the New Orleans Marriott in New Orleans, Louisiana.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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