The effects of climate change:
the use of real-time, integrated
data in flood preparedness
Executive summary
Research sugg...
Schneider Electric White Paper Revision 0 Page 2
The earth’s climate can be influenced by both natural and human factors. ...
Schneider Electric White Paper Revision 0 Page 3
Tide prediction: Tide predictions are based on the gravitational force of...
Schneider Electric White Paper Revision 0 Page 4
IPCC, 2007, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment of t...
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The effects of climate change: the use of real-time, integrated data in flood preparedness

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Executive summary

Research suggests that changing climate trends are responsible for increasingly volatile weather patterns – particularly flooding. While sorting out influences from natural cycles and human-induced changes is an area of ongoing study, the reality is federal, local and state governments, along with private enterprise, must be aware of the increased risk of flooding. Integrated, real-time information is invaluable to these agencies when creating emergency preparedness plans.

The earth’s climate can be influenced by both natural and human factors. Natural causes of climate variability, such as the seasonal El Niño/La Niña ocean cycles, can influence the atmospheric circulation patterns, creating wetter/drier and warmer/colder patterns when the prevailing jet stream winds shift. Another seasonal influence is the North Atlantic Oscillation. This upper-level circulation pattern in the polar latitudes can produce abnormally warm or cold periods over large parts of North America. Longer-term influences occur with ocean temperature patterns, volcanoes and the sun.
Humans can also change the climate, through deforestation, agriculture and urbanization. For instance, replacing a forest with a city or bare soil raises the temperature of the land due to increased heat absorption and/or retention. Agriculture tends to cool an area, especially when irrigated. Deforestation removes natural biological storage units of carbon dioxide. Tiling of farm fields adds additional run-off into streams and rivers, especially during more intense rain events.

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Transcript of "The effects of climate change: the use of real-time, integrated data in flood preparedness"

  1. 1. The effects of climate change: the use of real-time, integrated data in flood preparedness Executive summary Research suggests that changing climate trends are responsible for increasingly volatile weather patterns – particularly flooding. While sorting out influences from natural cycles and human-induced changes is an area of ongoing study, the reality is federal, local and state governments, along with private enterprise, must be aware of the increased risk of flooding. Integrated, real- time information is invaluable to these agencies when creating emergency preparedness plans. By: Jeremy Duensing, product manager, Schneider Electric
  2. 2. Schneider Electric White Paper Revision 0 Page 2 The earth’s climate can be influenced by both natural and human factors. Natural causes of climate variability, such as the seasonal El Niño/La Niña ocean cycles, can influence the atmospheric circulation patterns, creating wetter/drier and warmer/colder patterns when the prevailing jet stream winds shift. Another seasonal influence is the North Atlantic Oscillation. This upper-level circulation pattern in the polar latitudes can produce abnormally warm or cold periods over large parts of North America. Longer-term influences occur with ocean temperature patterns, volcanoes and the sun. Humans can also change the climate, through deforestation, agriculture and urbanization. For instance, replacing a forest with a city or bare soil raises the temperature of the land due to increased heat absorption and/or retention. Agriculture tends to cool an area, especially when irrigated. Deforestation removes natural biological storage units of carbon dioxide. Tiling of farm fields adds additional run-off into streams and rivers, especially during more intense rain events. A changing climate can have many consequences for communities, infrastructure and governments. One of the most devastating results is the increase in the frequency of volatile weather events, such as flooding. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that intense rain events have become more frequent in the last 50 years. This, combined with increased run-off from land use changes, means more significant flash flood events could occur. In addition, as the oceans warm, scientists predict that the number of hurricanes, and potentially their intensity, could increase. Higher sea levels from warmer waters can lead to greater storm surges. Increased flooding has the potential to wreak havoc on major population centers in the U.S. There are 3,800 towns and cities in the flood plain in the U.S. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, flooding costs the country more than $7 billion in damages and kills more than 90 people each year. During the last century, floods claimed more in terms of number of lives and property damage than any other type of natural disaster. Assuming no change in built infrastructure or values, a 2013 article in the Journal of Flood Risk Management projected an increase of approximately 30 percent in damages from flooding by the end of the century. The trends in flooding frequency and severity are likely to continue, according to an article in Nature that found that the recent emergence of a statistically significant positive trend in the risk of great floods is consistent with results from a climate model, and that model suggests that the trend will persist. Therefore, federal, state and local governments and agencies must be prepared. To prepare for the likely increase in frequency and severity of devastating floods, public safety officials must arm themselves with aggregated, accurate data that gives a more complete picture of conditions. This improved visibility will not only better inform their decisions, but allow them to make faster decisions based on real-time data. Traditionally, several disparate sources were needed to gather information on the two key factors that determined flood conditions: flooding parameters and weather conditions. But now, all of this information can be integrated and presented in a dashboard that provides a clear, real-time snapshot of the environment. Flooding parameters When monitoring conditions for potential flooding, a clear understanding of three most important parameters is critical: water level, tide prediction and wave height. New technology gives managers the ability to set alert parameters and to be notified whenever one of these factors crosses a threshold that triggers a response. Climate change factors The impacts of a changing climate
  3. 3. Schneider Electric White Paper Revision 0 Page 3 Tide prediction: Tide predictions are based on the gravitational force of the moon and sun acting on large bodies of water at a given time. These are especially helpful when severe weather and rainfall are approaching, as the tide can significantly impact the severity of conditions. For example, a storm that hits at low tide may not require the same level of preparation and resources as a storm that arrives at high tide. Water level: The measurement of a body of water’s level is an obvious factor when determining the likelihood of a flood, but quick access to accurate readings may be difficult. Plotting water level observations from thousands of ocean buoys and river gauges alongside other high-impact weather information such as radar and local storm reports, a public safety manager increases his or her situational awareness with a real-time, geographic representation of high-impact ocean tides and river depths. In addition, hourly forecasts of ocean water levels give critical guidance on where large-scale weather patterns will be having an impact on tide levels in the future. This pinpoints specific times of day where a normal tide may be higher than expected due to strong storms and winds. Wave height: Not only should an official have the technology that indicates exactly when high tide will occur and its level, but he or she should also have an understanding of wave conditions during that time to better predict how communities and infrastructure may be impacted. High waves may have little impact if they are predicted to occur during low tide. These same high waves occurring during a higher than normal tide may have a much higher impact and will direct the size and type of barriers needed, if any. The importance of weather forecasting Current technologies can combine real-time data with accurate weather forecasting to give officials an even more powerful tool for storm preparedness: An operator can use a real-time map of water conditions and overlay an hourly forecast to achieve optimal awareness of when the water levels, tides and wave heights will coincide with high-impact weather. For example, a large amount of rain in the forecast, coupled with expected high wave heights, is relayed in one, integrated tool that helps managers better prepare for increasingly volatile and severe weather. The climate is changing, and with it the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, including floods. Managers must have a clear view of current circumstances in their territory, as well as an accurate understanding of how forecasted weather events will strengthen or mitigate the impact of severe weather. With an aggregated view of flooding parameters and integrated weather forecasts, resources can be mobilized more quickly, communities can receive more advanced warning, and managers can better protect people and infrastructure. Conclusion
  4. 4. Schneider Electric White Paper Revision 0 Page 4 IPCC, 2007, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html USGS, 2012, The Anatomy of Floods: The Causes and Developments of 2011’s Epic Flood Events, http://gallery.usgs.gov/videos/588#.UoJ5mhnnbIU Journal of Flood Risk Management, 2013, Estimating monetary damages from flooding in the United States under a changing climate, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jfr3.12043/pdf Nature, 2002, Increasing risk of great floods in a changing climate http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v415/n6871/full/415514a.html ©2013SchneiderElectric.Allrightsreserved. Resources About the author Jeremy Duensing is a product manager for the Weather division of Schneider Electric, focusing on constantly creating new and innovative solutions that help customers make better weather decisions. Duensing holds a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He joined Schneider Electric in 1998 as part of the company’s weather forecasting team, and is responsible for Schneider Electric’s forecast verification program.

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