The University of Arizona

Climate and Weather Services for Disaster Management: A FEMA, NWS, and CLIMAS Collaboration | CLIMAS

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Climate and Weather Services for Disaster Management: A FEMA, NWS, and CLIMAS Collaboration

Climate and Weather Services for Disaster Management: A FEMA, NWS, and CLIMAS Collaboration

Lead Investigator:  

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) plays a critical role in helping land, water, and coastal managers prepare for and respond to diverse weather- and climate-driven extreme events. Challenges to accessing, interpreting, and disseminating diverse climate and weather (C&W) information, however, limit FEMA’s use of this information, which can impede pre-positioning resources in high-risk areas, delay advanced warnings, and spur misunderstanding. Strategic partnerships that link information producers and consumers and provide opportunities for co-developing useful C&W information can help agencies like FEMA better fulfill their mandate to safeguard life and property. This climate services case study examines the process of developing strategic partnerships, communication strategies, and relevant C&W information to support FEMA’s hazards monitoring efforts in Arizona, Nevada, and California.

This study investigates the end-to-end process of decision support and will be conducted within a framework advocated by the National Research Council, including: (1) assessing FEMA’s C&W information needs and gaps; (2) co-producing a decision support tool; and (3) measuring impacts, successes, and limitations of the decision-support tool, engagement process, and partnership. The objectives are to better understand how to provide climate services and develop strategies that seamlessly transition from research to operations, while assessing the role of ‘boundary organizations’ (e.g. RISAs) in developing and mediating partnerships that advance climate services and long-term adaptation efforts.

A custom climate information system for FEMA led to the development of a ‘dashboard’ of flood risk information including the creation of flood impact and precipitation climatologies. A suite of custom climate maps (e.g. historical precipitation patterns, flood impacts) have also been developed to meet a FEMA-specified need. These maps will be operationally integrated into the dashboard to provide monthly guidance on historical flood risk.