8/30/2017 5 Comments
My piece on the Conversation: After Harvey, Texans will think differently about hurricanes
I just published an analysis piece on Hurricane Harvey and its policy implications on the Conversation.
Here is the last paragraph, "Given the devastation Harvey has incurred among coastal residents in Texas, we expect that these communities will be shell-shocked in the foreseeable future. This heightened risk perception will translate into adaption and mitigation actions. If another big storm hits Texas in the near future, residents will be more ready. New Orleans, where local officials issued detailed instructions last week about preparing for Harvey, is a perfect example for Houston to follow."
The wind has diminished. Now the great threat of flooding is looming over Houston as unprecedented heavy rainfall is pounding this area. In order to cope with flooding, there are some precautionary measures for coastal residents to adopt. I am re-posting two of my old blog entries here:
"One effective precautionary measure would be to purchase flood insurance. In reality, though, only a portion of these coastal residents who live in the imminent threats of floods have flood insurance. Naturally, we start to scratch our heads and wonder, "what drives people to buy flood insurance?"
Driven by this question, my co-authors and I analyzed the Gulf Coast Climate Change survey data merged with contextual data, and made several important findings on individual voluntary flood insurance purchase behaviors. The results are published in the journal: Water Research
These findings include:
1. Flood risks in FEMA flood map affect the voluntary purchase of flood insurance.
2. Voluntary behavior is influenced by perceptions of flood-related risks.
3. Intensity of the local flood events in the past affects the voluntary behavior.
4. Social factors especially income significantly affect the voluntary behavior. "
"Purchasing flood insurance may relieve financial burden for home owners after a big storm hits. With the deeply troubled National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), it is sensible for home owners to think of alternatives. By utilizing original survey data merged with contextual data on flood risks, my coauthors and I have investigated the determinants of coastal residents' support for two adaptation policies: incentives for relocation and funding for educational programs for emergency planning and evacuation. The major finding of this study is that perceptions of flood-related risks plays an essential role mediating the contextual flood risks and adaptation policies. The contextual risks, indicated by distance from the coast, maximum wind speed and peak height of storm surge from the last hurricane landfall, and percentage of high-risk flood zone per county, do not directly exert influence on policy support. Instead, these contextual risks impact one's adaptation policy support through risk perceptions. This finding implies the significance of risk perceptions and highlights the need for effective and accurate risk communication. This study has also been published on Water Research. "
As Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, is about to make a landfall in Texas, I am re-posting an old blog entry of perceptions of hurricane strength.
"Hurricane Matthew has left at least 1000 Haitian dead, tens of thousands homeless, and millions in dire need of assistance. In the U.S., it has led to 19 deaths, left millions without power, and caused massive floods in North Carolina.
We are reminded once again how powerful and destructive natural hazards can be. People in Haiti will face a long recovery. Billions of economic damages will be inflicted by Hurricane Matthew in southeastern U.S. The vivid memory of this hurricane may stay with many people who have witnessed its monstrous presence at first hand. This once-in-a-life experience may also determine many people's judgments on the changing pattern of hurricane strength.
My coauthors and I in our paper on perceptions of changing hurricane strength found that maximum wind speed from the last landfall is the most powerful predictor of an individual's perception of changes in hurricane strength among the characteristics associated with the last hurricane landfall (Shao et al. 2017). Coastal residents who experienced higher maximum wind speeds are more likely to think hurricanes are becoming stronger. It appears that maximum wind speed tends to leave the deepest impression in coastal residents' memories, which includes impressive surf along the beachfront, as well as swaying and felled trees, and flying debris. Winds can be very destructive. The Saffir-Simpson categorization of hurricanes is therefore based on wind speeds. However, the biggest threat to life and property is actually water, not wind. Storm surge is a bigger contributor to deaths compared to winds. Super Storm Sandy is a perfect example. It was identified as a Category 1 storm. However, its enormous size and high storm surge had incurred tremendous amounts of property damages in the densely populated east coast.
So, once again, there is a mismatch between perceived and actual risks.
Shao, W., Xian, S., Keim, B. D., Goidel, K., and Lin, N. 2017 “Understanding perceptions of changing hurricane strength along the U.S. Gulf Coast” International Journal of Climatology. DOI:10.1002/joc.4805
I am honored to be selected to be an Early-Career Research Fellow by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program.
Here is the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's Press Release.