weather and natural disasters

Michael A. MĂ©ndez Delivers 2021 David Lecture on Climate Justice

On October 14, Dr. Michael A. MĂ©ndez delivered the 2021 Henry and Bryna David Lecturer. The annual lecture is a program of National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) Division of Behavioral and Social Science and Education (DBASSE). A professor of Environmental Planning and Policy from the University of California-Irvine, Dr. MĂ©ndez spoke on the prevalence of climate-related disasters, specifically the wildfires affecting California. In his lecture, MĂ©ndez describes his research that finds the negative impacts of climate disasters to public health, housing, and employment disproportionately affect low-income and marginalized populations, citing some of the conditions endured by undocumented…

New National Academies Guidance Offers Resources for Serving Homeless Communities During Disasters and COVID-19

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has published new guidance on Addressing Disaster Vulnerability Among Homeless Populations During COVID-19. The guidance is intended to help policymakers support homeless populations before, during, and after a disaster in the context of COVID-19. According to the guidance, “Understanding the unique challenges of disaster preparedness among homeless communities and the strain on support services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is critical for effectively planning for and carrying out emergency services and sheltering for homeless populations in the context of COVID-19 and disasters.” The…

New Guidance Advises Communities on Planning for Natural Disasters During COVID-19

The Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN), a project of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), has released a new set of guidance on Emergency Evacuation and Sheltering During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which details how findings from existing research on evacuation behavior, social responses to disaster, and risk communication can be applied to emergency management in the era of COVID-19. The guidance identifies strategies for updating evacuation plans, sheltering operations, and risk communication practices in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The full guidance is available on the National Academies website.

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Research Needs for Coping with Compound Crises

On September 30, the Environment Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on “Coping with Compound Crises: Extreme Weather, Social Injustice, and a Global Pandemic.” The hearing featured the testimony of Dr. Roxane Cohen Silver, Professor of Psychological Science, Medicine, and Public Health, University of California, Irvine; and Dr. Samantha Montano, Assistant Professor of Emergency Management, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, each who spoke about the need for rapid federal research funding to support social research in the immediate aftermath of disasters and other crises. Members of the committee from both sides of the aisle, including Environment…

National Academies Releases Consensus Study on Assessing Morbidity and Mortality After Disasters

The National Academies has published a new consensus study report: A Framework for Assessing Mortality and Morbidity after Large-Scale Disasters. The Congressionally-mandated study was sponsored by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and was intended to identify ways to better understand the scope of death and injury caused by large-scale disasters (both natural and human-caused). Among the report’s recommendations are adopting a uniform framework across federal agencies for data collection and adopting methods that distinguish direct and indirect deaths resulting from disasters. While the study commenced prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 provided a case study illustrating the needs described in the…

National Academies Holds Webinar on COVID-19 and Extreme Environmental Events

The National Academies Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Board on Environmental Change and Society and Resilient America Roundtable convened a webinar on May 13 to discuss the social science aspects of potential emergencies that compound the current COVID-19 crisis with environmental hazards, such as fires, hurricanes, flooding, and heatwaves. The event featured experts from federal government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as universities, and nonprofit and community organizations. Panelists discussed the challenges of responding to emergencies and natural disasters amidst a pandemic and the need for social…

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Responding to Extreme Weather Events, Highlights Social & Behavioral Science Solutions

On September 26, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SST) held a hearing on understanding, forecasting, and communicating about extreme weather and other events related to climate change. Witnesses included J. Marshall Shepard, Director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program in the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia; James Done, Project Scientist and Willis Research Fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research; Adam Sobel, Professor of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Director and Chief Scientist of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate at Columbia University; Berrien Moore, Director of the National Weather Center at the…

Disaster Researchers Brandi Gilbert and Nnenia Campbell Answer “Why Social Science?”

The latest Why Social Science? guest post comes from Brandi Gilbert of the Urban Institute and Nnenia Campbell of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who write about what social science research related to children and older adults has taught us about building community resilience and enhancing recovery after disasters. Read it here and subscribe. Back to this issue’s table of contents.

NIH Studying Impacts of Recent Hurricanes on Health Risks and Resilience

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced eight awards that will support researchers examining the health impacts of hurricanes Maria and Irma on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2017. The grants, which are funded through the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), will focus on the impacts of psychosocial stressors related to the recent hurricanes, “such as grief, separation from home and loved ones, loss of income, and limited access to medical care.” More information and a full list of the grantees are available on the NIH website. Back to this issue’s table…

National Academies Calls for Better Integration of Social and Behavioral Science into Weather Enterprise

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has released a new consensus report, Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Sponsored by the National Weather Service and the Office of Weather and Air Quality within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Highway Administration, the report acknowledges a “growing recognition that a host of social and behavioral factors determine how we prepare for, observe, predict, respond to, and are impacted by weather hazards” and that research and findings from the social and behavioral sciences must be better incorporated into the systems we use…

NSF Releases Video on Social Science Research’s Importance to Disaster Preparedness

The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a video on September 15 highlighting the contributions of the social sciences in disaster preparedness and response. The video explains that together with improvements in the science of forecasting, social science has helped more effectively communicate the potential risk of natural disasters and more effectively respond after disasters hit. The video is among a suite of new resource posted to the NSF website highlighting the many contributions of basic science to everyday life. Back to this issue’s table of contents.

NSF Releases Dear Colleague Letter on Proposals Related to Hurricane Harvey

The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a Dear Colleague letter on September 1 encouraging submissions of proposals that seek to address challenges related to Hurricane Harvey. This includes proposals that address how to better prepare for storms, the human aspects of natural disasters, improving emergency response, and ways to reduce future damage. Proposals may be submitted as rapid response research grants, early-concept grants, or supplemental funding to existing grants. More information can be found here. Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Alliance for Integrative Approaches to Extreme Environmental Events Accepting Nominations for Steering Committee

The Alliance for Integrative Approaches to Extreme Environmental Events, a new organization of stakeholders seeking to improve our understanding, prediction of, and response to extreme environmental events, is soliciting applications and nominations for individuals to serve as inaugural members of its steering committee. Read on for more details on how the Alliance and how to submit nominations. Applications are due on February 28, 2017.

Community Launches the Alliance for Integrative Approaches to Extreme Environmental Events

The framework for an informal public-private partnership, involving a wide array of partner-stakeholders focused on reducing societal harm from extreme environmental events, was announced today, Jan. 24, 2017, during the Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Seattle, Washington. Known as The Alliance for Integrative Approaches to Extreme Environmental Events, this community-initiated and community-governed framework will bring together a broad group of collaborators– including researchers, operational practitioners, federal agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, non-profit organizations, philanthropists and entrepreneurs – to improve holistic understanding, prediction of and response to severe and hazardous weather. In addition, the Alliance…

New Social Science-Extreme Weather Research Alliance Being Formed, Input Sought

A new public-private research partnership is taking shape, looking specifically at the interdisciplinary and highly complex challenges associated with extreme weather events. The Alliance for Social-Behavioral Systems and Extreme Environmental Events (The Alliance) is the product of several years of community workshops, reports and other discussions on ways in which to bring the social, behavioral, and economic sciences to bear on helping society better “understand, prepare for, mitigate, and respond and adapt to extreme environmental events.” The most recent workshop, held in May 2015, served as an impetus for The Alliance as it is now conceptualized. It will be formally…

New Academies Study on Advancing Social and Behavioral Science within the Weather Enterprise Seeks Committee Members

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has announced a new study, “Advancing Social and Behavioral Science Research and Application within the Weather Enterprise,” and is seeking nominees to serve on the study committee. The goal of the study is to “to develop a framework for generating and applying social and behavioral science (SBS) research within the context of meteorology, weather forecasting, and weather preparedness and response.” The Academies is particularly interested in candidates with expertise in the following fields: weather forecasting, meteorological research, behavioral economics, communication research, decision making, risk perception, assessment and communication, human factors and product…

Gilbert White Lecture Focuses on Reducing Losses from Natural Hazards

The National Academies’ Board on Earth Sciences and Resources held its annual Gilbert F. White Lecture in the Geographical Sciences on December 4. Susan Cutter, Distinguished Carolina Professor at the University of South Carolina (and a past president of COSSA), delivered the lecture, which focused on “Why More Knowledge Is Not Reducing Natural Hazard Losses.” She explained that despite huge increases in our knowledge of the physical processes and social forces that interact during natural disasters, losses from such events have only grown.


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