Impact forecasting to support emergency management of natural hazards

You recently published an interesting review article titled “Impact Forecasting to Support Emergency Management of Natural Hazards”. What it is about and what are the key findings ?

This article was a joint effort led by Bruno Merz (GFZ Potsdam), bringing together experts in hazard and hazard impact forecasting, including floods, wind and rainstorms, earthquakes, volcanoes, heat and drought. We reviewed the forecasting and early warning systems that are currently in place or being developed to reduce impacts of these damaging extreme events on agriculture, societal services, industry and human health and welfare. Our aim was to understand for which extreme events an impact forecast system or early warning system is currently in place in addition to a traditional hazard forecast system, knowing that a forecast of an extreme event itself often does not lead to the same action on the ground as when a forecast of its expected impact is available.

Read full original article: here

How would you describe impact forecasting and how does it differ from today’s natural hazard warning systems ?

A hazard forecast is a forecast of the physical event (e.g., a drought) while an impact forecast aims to predict the impact of this event (e.g., crop losses). For many hazards, there are currently only limited systems in place that provide information beyond the hazard forecast itself, that is, much needed information on potential impacts. Some of the most advanced systems are available for earthquakes, where measures preventing impacts are in place in several countries through improved building standards or emergency braking of trains. Heatwaves also often have advanced early warning systems, but these are generally limited to places that have experienced heatwaves in the past. An example is the 2018 European heatwave, which caused significantly fewer fatalities than the 2003 heatwave, although it was similarly extreme. Warning systems and emergency response measures had been set up after the 2003 event, leading to smaller impacts in 2018. However, the increasing frequency and magnitude of heatwaves extend the reach of this type of extreme event to newly exposed areas that do not yet have warning systems in place, with major impacts, as could for example be seen during the heatwave in Canada in 2021. 


Could you explain the added value of a natural hazard warning system that would include impact forecasting ?

As an example, forecasting the inundation area for a tsunami is part of hazard forecasting. However, a sole forecast of the tsunami event does not provide information about its potential damage, and it does not provide information for the authorities and population of the affected area on how to respond to the predicted threat. In order to provide an impact forecast, the information on the inundation area will have to be combined with exposure and vulnerability information. This information includes both physical and socioeconomic factors, such as affected critical infrastructure, number and location of potentially damaged buildings, expected number of fatalities and displaced people, and financial loss resulting from the hazard. This information will allow a governing body to issue specific warnings to minimize damage to critical infrastructure and — in the best case — to avoid fatalities. 


Who could benefit from learning more about this ?

The main benefit will be felt by the practitioners, from the people in charge of civil protection at the national, regional, and communal level down to the single individual. Especially in the light of climate change and the increased exposure of humans to extreme events, for example through the expansion of human settlements into previously sparsely inhabited regions, it is important for governing bodies at all levels to be aware of extreme events and their impacts, and which measures could be implemented to avoid fatalities and damage to infrastructure. Impact-based warnings help citizens to make better-informed decisions when facing weather extremes.


On a more personal note, could you tell us why you feel your research is relevant to climate change mitigation and adaptation ?

Climate change drastically increases our exposure to extreme events, especially those extremes that are made more frequent or more severe with climate change. Climate change also increases the probability of compound events, that is, hazards that occur in combination, such as we are for example seeing when a pandemic is combined with climate change impacts such as wildfires and heatwaves, which leads to increased pressure on hospitals. While adaptation to climate change is crucial, extremes are by their very nature often unanticipated and can therefore cause significant damage. Adaptation to an upward trend, as we are observing with climate change, therefore has to continuously evolve, which is considerably more difficult to manage than adapting to extremes in a steady climate. It is therefore crucial to mitigate climate change, meaning that we have to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

Profile photo credit: Selina Betschart, ETHZ

While adaptation to climate change is crucial, extremes are by their very nature often unanticipated and can therefore cause significant damage. Adaptation to an upward trend, as we are observing with climate change, therefore has to continuously evolve, which is considerably more difficult to manage than adapting to extremes in a steady climate.

Daniela Domeisen, Associate Professor for Atmospheric Processes at the Institute for Earth Surface Dynamics, UNIL

Daniela Domeisen joined the Université de Lausanne as an Associate Professor for Atmospheric Processes at the Institute for Earth Surface Dynamics in August 2021.

She studied physics at ETH Zurich and completed a Master in Climate and Society at Columbia University in New York. In 2012, she obtained her doctorate in climate physics and chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a mini-MBA at Harvard.
She continued her career with a postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University and at the University of Hamburg. Then, she worked at MarexSpectron, an international commodity broker in London, as a research analyst. She then took on a role as an assistant professor at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel and at the Christian Albrecht University of Kiel, where she led the group “Atmospheric Dynamics and Predictability”.
Daniela Domeisen eventually returned to ETH Zurich, where she was granted an FNS professorship and an ERC Starting Grant as an assistant professor.
Daniela Domeisen is interested in connecting the theory of atmospheric fluid dynamics with weather and climate predictability. Her main contributions are related to the understanding of vertical coupling processes within the atmosphere, interactions between the tropics and the extratropics, and the improvement of long-range forecasts at scales of weeks and months. Her current research aims at using forecasting methods to improve our understanding of the atmosphere.

The original article “Impact Forecasting to Support Emergency Management of Natural Hazards” was published in the Reviews of Geophysics Volume 58, Issue 4 and is a joint effort led by Bruno Merz, bringing together following experts: Christian Kuhlicke, Michael Kunz, Massimiliano Pittore, Andrey Babeyko, David N. Bresch ,Daniela I. V. Domeisen, Frauke Feser, Inga Koszalka, Heidi Kreibich, Florian Pantillon, Stefano Parolai, Joaquim G. Pinto, Heinz Jürgen Punge, Eleonora Rivalta, Kai Schröter, Karen Strehlow, Ralf Weisse, Andreas Wurpts.

Read full original article: here

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