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Lowering Disaster Risk With Emerging Technology


Intensified Storms and Altered Weather Patterns

According to recent studies, human activities have had an influence on climate change, which is now impacting both weather patterns and storm intensity. Recent storm intensities have broken records, including Hurricane Patricia in the Pacific, which made landfall near Cuixmala, Mexico, and had a central pressure of 25.96 inches or 879 millibars and approximate 200 mile-per-hour winds.

More recently, Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji as a Category 5 storm, with 180 mile-per-hour winds and a central pressure of 915 millibars, earning its place in record books as the strongest tropical cyclone ever in the Southern Hemisphere.

Climate change is altering more than just storm intensity. It is changing weather patterns, which is affecting rainfall amounts, intensities, and locations. This is creating extended droughts, unprecedented flooding, and heat waves, the latter of which causes some of the highest deaths among at-risk populations.

At-Risk Populations

As storms intensify, populations are placed at higher risk due to the increasing damage and destruction that these hazards cause.

Other factors also affect the risk levels of vulnerable populations, including the shift of a burgeoning world population to urban locations, with many of these migrations occurring along coastlines and within low lying areas prone to flooding. Also, the urban poor often live on marginal, at-risk lands, further increasing their risk to natural hazards.

Recently, The World Bank cautioned that "drivers like climate change and shifting demographics are increasing global vulnerability to natural disasters-particularly in low-and middle-income countries." This places them at an even higher risk from flooding by rising sea levels and intensified storms that drop torrential rains.

Current statistics indicate that low-income countries account for almost fifty percent of all natural hazard disaster fatalities, placing great demands on humanitarian aid. The current rate of disaster response and recovery is unsustainable for the long-term and risks bankrupting nations.

Technology Might be the Answer

To help policy makers develop and implement long-term policies to make their nations more resilient, they need to know what risks they are facing as climate change and shifting demographics impact their countries.

The World Bank believes that developing technology that is innovative, smart, and fast, along with providing access to it, is the answer. The World Bank Group seeks to help provide innovative analytical tools and increase the access to them through its Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) arm.

Current projects within the GFDRR, such as the Open Data for Resilience Initiative, have provided access for more than one million people to information such as data tracking, urban development monitoring, the ability to assess the risk of regional flooding, and rainfall projection amounts.

A New Visualization Platform, Coming Soon

A new platform for helping nations assess risk to make better informed decisions through visualization, will be available soon. The new platform, known as ThinkHazard! will be offered through an open platform that offers users "a non-technical interpretation of global hazards, empowering non-experts to determine the level of natural hazards in their locality and encouraging greater incorporation of risk management into project planning and design."

The hope is that by making this data available to low and middle income nations with reduced funding levels for risk mitigation and climate change adaptation, they will be better equipped to make long-term, risk-reducing policies that will help ensure sustainability and enhance resilience capabilities.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.