EC Session I: Sustainability and Resilience to Extreme Weather/Climate Events: End User and Stakeholder Needs



Infrastructure sustainability (transportation, communications, healthcare, other), resource planning, and emergency preparedness in case of extreme weather and climate events are high priority concerns for city government authorities as well as for service providers. The discussion will revolve around obtaining perspectives on community needs, understanding of current issues and challenges, with a view toward how ESIP can play a role in supporting various local, state and federal government activities by facilitating access to actionable information for use by stakeholders in proactive planning and disaster response. 



·       NASA SERVIR Operations: End User Data and Information Needs – Francisco Delgado Olivares and Dan Irwin (NASA SERVIR)

·       City Planning for Sustainability and Resilience to Extreme Weather/Climate Events - Washington DC District Department of the Environment

·       Decision-support tools for Extreme Weather and Climate Events in the Northeast United States - Shailendra Kumar (E2C), Mark Lowery (NY State), and Adam Whelchel (TNC)


Energy & Climate WG Breakout Session 1,  Jan. 8, 2013 (attendance ~22)

----- First Presentation -----

"NASA SERVIR Operations: End User Data and Information Needs" – Presented by Francisco Delgado Olivares and Dan Irwin (NASA SERVIR)

Francisco discussed the NASA/USAID SERVIR program. SERVIR operates in 3 regions:

  1. Mesoamerica: CATHALC (Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean)
  2. Africa: RCMRD (Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development)
  3. Himalaya: (ICIMOD International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development )

The overall mission of SERVIR is to improve environment management and resilience to climate change by strengthening capacity of local government and other key stakeholders to integrate Earth observations into decision making.

One example noted was a project for monitoring frost on agricultural crops and providing early warning in Kenya.


A Results Framework has been devised (2010) which encompasses intermediate results responding to demand for better information, regional hubs and networks, and an emphasis on enhancing the supply of user-tailored tools and information.

3 intermediate results:
1)Demand: use of better information; 2)Supply access to high quality, user-tailored tools and information; 3)Regional hubs and networks established and functioning.

Framework established to clarify division between supply, demand, and capacity building. Also, identify strengths ad skills required to fulfill intermediate results.

Reaching out to all potential users is a challenge in these regions, since there are multiple actors involved in decision making with various degrees of capacity.


The two agencies involved here have different strategic goals, but the emphasis of SERVIR is on user-tailored tools.


A consulting firm, DAI, working with SERVIR, has the role of  strengthening user engagement, providing impacts evaluation, increasing sustainability, communications, new hubs, and small grant programs.


A new SERVIR hub will open soon focused on the lower Mekong river basin, based in Bangkok.


User engagement enhancements point to the need for a SERVIR global products catalog. This has relevance to the DSTCCP effort within ESIP.


An outcome based planning model is being constructed by SERVIR. This would see a shift from product perspective to outcome perspective. There is a need to assess progress at the multiple hubs.

Task 1: user engagement in three key areas
-Africa, Himalayas, Global
Case studies were emphasized as a great way to learn how users used the info and how to better serve users in future

Key aspects of users engagement for SERVIR
-Strengthening capacity of regional hubs
-Implementation of long term outcome-based planning
-Product life cycle approach for new products and services
-Supporting user-driven communities of practice

SERVIR proposed outcome-based planning model
-Focus on long-term result; what customers want to see.
-Shift in perspective from short to long-term outcomes
-Considers: inputs (what SERVIR invests) and outputs (what SERVIR does and who they reach). Output are assessed, stakeholders engaged, data collected and analyzed, reports generated and plans created.
-Assessment and planning foster short, medium and long term goals

"Product life cycle" Business approach
-Applies consistent set of business solutions to support collaborative creation, management, dissemination and use of product definition information.
-6 phases: ID/assess opportunities & problems; definition of end users and outcome; definition of user requirements; planning, preparation of specifications and designs; work performance and quality assurance; delivery acceptance;
Example: Central American gov't needed help to ID where algal blooms were going to occur along coastline. Asked what resources were available to ID these blooms. In a matter of days, a daily map using MODIS satellite data was produced showing chlorophyll level in percent.

Audience Questions:

Q: More examples of successes and engaging with community.

Some SERVIR case studies were described by Francisco, e.g.:

  1. Mesoamerica project: Harmful algal blooms using satellite resources. Need was conveyed by end-users and SERVIR developed a solution in days.
  2. Forest fires in Mesosamerica. SERVIR approached Univ. of Maryland to get access to fire hotspot data produced daily from MODIS thermal anomalies. This yielded a significantly reduced time lag for detection to 24 hours or less which met specific need of national entities that need these data for decision making. Guatemala has moved to predictive efforts using these satellite data and local information on biomass to anticipate regions where the damage will be worse.

Q: Timeliness of data? End-users: who are they?

  1. Local governments are one example, but users are also  at the level of  local farmers. Access to the information is an issue. SERVIR has helped local governments communicate with the end-user via various means, like SMS messages.

Q: Sustainability of these projects: successes?

  1. The regional organizations have preceded the interaction with SERVIR. So, they can take over the projects. The hubs and regional orgs can carry onwards. Yet, this is still a big challenge. The value of product (if indeed it is found valuable) leads to organizations finding a way to sustain operations using alternate funding.

----- Second Presentation ------
"Decision Support Tools for Extreme Weather and Climate Events in the Northeast United States" presented by Shailendra Kumar.

Information needed to provide decision support for climate change:
Climate change scenarios, social & economic conditions, and state of knowledge and uncertainty of these changes.

A. Comprehensive adaptation planning
-ICLEI global cities initiative ( a local government climate change adaptation toolkit that followed King County, Washington's participative planning process.

B. Planning Integration
-State and local governments attempting to account for climate change in: master plans, waterfront plans, reconstruction plans (NY state, 2013 (post Sandy)), plans focused on specific assets or issues.
-Tools and resources: comprehensive matrix of tools in the NCA-NE technical report; NOAA's Digital coast program (ID vulnerabilities, project extent of storm surge, etc); EPA's Climate Ready Water Utilities program

The proposed ESIP extreme events catalog effort could take advantage of this effort.


Other Examples: 

Coastal resilience tool (led by The Nature Conservancy)

Maryland: Coast-smart initiative, iMap program, Coastal Atlas
-Collaboration with Maryland Dept Natural Resources, USGS, NOAA, etc. Gives an interactive map with what sea level rise impacts will be realized in coastal communities.

Delaware: Sea level Rise initiative
-Used Delaware and Christina rivers flooding during locally heavy rains as a proxy for Sea Level Rise in the model

Social-economic vulnerability is an emerging topic, using various tools like HAZUS and metrics like the social vulnerability index (SOVI).


Uncertainties in forecasts are a very significant issue. Translating data into actionable information is a huge challenge. New York City is a leader in this, but was still rather unprepared for Hurricane Sandy.

New Jersey: Coastal Management Program
-Coastal resources and ecosystem conservation
-Adaptation planning pilots in several locations
-Post Pilot: "Getting to Resilience" program
-Post Sandy program

NY State and Connecticut: Coastal Resilience (Framework, Processes, Tools)
-Provides data and models to calculate maximum envelope of water
-Includes ecological analysis and social/economic vulnerability
-Social Vulnerability Index (SOVI) considers populations, infrastructure and facilities

Example: Coastal Resilience Long Island Sound (Guilford, CT): Salt Marsh and Social Vulnerability
-Can identify where maximum impacts are likely to be felt as sea levels rise. Displayed in a Google earth like interface (polygons overlaid on a satellite surface background)

Maine and New Hampshire: Coastal Adaptation to Sea Level Rise Tool (COAST)
-Assess cost/benefit of no action vs mitigation actions when sea level rises a given amount. Allows governments to see the "tradeoff" between doing nothing and performing mitigation work.

*All states doing something different - no standard exists. Awareness level is rising. Even individual cites are doing their own thing*

New York State: NYS2010
-Risk zone maps
-Climate change monitoring and modeling
-Vulnerability - more objective method of estimating rather than a single model or model ensembles
-Green infrastructure tradeoffs

PlaNYC2030: Approach for Increasing Resilience
-Work with policymakers to:
 -Identify key issues
-Build resiliency (Post-Sandy) (Impacts analyzed; 2020 and 2050 plans; FEMA maps updated; Asset Damage model developed; NYC panel on climate change)

Northeast Coastal Communities: Sea Level Rise Tool for Sandy Recovery
-Developed by NOAA, USACE, FEMA and USGCRP
-"Sea Level Rise Map Services"
-"Flood Elevation Calculator"

Focus on adaptation planning for hazards from: Sea level rise, enhanced storm surge, heat exposure, shoreline erosion and river flooding

Audience Questions:
Q: Great lakes is the longest US coast line (outside of Alaska). Here it is the drop in water level (not rise) that is a key issue. How can these tools be adapted for this region? 
-Yes similar tools can be developed from the existing ones but must be modified for local conditions.

Q: Compare programs/lessons learned between different states? Do states talk to each other?
-Not always! The ESIP tools catalog could facilitate this interaction. An interface should be developed to facilitate this intercomparison of tools. Also, many of these tools are not shared with the public so everyday people do not know they exist.

Q; Have we connected with the military to share and use their data?
-There is not enough interaction within the military much less outside of the military. The NAVY is the most collaborative...
-SERDP (Research and development for military on climate change)

Comment: Decision making under uncertainty & risk: Insurance companies are integral to this issue and obviously have an economic reason for their interest.

----- Ending Comments -----
National Climate Assessment identified that there are many fragmented efforts to identify and predict effects of climate change but little collaboration exists.

Education and training is required to understand what these tools can and cannot do.

Being able to plan for evacuations and response. But, have anomalous storms that will not be picked up by climate models, the driving force behind these sea level rise models. Cannot account for all kinds/tracks/intensity of storms but can reduce risk.

Kumar, S.; Eckman, R.; EC Session I: Sustainability and Resilience to Extreme Weather/Climate Events: End User and Stakeholder Needs; Winter Meeting 2014. ESIP Commons , October 2013