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Article

Social Capital and Natural Hazards Governance  

Daniel P. Aldrich, Michelle A. Meyer, and Courtney M. Page-Tan

The impact of disasters continues to grow in the early 21st century, as extreme weather events become more frequent and population density in vulnerable coastal and inland cities increases. Against this backdrop of risk, decision-makers persist in focusing primarily on structural measures to reduce losses centered on physical infrastructure such as berms, seawalls, retrofitted buildings, and levees. Yet a growing body of research emphasizes that strengthening social infrastructure, not just physical infrastructure, serves as a cost-effective way to improve the ability of communities to withstand and rebound from disasters. Three distinct kinds of social connections, including bonding, bridging, and linking social ties, support resilience through increasing the provision of emergency information, mutual aid, and collective action within communities to address natural hazards before, during, and after disaster events. Investing in social capital fosters community resilience that transcends natural hazards and positively affects collective governance and community health. Social capital has a long history in social science research and scholarship, particularly in how it has grown within various disciplines. Broadly, the term describes how social ties generate norms of reciprocity and trust, allow collective action, build solidarity, and foster information and resource flows among people. From education to crime, social capital has been shown to have positive impacts on individual and community outcomes, and research in natural hazards has similarly shown positive outcomes for individual and community resilience. Social capital also can foster negative outcomes, including exclusionary practices, corruption, and increased inequality. Understanding which types of social capital are most useful for increasing resilience is important to move the natural hazards field forward. Many questions about social capital and natural hazards remain, at best, partially answered. Do different types of social capital matter at different stages of disaster—e.g., mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery? How do social capital’s effects vary across cultural contexts and stratified groups? What measures of social capital are available to practitioners and scholars? What actions are available to decision-makers seeking to invest in the social infrastructure of communities vulnerable to natural hazards? Which programs and interventions have shown merit through field tests? What outcomes can decision-makers anticipate with these investments? Where can scholars find data sets on resilience and social capital? The current state of knowledge about social capital in disaster resilience provides guidance about supporting communities toward more resilience.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance in China  

Timothy Sim and Jun Lei Yu

China is a vast country frequently impacted by multiple natural hazards. All natural disasters have been reported in China, except volcanic eruptions. Almost every region in China is threatened by at least one type of natural hazard, and the rural areas are most vulnerable, with fewer resources and less developed disaster protective measures as well as lower levels of preparedness. In the first 30 years since its establishment in 1949, the Chinese government, hindered by resource constraints, encouraged local communities to be responsible for disaster response. As the country’s economy grew exponentially, after it opened its doors to the world in the late 1970s, China’s natural hazard governance (NHG) system quickly became more top-down, with the government leading the way for planning, coordinating, directing, and allocating resources for natural disasters. The development of China’s NHG is linked to the evolution of its ideologies, legislation system, and organizational structures for disaster management. Ancient China’s disaster management was undergirded by the ideology that one accepted one’s fate passively in the event of a disaster. In contemporary China, three ideologies guide the NHG: (a) passive disaster relief characterized by “help oneself by engaging in production”; (b) active disaster management characterized by “emergency management”; and (c) optimized disaster risk governance characterized by “multiple stakeholders working together.” Meanwhile, the NHG legislation and systems have become more open, transparent, and integrated one over time. Evidenced by the unprecedented growth of social organizations and private companies that engaged in disaster-related activities during and after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, discussions on integrating bottom-up capacities with the top-down system have increased recently. The Chinese government started purchasing services from social organizations and engaging them in building disaster model communities (officially known as “Comprehensive Disaster Reduction Demonstration Communities”) in recent years. These are, potentially, two specific ways for social organizations to contribute to China’s NHG system development.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance: An Overview of the Field  

Thomas A. Birkland

The field of natural hazards governance has changed substantially since the 1970s as the breadth and severity of natural hazards have grown. These changes have been driven by greater social scientific knowledge around natural hazards and disasters, and by changes in structure of natural hazards governance. The governance of issues relating to natural hazards is challenging because of the considerable complexity inherent in preparing for, responding to, mitigating, or recovering from disasters.

Article

The Production of Public Goods, Services, and Regulations for Natural Hazards  

Benoy Jacob

Hazard management scholars have begun to develop an important line of inquiry based upon the idea of governance. This growing body of work focuses attention on how the hazard functions that were formerly carried out by public entities are now frequently dispersed among diverse sets of actors that include not only governmental institutions but also private-sector and civil society entities. While informative, this body of work is unduly narrow. In particular, it takes an actor-centric approach to the governance of hazards. A more comprehensive view would account for the relationship between the governance system and the underlying good being produced. Generally speaking, governance systems emerge to manage—or produce—particular goods. Accordingly, these systems will vary depending upon the nature of the underlying good. Thus, while it is important to describe the actors that shape the governance system—as the extant literature does— the failure to recognize or appreciate the relationship between hazards governance and its underlying good is non-trivial. At minimum, without this information scholars and practitioners cannot reasonably assess the efficacy of the system. To better understand hazards governance, there needs to be a clear picture of what the governance system is producing, as well as the defining characteristics thereof. The good being produced by hazards governance systems is resilience, which is both non-rivalrous and non-excludable. Simply stated, resilience can be conceptualized as a public good. Moreover, governance systems in general are comprised of multiple subsystems. In the case of hazards management, the subsystems are mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Thus, the production technologies—aggregate effort, single best effort, and weakest link—will likely vary across the hazards governance system. Showing how these technologies potentially vary across hazard governance systems opens new and important lines of inquiry.

Article

Agenda Setting and Natural Hazards  

Rob A. DeLeo

Agenda setting describes the process through which issues are selected for consideration by a decision-making body. Among the myriad of issues policymakers can consider, few are more vexing than natural hazards. By aggregating (or threatening to aggregate) death, destruction, and economic loss, natural hazards represent a serious and persistent threat to public safety. While citizens rightfully expect policymakers to protect them, many of the policy challenges associated natural hazards fail to reach the crowded government agenda. This article reviews the literature on agenda setting and natural hazards, including the strain between preparing for emerging hazards, on the one hand, and responding to existing disasters, on the other hand. It considers the extent to which natural hazards pose distinctive difficulties during the agenda-setting process, focusing specifically on the dynamics of issue identification, problem definition, venue shopping, and interest group mobilization in natural hazard domains. It closes by suggesting a number of future avenues of agenda-setting research.

Article

Bureaucratic Policymaking on Natural Hazards  

Kristin Taylor

Bureaucratic politics, discretion, and decision-making for natural hazards governance present an important challenge of the use of autonomous bureaucratic discretion in the absence of political accountability. Understanding how these factors influence discretion and policymaking is of critical importance for natural hazards because the extent to which bureaucrats are able to make decisions means that communities will be safer in the face of disaster. But the extent to which they are held accountable for their decisions has significant implications for public risk and safety. Bureaucrats are unelected and cannot be voted out of office. There are two significant areas that remain regarding the use of bureaucratic discretion in natural hazards policy. One key area is to consider the increasing emphasis on networked disaster governance on bureaucratic discretion and decision-making. The conventional wisdom is that networks facilitate disaster management much better than command and control approaches. However, the extent to which the use of bureaucratic discretion is important in the implementation of natural hazard policy, particularly for mitigation and preparedness, remains an open area of research. The other key area is the influence of bureaucratic discretion and decision-making when communities learn after a disaster. The political nature of disasters and the professional expertise of public service professionals imply that in order to make communities safer, bureaucrats will have to use discretion to push forward more aggressive mitigation and preparedness policies. Bureaucratic discretion would need to be used for both political and policy purposes in order to engage in policy learning after disasters that produces a substantive change.

Article

The Economic Impact of Critical National Infrastructure Failure Due to Space Weather  

Edward J. Oughton

Space weather is a collective term for different solar or space phenomena that can detrimentally affect technology. However, current understanding of space weather hazards is still relatively embryonic in comparison to terrestrial natural hazards such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunamis. Indeed, certain types of space weather such as large Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are an archetypal example of a low-probability, high-severity hazard. Few major events, short time-series data, and the lack of consensus regarding the potential impacts on critical infrastructure have hampered the economic impact assessment of space weather. Yet, space weather has the potential to disrupt a wide range of Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) systems including electricity transmission, satellite communications and positioning, aviation, and rail transportation. In the early 21st century, there has been growing interest in these potential economic and societal impacts. Estimates range from millions of dollars of equipment damage from the Quebec 1989 event, to some analysts asserting that losses will be in the billions of dollars in the wider economy from potential future disaster scenarios. Hence, the origin and development of the socioeconomic evaluation of space weather is tracked, from 1989 to 2017, and future research directions for the field are articulated. Since 1989, many economic analyzes of space weather hazards have often completely overlooked the physical impacts on infrastructure assets and the topology of different infrastructure networks. Moreover, too many studies have relied on qualitative assumptions about the vulnerability of CNI. By modeling both the vulnerability of critical infrastructure and the socioeconomic impacts of failure, the total potential impacts of space weather can be estimated, providing vital information for decision makers in government and industry. Efforts on this subject have historically been relatively piecemeal, which has led to little exploration of model sensitivities, particularly in relation to different assumption sets about infrastructure failure and restoration. Improvements may be expedited in this research area by open-sourcing model code, increasing the existing level of data sharing, and improving multidisciplinary research collaborations between scientists, engineers, and economists.

Article

Glacier Retreat and Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs)  

Adam Emmer

Glacier retreat is considered to be one of the most obvious manifestations of recent and ongoing climate change in the majority of glacierized alpine and high-latitude regions throughout the world. Glacier retreat itself is both directly and indirectly connected to the various interrelated geomorphological/hydrological processes and changes in hydrological regimes. Various types of slope movements and the formation and evolution of lakes are observed in recently deglaciated areas. These are most commonly glacial lakes (ice-dammed, bedrock-dammed, or moraine-dammed lakes). “Glacial lake outburst flood” (GLOF) is a phrase used to describe a sudden release of a significant amount of water retained in a glacial lake, irrespective of the cause. GLOFs are characterized by extreme peak discharges, often several times in excess of the maximum discharges of hydrometeorologically induced floods, with an exceptional erosion/transport potential; therefore, they can turn into flow-type movements (e.g., GLOF-induced debris flows). Some of the Late Pleistocene lake outburst floods are ranked among the largest reconstructed floods, with peak discharges of up to 107 m3/s and significant continental-scale geomorphic impacts. They are also considered capable of influencing global climate by releasing extremely high amounts of cold freshwater into the ocean. Lake outburst floods associated with recent (i.e., post-Little Ice Age) glacier retreat have become a widely studied topic from the perspective of the hazards and risks they pose to human society, and the possibility that they are driven by anthropogenic climate change. Despite apparent regional differences in triggers (causes) and subsequent mechanisms of lake outburst floods, rapid slope movement into lakes, producing displacement waves leading to dam overtopping and eventually dam failure, is documented most frequently, being directly (ice avalanche) and indirectly (slope movement in recently deglaciated areas) related to glacial activity and glacier retreat. Glacier retreat and the occurrence of GLOFs are, therefore, closely tied, because glacier retreat is connected to: (a) the formation of new, and the evolution of existing, lakes; and (b) triggers of lake outburst floods (slope movements).

Article

Natural Hazards and Their Governance in Sub-Saharan Africa  

Dewald van Niekerk and Livhuwani David Nemakonde

The sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region, along with the rest of the African continent, is prone to a wide variety of natural hazards. Most of these hazards and the associated disasters are relatively silent and insidious, encroaching on life and livelihoods, increasing social, economic, and environmental vulnerability even to moderate events. With the majority of SSA’s disasters being of hydrometeorological origin, climate change through an increase in the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events is likely to exacerbate the situation. Whereas a number of countries in SSA face significant governance challenges to effectively respond to disasters and manage risk reduction measures, considerable progress has been made since the early 2000s in terms of policies, strategies, and/or institutional mechanisms to advance disaster risk reduction and disaster risk management. As such, most countries in SSA have developed/reviewed policies, strategies, and plans and put in place institutions with dedicated staffs and resources for natural hazard management. However, the lack of financial backing, limited skills, lack of coordination among sectors, weak political leadership, inadequate communication, and shallow natural hazard risk assessment, hinders effective natural hazard management in SSA. The focus here is on the governance of natural hazards in the sub-Saharan Africa region, and an outline of SSA’s natural hazard profile is presented. Climate change is increasing the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, thus influencing the occurrence of natural hazards in this region. Also emphasized are good practices in natural hazard governance, and SSA’s success stories are described. Finally, recommendations on governance arrangements for effective implementation of disaster risk reduction initiatives and measures are provided.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance in Nigeria  

Steve I. Onu

Nigeria, like many other countries in sub–Saharan Africa, is exposed to natural hazards and disaster events, the most prominent being soil and coastal erosion, flooding, desertification, drought, air pollution as a result of gas flaring, heat waves, deforestation, and soil degradation due to oil spillage. These events have caused serious disasters across the country. In the southeast region, flooding and gully erosion have led to the displacement of communities. In the Niger Delta region, oil exploration has destroyed the mangrove forests as well as the natural habitat for fishes and other aquatic species and flora. In northern Nigeria, desert encroachment, deforestation, and drought have adversely affected agricultural production, thereby threatening national food security. The federal government, through its agencies, has produced and adopted policies and enacted laws and regulations geared toward containing the disastrous effects of natural hazards on the environment. The federal government collaborates with international organizations, such as the World Bank, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations High Commission for Refugees UNHCR, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to address disaster-related problems induced by natural hazards. However, government efforts have not yielded the desired results due to interagency conflicts, corruption, low political will, and lack of manpower capacity for disaster management. There is a need for a good governance system for natural hazards prevention and reduction in the country. This will require inter-agency synergy, increased funding of agencies, capacity building, and public awareness/participation.

Article

The Governance of Flood Risk Management  

Jason Thistlethwaite and Daniel Henstra

Natural hazards are a complex governance problem. Managing the risks associated with natural hazards requires action at all scales—from household to national—but coordinating these nested responses to achieve a vertically cohesive course of action is challenging. Moreover, though governments have the legal authority and legitimacy to mandate or facilitate natural hazard risk reduction, non-governmental actors such as business firms, industry associations, research organizations and non-profit organizations hold much of the pertinent knowledge and resources. This interdependence demands horizontal collaboration, but coordinating risk reduction across organizational divides is fraught with challenges and requires skillful leadership. Flood risk management (FRM)—an integrated strategy to reduce the likelihood and impacts of flooding—demonstrates the governance challenge presented by natural hazards. By engaging stakeholders, coordinating public and private efforts, and employing a diversity of policy instruments, FRM can strengthen societal resilience, achieve greater efficiency, and enhance the legitimacy of decisions and actions to reduce flood risk. Implementing FRM, however, requires supportive flood risk governance arrangements that facilitate vertical and horizontal policy coordination by establishing strategic goals, negotiating roles and responsibilities, aligning policy instruments, and allocating resources.

Article

Nigeria Natural Hazard Governance: Institutional Perspective  

Rakiya Babamaaji, Halilu Shaba, Chiemeka Nsofor, Grace Mbaiorga, Aisha Musa, Vincent Owan, Olasunkanmi Okunola, Ege Chinyere A, and Godstime Kadir

Nigeria is affected by several types of natural disasters, such as floods, landslides, drought, pest invasion, gully erosion, coastal erosion, soil erosion, and storms, among others. The National Emergency Relief Agency was established in 1976 by the federal government purely as a relief organization focusing only on post disaster management to coordinate its disaster response activities. It later became the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), delegated with the primary responsibility for coordinating federal emergency preparedness, planning, management, and disaster assistance functions in the country. NEMA also has been delegated with the responsibility for establishing a disaster assistance policy. In this stewardship role, NEMA has the lead in developing and maintaining the National Disaster Response Plan. There have been significant strides made in the effort to clearly define policies and institutions and promote collaboration with critical national agencies and stakeholders and related international organizations. As such, an institutional perspective of the natural hazard governance structure in Nigeria became critical. The evolution of natural hazard governance in Nigeria also highlights the coordination and types of disasters as policy triggers. There is a legal framework of disaster management that empowered NEMA as the coordinating agency for disaster management in Nigeria, especially in collaborating with offices such as the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, the Surveyor General of the Federation, the National Space Research and Development Agency, and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency in areas of flood vulnerability mapping as well as international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and nongovernmental organizations. A review of the challenges in the implementation and management of policy and of the implementation of the natural hazard governance in Nigeria are critically important.

Article

Executive and Legislative Competition Over Natural Hazards Policies  

Deserai A. Crow

As with countless other policy areas, natural hazard policy can be viewed as a jurisdictional competition between executive and legislative branches. While policymaking supremacy is delegated to the legislative branch in constitutional democracies, the power over implementation, budgeting, and grant-making that executive agencies enjoy means that the executive branch wields considerable influence over outcomes in natural hazards policymaking. The rules that govern federal implementation of complex legislative policies put the implementing agency at the center of influence over how policy priorities play out in local, county, and state processes before, during, and after disasters hit. Examples abound related to this give-and-take between the legislative and executive functions of government within the hazards and disaster realm, but none more telling than the changes made to US disaster policy after September 11th, which profoundly affected natural hazards policy as well as security policy. The competition and potential for mismatch between legislative and executive priorities has been heightened since the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was reorganized under the Department of Homeland Security. While this may appear uniquely American, the primacy of terrorism and other security-related threats not only dwarfs natural hazards issues in the United States, but also globally. Among the most professionalized and powerful natural hazards and disaster agencies prior to 9/11, FEMA has seen its influence diminished and its access to decision-makers reduced. This picture of legislative and executive actors within the natural hazards policy domain who compete for supremacy goes beyond the role of FEMA and post-9/11 policy. Power dynamics associated with budgets, oversight and accountability, and relative power among executive agencies are ongoing issues important to understanding the competition for policy influence as natural hazards policy competes for attention, funding, and power within the broader domain of all-hazards policy.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance in Zambia  

Mitulo Silengo

Zambia, like many other developing nations, is grappling with the challenges of development in the context of climate change. The development–climate change–disaster nexus has emerged as one of the most intractable problems that countries such as Zambia are currently facing. The most common hazards are usually hydro-meteorological in nature. These are floods and droughts. Climate change is responsible for causing weather-related disasters and in making communities more vulnerable to the effects of disasters. Zambia, like many developing economies that are dependent on climate-sensitive sectors, such as agriculture and natural resources, is very vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In responding to the challenges of climate change, the government has developed adaptation strategies and plans. The Zambian government has made strides in aligning development planning with disaster risk management. The mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction has been outlined in the Zambia Vision 2030 and the National Development Plans. The National Climate Change Response Strategy was developed to respond to the challenges that climate change and variability pose on the Zambian economy. It offers a coordinated response to climate change issues in the country, envisaging Zambia as “a Prosperous Climate Change Resilient Economy.” The Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit under the Office of the Vice President is the institution responsible for disaster risk reduction and management in Zambia. It responds to natural, human-induced, and complex hazards. The legal framework for disaster risk management (DRM) in Zambia is provided by the Disaster Management Act No. 13 of 2010 (GRZ, 2010). Its provisions are operationalized by the Disaster Management Policy of 2015 and the Disaster Management Manual of 2015. As a way of domesticating the Sendai Framework, the government has development a National Disaster Risk Management Framework. The goals of this framework are to prevent and reduce existing risks in the country through the implementation of integrated and inclusive economic, social, cultural, health, legal, education, political, environmental, structural, and institutional measures. Although major achievements have been made in setting up the legal and institutional frameworks for disaster risk governance, gaps in the localization of DRM programs, especially at local and community levels, still exist. The absence of such programs and lack of awareness of disaster risks contribute to the vulnerabilities of communities at the local level. In order to reduce their vulnerability, strengthening local-level structures is necessary. Such structures can only be articulated by a robust disaster risk governance framework that is decentralized to local levels.

Article

Natural Hazards Governance in Democratic States With Developing Economies  

Indrajit Pal

Catastrophic natural disasters have served as reminders of the connection between fragile governments and human losses. Developing economies are impacted most from natural as well as anthropogenic hazards. For example, the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004) claimed 227,898 lives, primarily in three politically fragmented countries with developing economies: Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India; and the 2010 Haiti earthquake affected more than 3 million people and killed between 46,190 and 316,000. According to EM-DAT, the cumulative number of global disaster deaths over the past 30 years was 1,677,000, with an annual average of 54,082 deaths. According to Swiss reinsurance companies, the average global natural disaster insurance loss for the last 10 years (2009–2018) was $67 billion, and global insurance losses accounted for 0.09% of global GDP on average. Over the past decade, “natural” disasters have caused more than 780,000 fatalities and destroyed physical properties worth a minimum of $960 billion. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) initiated the international disaster governance agenda for the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) global blueprint in 2005 and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) in 2015. Since the HFA, the international disaster risk reduction (DRR) community is increasingly viewing disaster risk management (DRM) as a governance concern. Governments are not a single structure; they are divided into various functions, hierarchies, policies, and responsibilities in working to create resilient communities at various levels (national and subnational). In countries with developing economies, government agencies have a significant role in DRM, which includes community-based organizations, science and technology research institutes, environmental protection agencies, and finance ministries. The existence of disaster management systems able to integrate vertical and horizontal coordination efforts is a critical weakness. Although there has been significant improvement globally in government capacities as well as institutional frameworks and legislative provisions for DRR in recent years, progress has been uneven. National-level policy formulation in a top-down model has often not made a significant impact at lower levels of government, where awareness-raising, training, and capacity-building likely would be significantly addressed. An extensive literature review is provided to help understand decentralized governance and its efficacy for local-level risk management of natural hazards for developing economies. Community risk perceptions and ways to respond to disasters vary from location to location; thus, it is important to implement decentralized policies and customize them to local needs and priorities to achieve low-impact sustainable development.

Article

Linking Hazard Vulnerability, Risk Reduction, and Adaptation  

Jörn Birkmann and Joanna M. McMillan

The concepts of vulnerability, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are interlinked. Risk reduction requires a focus not just on the hazards themselves or on the people and structures exposed to hazards but on the vulnerability of those exposed. Vulnerability helps with the identification of root causes that make people or structures susceptible to being affected by natural and climate-related hazards. It is therefore an essential component of reducing risk of disasters and of adapting to climate change. The need to better assess and acknowledge vulnerability has been recognized by several communities of thought and practice, including the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) communities. The concept of vulnerability was introduced during the 1980s as a way to better understand the differential consequences of similar hazard events and differential impacts of climate change on different societies or social groups and physical structures. Since then, the concept gradually became an integral part of discourses around disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Although the history of the emergence of vulnerability concepts and the different perspectives of these communities mean the way they frame vulnerability differs, the academic discourse has reached wide agreement that risk—and actual harm and losses—are not just caused by physical events apparently out of human control but primarily by what is exposed and vulnerable to those events. In the international policy arena, vulnerability, risk, and adaptation concepts are now integrated into the global agenda on sustainable development, disaster risk reduction, and climate change. In the context of international development projects and financial aid, the terms and concepts are increasingly used and applied. However, there is still too little focus on addressing underlying vulnerabilities.

Article

Natural Hazards Identification and Hazard Management Systems  

P. Patrick Leahy

Society expects to have a safe environment in which to live, prosper, and sustain future generations. Generally, when we think of threats to our well-being, we think of human-induced causes such as overexploitation of water resources, contamination, and soil loss, to name just a few. However, natural hazards, which are not easily avoided or controllable (or, in many cases, predictable in the short term), have profound influences on our safety, economic security, social development, and political stability, as well as every individual’s overall well-being. Natural hazards are all related to the processes that drive our planet. Indeed, the Earth would not be a functioning ecosystem without the dynamic processes that shape our planet’s landscapes over geologic time. Natural hazards (or geohazards, as they are sometimes called) include such events as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and ground collapse, tsunamis, floods and droughts, geomagnetic storms, and coastal storms. A key aspect of these natural hazards involves understanding and mitigating their impacts, which require that the geoscientist take a four-pronged approach. It must include a fundamental understanding of the processes that cause the hazard, an assessment of the hazard, monitoring to observe any changes in conditions that can be used to determine the status of a potential hazardous event, and perhaps most important, delivery of information to a broader community to evaluate the need for action. A fundamental understanding of processes often requires a research effort that typically is the focus of academic and government researchers. Fundamental questions may include: (a) What triggers an earthquake, and why do some events escalate to a great magnitude while most are small-magnitude events?; (b) What processes are responsible for triggering a landslide?; (c) Can we predict the severity of an impending volcanic eruption? (d) Can we predict an impending drought or flood?; (e) Can we determine the height of a storm surge or storm track associated with coastal storm well in advance of landfall so that the impact can be mitigated? Any effective hazard management system must strive to increase resilience. The only way to gain resiliency is to learn from past events and to decrease risk. To successfully increase resiliency requires having strong hazard identification programs with adequate monitoring and research components and very robust delivery mechanisms that deliver timely, accurate, and appropriate hazard information to a broad audience that will use the information is a wide variety of ways to meet their specific goals.

Article

Planning Systems for Natural Hazard Risk Reduction  

James C. Schwab

Planning systems are essentially a layer of guidance or legal requirements that sit atop plans of any type at any governmental level at or below the source of that guidance. In the case of natural hazard risk reduction, they involve rules or laws dealing with plans to reduce loss of life or property from such events. In much of the world, this is either unexplored territory or the frontier of public planning; very little of what exists in this realm predates the 1980s, although one can find earlier roots of the public discussion behind such systems. That said, the evolution of such systems in 21st century has been fairly rapid, at least in those nations with the resources and technical capacity to pursue the subject. Driven largely by substantial increases in disaster losses and growing concern about worldwide impacts of climate change, research, technology, and lessons from practice have grown apace. However, that progress has been uneven and subject to inequities in resources and governmental capacity.

Article

Understanding the Risk Communication Puzzle for Natural Hazards and Disasters  

Emma E. H. Doyle and Julia S. Becker

The study of risk communication has been explored in several diverse contexts, from a range of disciplinary perspectives, including psychology, health, media studies, visualization studies, the public understanding of science, and social science. Such diversity creates a puzzle of recommendations to address the many challenges of communicating risk before, during, and after a natural hazard event and disasters. The history and evolution of risk communication across these diverse contexts is reviewed, followed by a discussion of risk communication particular to natural hazards and disasters. Example models of risk communication in the disaster and natural hazard context are outlined, followed by examples of studies into disaster risk communication from Aotearoa New Zealand, and key best practice principles for communicating risk in these contexts. Considerations are also provided on how science and risk communication can work together more effectively in future in the natural hazard and disaster space. Such considerations include the importance of scientists, risk managers, and officials communicating to meet a diversity of decision-makers’ needs and understanding the evolution of those needs in a crisis across time demands and forecast horizons. To acquire a better understanding of such needs, participatory approaches to risk assessment and communication present the greatest potential in developing risk communication that is useful, useable, and used. Through partnerships forged at the problem formulation stage, risk assessors and communicators can gain an understanding of the science that needs to be developed to meet decision-needs, while communities and decision-makers can develop a greater understanding of the limitations of the science and risk assessment, leading to stronger and more trusting relationships. It is critically important to evaluate these partnership programs due to the challenges that can arise (such as resourcing and trust), particularly given risk communication can often occur in an environment subject to power imbalances due to social structures and sociopolitical landscape. There is also often not enough attention paid to the evaluation of the risk communication products themselves, which is problematic because what we think is being communicated may unintentionally mislead due to formatting and display choices. By working in partnership with affected communities to develop decision-relevant communication products using evidence-based product design, work can be done toward communicating risk in the most effective, and ethical, way.

Article

Natural Flood Risk Management  

Anna Murgatroyd and Simon Dadson

Flooding is a natural hazard with the potential to cause damage at the local, national, and global scale. Flooding is a natural product of heavy precipitation and increased runoff. It may also arise from elevated groundwater tables, coastal inundation, or failed drainage systems. Flooded areas can be identified as land beyond the channel network covered by water. Although flooding can cause significant damage to urban developments and infrastructure, it may be beneficial to the natural environment. Preemptive actions may be taken to protect communities at risk of inundation that are not able to relocate to an area not at risk of flooding. Adaptation measures include flood defenses, river channel modification, relocation, and active warning systems. Natural flood management (NFM) interventions are designed to restore, emulate, or enhance catchment processes. Such interventions are common in upper reaches of the river and in areas previously transformed by agriculture and urban development. Natural techniques can be categorized into three groups: water retention through management of infiltration and overland flow, managing channel connectivity and conveyance, and floodplain conveyance and storage. NFM may alter land use, improve land management, repair river channel morphology, enhance the riparian habitat, enrich floodplain vegetation, or alter land drainage. The range of natural flood management options allows a diverse range of flood hazards to be considered. As a consequence, there is an abundance of NFM case studies from contrasting environments around the globe, each addressing a particular set of flood risks. Much of the research supporting the use of NFM highlights both the benefits and costs of working with natural processes to reduce flood hazards in the landscape. However, there is a lack of quantitative evidence of the effectiveness of measures, both individually and in combination, especially at the largest scales and for extreme floods. Most evidence is based on modeling studies and observations often relate to a specific set of upstream measures that are challenging to apply elsewhere.