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Integrating Climate in Disaster Risk Assessment

The Pacific RISA facilitated the integration of climate risk analysis and adaptation into disaster management plans by engaging the disaster management community as a primary stakeholder in climate activities. The practice of discussing climate through impact analysis of extreme climate events developed a foundation for considering changes in climate.  Researchers, meteorologists, and climatologists built on experiences with tropical storms, hurricanes, and typhoons to plan for the impacts of climate variability and ENSO cycles.

Recorded and Reported Historical Damages from Climate‐Related Hazards

Climate-Related Disasters with Recorded Losses Recorded Losses from Disaster Events Total Recorded Climate-Related Hazard Loss
American Samoa Tropical Cyclone/Hurricane Heavy Rainfall/Flood

$ 9,525,000

$ 188,023,000

High Surf (Not recorded separately from losses in tropical cyclones/hurricanes.)

Landslide (Not recorded separately from losses in heavy rainfall event.)

Total American Samoa

$ 197,548,000

$ 197,548,000

CNMI Tropical Cyclone/Typhoon

$ 75,626,757

Total CNMI

$ 75,626,757

$ 75,626,757

Guam Tropical Cyclone/Typhoon (since 1962)

$ 2,017,611,796

Hazardous Surf (associated w/Cyclone)

$ 4,000,000

Drought (losses not recorded)

Wildland Fire (losses not recorded)

Total Guam

$ 2,021,611,796

$ 2,021,611,796

Hawai‘i Tropical Cyclone/Hurricane (since 1980)

$ 3.499,000,000

Flooding/ Heavy Rainfall

$ 256,700,000

High Surf

$ 12,900,000

Drought (since 2000)

$ 19,502,790

Wildland Fire (since 2007)

$ 2,905,762

Total Hawaiʻi

$ 3,791,008,552

$ 3,791,008,552


$ 6,085,795,105

Source: Figures extracted from eight hazard mitigation plans—American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, and Hawaiʻi. Table found in Overview of Climate Risk Reduction in the US Pacific Islands Hazard Mitigation Planning Efforts report, pg. 11.

Because of the established relationships with the disaster management community in the Pacific, climate has been embedded in formal multi-hazard mitigation plans required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for provision of post-disaster recovery and pre-disaster mitigation funding. For the State of Hawaiʻi, the plan describes the types of hazards associated with climate variability and change, attempts to evaluate risks from climate-related impacts (more data and research is needed in this area), describes institutions and organizations that contribute to risk reduction, and recommends mitigation actions. Rainfall forecast information developed by PEAC is used to show precipitation trends related to ENSO events. In a document adopted by the Governor of the State of Hawaiʻi and approved by FEMA, the Pacific RISA is one of the institutions specifically mentioned in the plan for risk assessment and reduction through climate risk assessment and adaptation (State of Hawaiʻi, Chapter 6, Section 6.5.1).

Hazards and Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment

This project investigated the potential of incorporating Climate Risk Assessments into Multi-

Drought on Big Island, Hawaiʻi. (Source: Victoria Keener)

Hazard Risk Assessments. Hazard risk and vulnerability assessments (RVA), specifically for climate-related risks, have been established as an interdisciplinary methodology that underpins the development of disaster risk-reduction plans. Because of the extensive risk from multiple types of climate-related disasters and the wide variation among island communities and infrastructures, islands must employ a multi-hazard risk reduction framework. For the US Flag Islands (Hawaiʻi, American Samoa, CNMI, and Guam), the Federal Emergency Management Agency requires that plans be updated every three years. Of the four FEMA-approved plans, only Hawaiʻi assesses risks from climate change and has implemented drought mitigation plans. In the islands, multi-hazard mitigation plans were required in 2004 from the FSM and RMI, but they did not include risks from sea level variability, sea level rise, or other effects of climate change.

Assets and Capabilities Assessment

Inundation due to 2011 “king tide” on Namdrik Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. (Source: Mattlan Zackhras)

The integration of socioeconomic data and hazard risk layers improves the understanding of community sensitivity and exposure to climate hazard risks and enables decision makers to understand ways that systems overlap to produce risk. Geographic information systems (GIS) can easily manage databases of information and can be integrated into models to consider spatial risks and vulnerability. Displaying a visual map can help communities better understand the underlying reasons for vulnerability.

Review and Update Disaster Risk Reduction Plans

The Pacific RISA reviewed existing disaster risk-reduction plans and has suggested areas in which island governments could improve climate-related disaster planning.

Overview of Climate Risk Reduction in the US Pacific Islands Freely Associated States
Overview of Climate Risk Reduction in the US Pacific Islands Hazard Mitigation Planning Efforts
Analysis of Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation in the US Pacific Islands and Freely Associated States









Lead Researcher

Dr. Cheryl Anderson, Director, University of Hawaiʻi Social Science Research Institute-Hazards, Climate and Environment Program

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