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Adapting to Future Hurricane Risk Under Climate Change Uncertainty: Developing and Implementing Robust Strategies for a More Resilient New Orleans

In collaboration with New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness

As the city of New Orleans recovers from the devastating hurricanes in 2005, government
officials and individuals will continue to seek ways to reduce their risk to future hurricane storm
surge beyond advocating for more storm-surge barriers. Climate change and other uncertain factors
make it difficult (1) to predict future storm surge risk to New Orleans, (2) assess the benefits of
locally-managed risk mitigation programs, and (3) effectively communicate the benefits and tradeoffs
of different mitigation programs to the businesses and individuals that may choose to participate in

This research project will develop new approaches for incorporating state-of-the-art physical
and social science information into city risk-mitigation planning. We will work with the New
Orleans Office of Homeland Security (OHS) to implement hurricane risk reduction programs and
communicate hurricane risk information and mitigation options to New Orleans’ businesses and
residents. This project will increase our understanding of how to inform decision making under
uncertainty and will provide tangible and substantial assistance to the OHS.
This project is comprised of three interrelated activities:

  1. Modeling of storm surge risk to New Orleans at the neighborhood level under a wide
    array of state- and city-supported locally-managed risk mitigation programs
  2. Developing the decision-support information and tools needed by the New Orleans
    OHS to ensure that their risk mitigation programs achieve the desired goals
  3. Improving ways to communicate hurricane risk information to the public to support
    individual choices regarding the participation in government-supported risk mitigation

The project team seeks to work directly with the Office of Homeland Security Hazard
Mitigation branch as well as other city offices to understand the risk mitigation options available to
New Orleans and identify the information to best support their objectives. The project will also engage the public through interviews and workshops to understand the public perception of storm-surge flood risk to provide recommendations for conveying information about risk mitigation programs.

This research project is designed to address the three key overarching goals of the NOAA
Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP). Specifically, the hurricane risk modeling work will
develop new science-based knowledge regarding the vulnerability of the New Orleans region to
future hurricane and climate change risk and specifically identify adaptation strategies that reduce
these risks. Next, the project will develop and evaluate new decision support tools that utilize the
newly created risk and climate information. Finally, the project will work directly with stakeholders
which will usefully “contribute to the development of an increasingly effective and relevant climate
research and decision support effort.”

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