June 2008 Français

Disaster risk reduction under current and changing climate conditions

Scientific lecture given to Fifteenth World Meteorological Congress by the author entitled “Disaster risk reduction under current and changing climate conditions: important roles for the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services” (Geneva, 24 May 2007).

by Heather Auld*


Evidence from around the world indicates that the costs of disasters, particularly weather related disasters, are increasing over time. Since the decades of the 1950s, the annual direct losses from all natural catastrophes in the 1990s increased more than 10 times, rising from US$3.9 billion to US$40 billion a year using 1999 dollars (Munich Re, 2007; IPCC, 2001), while population grew only by 2.4-fold. In reality, these losses from predominantly weather and water related disasters are larger by a factor of two, when losses from less severe events are included. These rising losses highlight a need for National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) to play a greater role in disaster management activities.

While the number of lives lost to natural disasters have declined over the last 30 years to level off at about 800,000 in the 1990s, the number of people affected by natural disasters and affected lives—by injury, homelessness or hunger—their estimated economic losses have been steadily increasing. During the 1990s, the numbers of disaster tripled to 2 billion (Red Cross, 2006). Worldwide, for every person killed, around 3,000 people are exposed to natural hazards (UNDR, 2004).

graphic Figure 1 — Losses from “great” natural disasters from 1950-2005 (US$), including trends in insured and other economic costs (from IPCC 2007; Munich Re 2000; Munich Re 2005 and updated from Munich Re 2006). Natural disasters are defined as “great” if the ability of the region to help itself is overtaxed, as is usually the case when thousands of people are killed, hundreds of thousands made homeless or when a country suffers substantial economic losses.

While some debate continues on whether increases in climate extremes are contributing regionally to the escalating disaster losses, it is known that changing socioeconomic and demographic trends have also contributed to the rising trends and vulnerabilities (IPCC, 2007; 2001). Some of these various socio-economic factors include:

  • increasing populations and increasing urbanization;
  • infrastructure and communities sited in higher risk locations (e.g. coastal);
  • the migration of populations to high risk areas;
  • increasing poverty in lesser developed nations, ensuring that vulnerable populations remain unable to remove themselves from high risk locations;
  • increasing prosperity and insured property in developed countries;
  • increasing dependence on vulnerable electrical power grids, computer-based technologies and “just-in-time” transportation and commercial systems that are vulnerable to hydro-meteorological interruptions;
  • an aging infrastructure, changes to the design of infrastructure (e.g. performance based design) and a highly competitive construction industry;
  • failure to use or inability to afford the best climatic design information and engineering practices (including enforcement of codes and standards);
  • regional increases in frequencies or intensities of extreme events;
  • environmentally or ecologically unsound development and regional environmental degradation, which can more readily transform a climatic hazard (e.g. heavy downpour) into a disaster.

Developing countries tend to be the least resilient to natural disasters and bear an unequal burden in disaster mortalities. In fact, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) calculations show that while only 11% of people exposed to severe drought, earthquake, flood and windstorm disasters live in developing countries, they account for 53% of the total of disaster mortalities (UNDP, 2004).

Poverty and population pressures in developing countries force growing numbers of poor people to live in harm’s way not by choice but by reality—on flood plains, on unstable hillsides and often, with unsafe buildings and other infrastructure. Relatively poorer countries have been shown to suffer a relatively greater blow in economic losses measured as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP), although in absolute terms richer nations bear the greater proportion of losses (World Bank, 2004a). The developing countries are slower to recover from disasters than the developed world. For example, the impacts of Hurricane Mitch in Honduras put the country’s economic development back some 20 years. Because developing countries do not have the same resilience, disasters can wipe out years of development in mere hours (IPCC, 2007). In general, the recovery process after a natural disaster depends on the financial, technical and human resources of a country.

graphic Figure 2 — Number of great weather and hydrological disasters for each year in EM-DAT database for the period 1900-2005. (From EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database - www.em-dat.net - Université Catholique de Louvain - Brussels – Belgium).

The adaptation deficit

While it is normal to expect large year-to-year variations in the number and intensity of weather and hydrological hazards, it is not normal for the costs of these hazards to continue rising over time. When a natural hazard becomes a disaster, the result is as much as function of the way that the community does business or adapts to the hazard as it is of the natural hazard itself. The fact that both insured and uninsured losses from weather and water related disasters have been rising rapidly in constant monetary terms reflects a failure of communities and society to adapt well enough to current climate variability and extremes. This increasing failure to adapt adequately accounts for what can be termed the “adaptation deficit” (Burton, 2004; Auld et al, 2006c).

According to Burton (2004), the term “adaptation deficit” refers to shortfalls in current adaptation practices, recognizing that most countries are still far away from realistically achievable adaptation to current climates and their extremes. Controlling and eliminating the adaptation deficit through better adaptation to today’s extremes is a necessary (but not sufficient) step in the longer run process of adapting to climate change (Burton, 2004). But, as climate change accelerates, the adaptation deficit has the potential to rise much higher, unless a serious adaptation program is implemented that includes improved disaster management planning.

Resource and ecosystem man­age­ment practices play an important role in helping to manage disaster risks (Burton, 2004). Repeatedly, history has shown that the prevention of natural disasters is also closely tied to measures to protect the quality of environments and management of natural resources. As a result, it is important that successful disaster reduction strategies enhance environmental quality, including protection of natural resources and open space, management of water run-off and coastal resources, and reduction of pollution. Unfortunately, it is often the case that when disasters are not managed, the resources are not there either to protect the environment or to ensure that a viable economy is in place to fund disaster management actions. According to J. Abramovitz (2001), unhealthy ecosystems can exacerbate some weather and water related hazards to the point where “by degrading forests, engineering rivers, filling in wetlands, and destabilizing the climate, we are unravelling the strands of a complex ecological safety net.” The loss of ecosystem services for disaster risk reduction has widespread implications for development. It has been estimated that ecosystem services, which include freshwater provision, climate regulation, and flood and storm protection, are worth as much as $33 trillion a year. The value of functioning ecosystems can be illustrated in one powerful example from the Lempira Sur development project in the Honduras of Central America, where ecologically sustainable, best management agriculture played a critical role in reducing disaster risks. During Hurricane Mitch, this relatively poor area suffered little damage compared to neighbouring regions and countries as a result of the types of land use and slope stabilization methods that were used in the region (Lavell, 2002). In fact, the region suffered relatively reduced impacts and was able to provide food assistance to other areas severely damaged by the hurricane.

Roles for the NMHSs in disaster management

National Meteorological and Hydrological Services have many roles to play in disaster risk management, as shown in Figure 3. These roles can be summarized under two windows for action: (A) before disaster actions or Risk Management actions though the pillars of (i) disaster risk mitigation or prevention and (ii) emergency preparedness and (B) actions imminently before, during and after disasters or Crises Management actions through the pillars of (iii) emergency response and relief and (iv) disaster recovery and rebuilding. Effective end-to-end management of disasters requires the coordinated and comprehensive integration of actions over these four pillars (Figure 3). Their combination tries to minimize existing vulnerabilities, prevent adverse impacts and to ensure that comprehensive plans are in place to react to emergencies and recover from disaster impacts (ISDR, 2002).

puzzle Figure 3 — Potential roles of the NMHS in disaster/emergency management systems through four pillars of action: risk management actions through the pillarsprevention/mitigation and preparedness; and crisis management actions through the pillars emergency response and recovery and re-building

NMHSs are well-placed to help reduce the adaptation deficit from weather and water related disasters in several ways, including: provision of hazards information for community risk impact assessments and land use planning; improvements to climatic and hydrological design information for design of safer infrastructure and communities; development of environmental prediction products and risk guidance to assist in interpreting potential impacts and risks; monitoring to detect hazards and emerging threats; dissemination of forecasts and timely early warnings for operational emergency response actions; assistance in risk management education and community capacity building; and provision of forecasts and risk guidance for recovery and rebuilding operations, including climate change risks.

Future weather forecasts and warnings for emergency preparedness will have increased utility when they can differentiate disruptive weather events from the most hazardous events likely to trigger widespread disasters, which are most likely when critical thresholds of vulnerability are exceeded. Science-based information on atmospheric hazards and their trends, accurate climatic design values and consistent forensic analysis of failures all are important in helping to identify the critical thresholds of vulnerability, in differentiating the most hazardous events from the disruptive events, and in translating weather warning terminology into risk information.

Risk management measures: combating weather disasters by targting risks

In most countries, natural hazard policies traditionally focus on Crises Management actions (i.e. emergency preparedness) that minimize the impacts during a disaster and provide immediate relief and support to victims. Although disaster response is important, it can fail to address the causes of disaster losses. The World Bank has estimated that every dollar spent in preparing for a natural disaster saves seven in response (World Bank, 2004b). During the 1990s, for example, the World Bank estimated that economic losses due to natural disasters could have been cut by US$280 billion through just US$40 billion of appropriate advance spending (Natural Hazards Working Group, 2005).

The challenge in disaster management is to construct a program that is viewed as more desirable than the “status quo”. A particular challenge for the international community is the need to help all nations understand the benefits of shifting more investments from post-disaster recovery to risk management and prevention. The least developed countries, in particular, can face obstacles in increasing emphasis on proactive prevention when the demands for limited resources to cover response and recovery are so great.

The role of NMHSs in developing atmospheric hazards information

In Canada, several provinces have passed or are in the process of passing legislation that requires all municipal and regional governments to adopt hazard and risk assessments and emergency management planning (Auld et al., 2006c). The province of Ontario, for example, passed its provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act legislation in April 2003, requiring all municipal and regional governments in the province to identify and assess various hazards and risks to public safety that may give rise to an emergency situation (Government of Ontario, 2004). The Ontario Act requires that a Hazards and Risk Assessment (HIRA) process be completed and comprehensive disaster management planning adopted (Auld et al., 2006c). The comprehensive disaster management planning required within a four year timeframe includes mitigation against, preparedness for, response to and recovery from disasters and must include: an Emergency Operations Centre, planned responses for identified high priority risks, dangerous goods routes, community evacuation plans, emergency recovery plans, guidelines for risk-based land use planning, public education programs, an Incident Management System and an external assessment process (Government of Ontario, 2004).

The HIRA process recognizes that each municipality has different and distinct hazards and risks. Hazards include natural, technological and human-caused events. The risk assessment process is used to determine how often and how severe the impacts could become for public safety and is generally a function of probability and consequences (impacts and vulnerability). Due to the varying capabilities of municipalities, the Ontario HIRA process provides a risk assessment template for use by municipalities and provincial Ministries. The template evaluates the probability of a hazard occurring and its consequences and also allows the option of incorporating information on municipal response or adaptive capability. The risk characteristics are ranked and scored according to the following parameters (Emergency Management Ontario, 2004):

  1. Frequency or Probability of the hazard, ranked from 1 to 4, with “1” reflecting a low occurrence rate and “4” reflecting high occurrence within the past 15 years.
  2. Impacts or Consequences, also ranked from 1 to 4, where the consequences or impacts from the hazard on the municipality are ranked from 1 (negligible) to 4 (high). The degree of consequence can be determined through expert opinion and consultation with experts. A “high” consequence score reflects a likelihood of severe damage and consequences, which may include fatalities and the loss of essential infrastructure and services and plays a strong role in the prioritization of risks.
  3. (Optional) Community Response Capabilities or Adaptive Capacity: Response capabilities can be used to guide the assessment of consequences, with capabilities ranked from 1 (excellent) to 4 (poor). Low probability but high impact events, such as severe ice storms where response experience and capacity may be limited, can then be ranked as higher priority risks needing greater disaster response planning and risk reduction actions.

The risk assessment process relies heavily on hydrometeorological information and tools. In support of this risk assessment process, Canada’s Meteorological Service, with guidance from its provincial government partner, Emergency Management Ontario, developed an Atmospheric Hazards Website (www.hazards.ca) along with publications to allow regional emergency managers to access climatological hazards information, customize atmospheric maps for their localities and overlay regional combinations of hazards maps (Auld et al, 2002). The Hazards website and publications include information on the probability of occurrence of each hazard and spatially and temporally compare the relative frequency of these hazards across regions.

Information in the Hazards website consists of peer-reviewed or “defensible” maps and databases of various hydro-meteorological hazards and climatological trends. The site also provides information on Weather Warning criteria and guidance on potential impacts of specific hazards, including extreme heat and cold, drought, extreme rainfall, blizzards, hurricanes, ice storms, tornadoes, wind storms, smog, UV radiation, etc (Auld et al., 2006c). Typical hazards information includes analyses of frequencies for selected periods of record (e.g. past 15 years), the average number of days per year with conditions exceeding specific thresholds, extreme precipitation and temperature records, probabilities of an event at a location, most recent occurrences of an extreme, return period estimates, climatic design values for engineering codes and standards, etc. The documentation includes listings of historical events having significant impacts on communities along with hazards trend information. All materials included in the Hazards collection were required to be scientifically defensible (e.g. journal publications, data meeting WMO requirements for weather data archiving and analyses). A sample of the hazards maps provided on the website is shown in Figure 4.

map Figure 4 — Average number of days per year with daily snowfall ≥ 25 cm, based on data from 1971-2000 (Provincial Overview). (From Environment Canada, 2006.)

The web site includes a feature that allows users to assess multi-hazard risks using co-recognition software capable of “stacking” maps from a variety of formats together in order to align places on the different maps, even though the maps might have different scales and projections. The map formats used can range from a simple hard copy map scan (e.g. gif) through to more sophisticated Geographic Information System (GIS) outputs. The software was designed to address the widely varying capacities of municipalities and can run on much older and slower computers as well as state-of-the-art equipment.

New and evolving threats (e.g. changing climate hazards, health pandemics) were considered in the Ontario HIRA process. Where trends exist, the record and analyses from the past 15 years may not be sufficient for the risk assessment. For these cases, historical trends as well as climate change scenarios may need to be developed to highlight changes in hydrometeorological variables, given that the frequency and risks from specific hazards are expected or known to be increasing. Jurisdictions were encouraged to use the best information available (e.g. climatic information and expert advice, peer-reviewed studies and articles) to determine probabilities and trends (Emergency Management Ontario, 2004).

The benefits of making hazards and risks foreseeable and understandable are multiple. For communities, the development of multi-hazard information provides motivation for regions to undertake risk reduction assessments and creates possibilities to shift emphasis from reliance on relief and reconstruction following disasters towards prevention of losses and preparedness to reduce recovery time following disasters. For the NMHS, the benefits include an improved appreciation of the information needs of decision-makers for disaster management planning, as well as the identification of science gaps, conflicts and priorities for updating weather and hydrological information. Further benefits include better planning to acquire new knowledge, analysis and maps needed to fill in gaps. For example, the process of overlaying peer-reviewed tornado probability maps in central Canada revealed insistences in analyses and products over time that resulted from changed methodologies, assumptions and data collection procedures. In another example, significant gaps were noted in the availability of drought risk information and in the identification of response thresholds to drought. In collaboration with water resource managers, various existing and new drought indices were developed, tested and calibrated against drought impact and response thresholds. The new low water response levels or drought indices were then able to meet Ontario’s legislated low water response requirements. Overall, the lessons learned from developing atmospheric and hydrological hazards information provided directions for improved event data collection, better data quality control, enhanced mapping algorithms, improved scientific methodologies for calculating incidence probabilities, better interpolation schemes and an improved understanding of disaster responders needs.

It is important to recognize that a hazards Website and its associated publications must meet the emergency and disaster management planning needs of a wide variety of users. The hazard and risk information must recognize the variations in resources, training and sophistication of users while balancing requirements for simplicity, accuracy and comprehensiveness of the information. For example, complex and precise scientific hazards information has little values if it cannot be understood by the municipal clerk from a small rural municipality having responsibilities for disaster management planning. Likewise, scientific hazards information that is so highly simplified that it does not accurately convey the actual threat is of diminished value for the professional consulting firm hired to advise another municipality of risks and priorities. A significant challenge in this process is the need to communicate complex scientific information on hazards simply to all users, including non-technical users responsible for emergency planning, and to ensure that this information is scientifically sound and defensible in spite of its simplifications. Since technologies and capabilities among users and emergency planners are widely variable and can range from jurisdictions without access to internet through to others with state-of-the-art GIS systems, it is important to consider the use of a variety of formats for presentation of the information (e.g. publications for political decision-makers, CD-ROM materials for remote jurisdictions, simple web pages, etc).

The role of the NMHS in disaster risk reduction and infrastructure protection

It has been said that “the house is the first line of defence against hazards”. Forensics analyses often reveal that structural failures of infrastructure (e.g. houses, buildings, electrical distribution lines, communications structures, hydrological structures) result when climate extremes approach the structure’s critical design values and exceed its safety limits (Auld et al., 2006a). In future, better early warnings of impending disasters may benefit from links to these critical infrastructure failure or community “breaking points”.

Forensic studies have shown that, above critical thresholds, small increases in weather and climate extremes have the potential to bring large increases in damage to existing infrastructure. These studies indicate that damage from extreme weather events tends to increase dramatically above critical thresholds, even though the high impact storms associated with these damages may not be much more severe than the type of storm intensity that occurs regularly each year (Munich Re., 2005; Swiss Re., 1997; Coleman, 2002). In many cases, it is likely that the critical thresholds reflect storm intensities that exceed average design conditions for a variety of structures of varying ages and conditions.

An investigation of claims by the Insurance Australia Group (IAG), as shown in Figure 5, indicates that a 25% increase in peak wind gust strength above a critical threshold can generate a 650% increase in building claims (Coleman, 2002). Similar studies indicate that once wind gusts reach or exceed a certain level, entire roof sections of buildings often are blown off, or additional damages are caused by falling trees. Typically, minimal damages are reported below this threshold (Munich Re., 2005; Swiss Re., 1997; Freeman and Warner, 2001; Coleman, 2002).

graphic Figure 5 — Building claims as a function of peak gust speed (Australia). Source: (Coleman, 2002).

Similar results have been obtained for flood and hailstone damages. For example, hailstones below a certain size have been found not to damage car panels, whereas, above this critical size, damage increases abruptly (Freeman and Warner, 2001). Likewise, similar damage curves exist for flood damage events (Munich Re., 2005; Swiss Re 1997), indicating that a small increase in flood levels may vastly increase flood damage as incremental flood levels overwhelm existing infrastructure and flood protection systems. Not surprising, the quality of construction and the maintenance of structures also strongly influences the damages and extent of claims. For instance, increases in wind speeds from 60 m/s to 80 m/s increases relative mean marginal building damage losses from 10 percent for standard quality buildings to 75 per cent for sub-standard buildings (Swiss Re, 1997). Lower quality construction or poor maintenance over time rapidly worsens marginal damage.

Information on thresholds for widespread infrastructure failure needs to be considered in weather warning criteria and in updates to climatic design values that are used in building/infrastructure codes and standards. Climatic design values that are used for the design of reliable and economical infrastructure include quantities like the 10-, 50-, or 100-year return period “worst storm” wind speed, rainfall or snow conditions and are typically derived from historical climate data. In Canada, and likely elsewhere in the world, current long-standing gaps and deficiencies in the determination of climatic design values prevent optimum decisions from being implemented to deal with infrastructure reliability and safety. For example, structures designed using climatic design values that are based on poor climatic data, sparse data or previously short dataset records can be subject to significant uncertainties and increase infrastructure vulnerabilities to failure from weather extremes. A better understanding of these uncertainties provides valuable insights into whether and by how much a structure can tolerate slight increases in climatic extremes and loads (Auld et al, 2006b).

The performance of structures during extreme events needs to be monitored to confirm and to further fine-tune engineering design practices, as well as to assess climatic design values (Auld et al, 2006b). As an example, many lessons were learned from the detailed investigations of how structures responded to a series of tornadoes in southern Ontario, Canada in 1985. These lessons resulted in changes to the National Building Code of Canada and included increased requirements for anchoring of walls in tornado prone areas (Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, 2005). Similarly, the massive destruction from Hurricane Andrew ($26 to 30 Billion), which struck the southeastern US in 1992, and subsequent hurricanes in recent years, brought into sharp focus issues of construction, mitigation and the insurance (International Hurricane Centre, 1999). The recommendations from the Committees that investigated damages from several hurricanes continues to have an impact on the Florida Building Code and its construction regulations. These and other forensic investigations of building damages confirm that the most significant storm damages often result from the loss of “integrity of the building envelope” (Auld et al, 2006b; Liso et al, 2003; Holm, 2003; Mills, 2003; International Hurricane Centre, 1999) and that the breaching of the exterior of a structure sets off a chain of events that lead to more severe damages (e.g. moisture damages).

Almost all of today’s infrastructure has been designed using climatic design values that have been calculated from historical climate data under the assumption that the average and extreme conditions of the past will represent conditions over the future lifespan of the structure. While this assumption has worked in the past, it will no longer hold as the climate continues to change. The likely result will be infrastructure assets that, in many regions, will become increasingly vulnerable to any increases in weather extremes. The climatic design values used in building codes and standards will need to reflect these changing climate conditions and be updated and assessed regularly against regional climate trends to determine whether existing margins of safety for structures have any remaining tolerances to accommodate increases in weather, climate and hydrological loadings. Regions where the climate trends are encroaching on design tolerance limits will require increases in climatic design values for new structures and potential reinforcement for existing structures that have been identified as “at risk” to current climate variability and future change (Auld et al, 2006b).

Crisis management: moving from weather prediction to risk and impacts prediction

One of the most effective measures for disaster readiness and emergency response is a well-functioning early warning system that delivers accurate information dependably and on-time. Warnings buy the time needed in advance of hazards to evacuate populations, reinforce infrastructure, reduce potential damages or prepare for emergency response. But, warning systems are only as good as their weakest link and only accomplish their goals if accompanied by effective hazard response policies and actions.

All too often, warnings are issued without the NMHSs having an appreciation of the relative severity and potential impacts of the forecast hazard. As a result, warnings can, and frequently do fail in both developing and developed countries for any of four primary reasons (UNISDR, 2001). These include: (1) a failure of forecasting, such as an inability to understand a hazard or a failure to locate it properly, in time or space; (2) an ignorance of prevailing conditions of vulnerability, determined by physical, social, or economic inadequacies; (3) a failure to communicate the threat accurately or in sufficient time; and finally, (4) a failure by the recipients of a warning to understand it, to believe it or to take suitable action. The success of an early warning depends on the extent to which it triggers effective response measures. As a result, warning systems should include preparedness strategies and plans to ensure effective response to warning messages. Improvements in skills for forecasting high impact events alone will not necessarily reduce vulnerabilities or trigger societal responses.

Effective early warning systems (EWS) should address a chain of concerns. Essential concerns include forecasting and prediction, risk assessment, preparedness and appropriate technology arrangements (Natural Hazards Working Group, 2005). Ideally, highly effective “end-to-end” early warning systems are backed by other capacities including: (i) programs to observe, monitor, and detect hydro-meteorological hazards, (ii) defensible science on impacts, (iii) prediction tools for forecasts and warnings, (iv) sound regional knowledge and an ability to integrate this risk information into the warnings, (v) rapid and reliable distribution systems that can disseminate authoritative and understandable warnings to authorities and the population at risk, (vi) an informed, involved public and other responsible parties who are able to understand the potential risks, respond to warnings, and take effective preventive and response actions.

When warnings fail, forensic analysis of disaster events often reveals “after the fact” that communication with the public was not efficient or effective enough and that scientific and technical information (e.g. wind gusts exceeding 140 km/hr) was not properly interpreted by authorities and the public in terms of risk. Warnings must be received by a complex target audience including the general public, institutional decision makers and emergency responders. To ensure success, these warnings need to have a meaning that is shared between those who issue the forecasts and the decision-makers that they are intended to inform. This requires that warnings be disseminated using terminology that is relevant to the individual decision-maker.

Since the success of an early warning depends on the extent to which it triggers effective response measures, Warning messages need to suggest the appropriate actions that those at risk should take. This is difficult when information is incomplete, when there are conflicting recommendations or when the liability of the NMHS is of concern. Because emergency responders often are unable to translate the scientific information on hazards described in warnings into risk levels and thresholds for response, future work is needed that can identify the potential impacts, prioritize the most dangerous impacts, consider the contribution of cumulative and sequential events to risks (e.g. antecedent rainfall accumulations) and determine ranges of the meteorological thresholds that can be linked to escalating risks for infrastructure, communities and disaster response.

Environmental Prediction Programs for Emergency Response

The need for warning messages that trigger more effective responses are leading some NMHSs to develop Environmental Prediction Programs. Environmental prediction is the first step in the process of moving from weather and hydrological forecasts towards impacts and risk forecasts. This step requires a greater investment in the science of impacts in order to translate the intensity of forecast meteorological parameters into potential risk levels. For example, work to incorporate breaking points for infrastructure into warning systems could reduce hydro-meteorological disaster risks if it helped decision-makers to distinguish between high impact events requiring widespread emergency response actions from events likely to prove disruptive but well within emergency response capacities. As illustration, such systems could be used to highlight potential risks for widespread transportation interruptions, widespread failures of electrical power networks or significant risk of building collapses (Cheng et al, 2007, 2004; DeGaetano and Wilks, 2000).

NMHSs have been evolving towards environmental prediction programs for some time. The transition began decades ago when NMHSs first expanded their suite of weather predictions to include new “atmospheric predictions” of drought, air quality, stratospheric ozone, etc. Many NMHSs at that time also recognized that the influence of the atmosphere included the oceans and biosphere and developed multi-disciplinary environmental predictions of sea state, avalanche risks, ice cover and other variables. The envelope of “environmental prediction” products continues to evolve today to include multi-disciplinary, coupled predictions of the atmosphere’s impact on the environment, sectors, risks, health, economy, ecosystems and biodiversity. Potential environmental prediction products supporting disaster risk reduction include predictions of weather and climate-related waterborne disease outbreaks, harmful algal blooms, locust swarms, invasive species, and infectious and vector-borne disease outbreaks. In future, the challenge for environmental prediction will be to continue the evolution towards predictions of new weather and climate dependent parameters having social and economic significance (McNair and Beland, 2007).

The protection of the public from hazards will require predictions, projections and expert guidance on impacts and risks and will require greater interactions and partnerships with users, risk managers and emergency responders (WMO Secretariat, 2007). The new Warnings may include weather-health warnings and response systems for potentially “dangerous” environmental conditions, including Heat Alert systems (Auld et al, 2002). Some Warnings may be designed to address combinations of hazards. For example, temperature increases that trigger air conditioning demands above critical capacity thresholds for electrical power distribution can sometimes result in widespread power outages, along with heat stress and poor air quality impacts. The combination of excessive heat and poor air quality can increase respiratory disease and heart attack risks in vulnerable segments of the population and result in complex emergency situations having various requirements for community heat-air quality health responses. Accordingly, the WMO and its NMHSs are working with other UN Agencies and partners towards the establishment of multi-hazard early warning systems. These include collaborations with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop Heat-Health Warning Systems to enhance adaptation to deadly heat waves and malaria and collaborations with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the monitoring and development needed for early warnings of locust swarms (WMO, 2007; WMO, 2004b) .

Tiered and Vigilance Warning Systems

To varying degrees, some NMHSs are considering tiered warnings and vigilance forecasting systems to differentiate levels of risk. For example, MeteoFrance has invested in a Meteorological Vigilance system that works with four levels of hazard warning and has resulted in new hazards being added to their system (e.g. heat wave warnings). The European Multi-services Meteorological Awareness (EMMA) Program is based on MeteoFrance’s Meteorological Vigilance system and uses a similar four-colour code, with a corresponding risk awareness level to highlight the most dangerous events (Gérard, 2002). The EMMA Program references a four colour scheme of green, yellow, orange and red, implying the following forecast conditions:

  • Green – No severe weather expected, no risk to the public and no special awareness required;
  • Yellow – Weather events expected but not out of the ordinary. Potentially dangerous, but not unusual phenomena have been forecast;
  • Orange – Potentially dangerous, and unusual phenomena have been forecast;
  • Red – Dangerous and exceptionally intense meteorological phenomena have been forecast.

In other cases, early warning systems are beginning to integrate vulnerability analysis with monitoring programs. China uses a colour-coded warning system for 11 extreme weather conditions including typhoons, rainstorms, heat and cold waves, fog, sandstorms, lightning storms, gales, hailstorms, snowstorms and road icing. Warnings are labelled blue, yellow, orange, red and sometimes black in ascending order, matching national standards of seriousness. The increasing levels of warning severity require escalating actions in China (Yongping Luo, personal communications, 2007). For example, shops are to remain closed and classes suspended if typhoon warnings change from orange to red. A red level for a typhoon means average wind force of 12 on the Beaufort scale and the possibility of the typhoon striking within 6 hours. A red warning for rainfall intensity means emergency squads must be ready for rescue operations as rainfalls are expected to reach 100 millimetres or higher in 3 hours, creating the possibility of floods. In the United States, NOAA has undertaken a project in Florida to present daily hazards forecasts in graphical format according to their relative “degree of threat” (Sharp et al, 2000).

Analyses of weather-related disaster events can yield valuable insights into vulnerabilities and thresholds for escalating losses. The value of forensic analyses of disaster events can be illustrated through a case study examination of post-storm analyses following the “unprecedented” Ice Storm of 1998 that impacted eastern portions of North America. Ice Storm ’98 resulted in accumulations of ice that had not been previously recorded. This January storm lasted for almost a week, impacted parts of four Canadian provinces and seven U.S. states and resulted in a massive power failure that affected more than 10 per cent of the entire population of Canada. Extensive community evacuations were organized in an effort to reduce the risks to lives, while collapses of communication towers, phone lines and other communication infrastructure hindered emergency response and recovery (Klaassen et al, 2003). A comprehensive forensic study of this storm and other severe ice storms that impacted regions of eastern North America over several decades aimed to determine whether “Ice Storm ‘98” was “unprecedented” and investigated the common synoptic ingredients behind the most severe storms, thresholds of vulnerability, trends and guidance on whether risks might be expected to increase in the near future. The results showed that the major impacts from severe ice storms generally occur as a result of widespread and often long-lasting outages in the communications and power transmission and distribution systems. Typically, these damages and outages are initially triggered by broken, weakened and sagging tree limbs (where accumulations of ice can increase the branch weight of trees by 30 times or more). Breakage of tree branches onto electrical wires can lead to local power distribution outages with freezing rain ice accumulations of between ~6-12 mm, while ~12-25 mm accumulations can cause larger branches to break (Klaassen et al, 2003). The studies indicated that tree management near distribution lines is an important adaptation action needed to reduce risks of power distribution system outages from severe ice storms. The forensic analyses also indicated that the risks of major power outages and disasters lasting several days tended to increase when freezing rain amounts exceeded general thresholds of 30 mm. The historical evidence indicated that the potential for long-lasting power outages became likely when freezing rain totals exceeded approximately 40 mm (Auld et al, 2006a; Klaassen et al, 2003). These criteria provided valuable guidance for emergency and disaster management planning and highlighted potential thresholds for escalating or tiered warnings.

Communication of Warnings

While scientists and emergency managers are improving capabilities to warn for more weather and related environmental hazards, greater improvements are also needed to deliver warnings in a timely manner, targeting people and regions mainly at risk. Improvements are required for better coordination among warning providers, for better education of those at risk, and for expanded partnerships among the many public and private groups involved in disaster response. A successful warning system requires a significant education program in order to inform people about the warnings they are receiving or may receive. All too often, adequate educational efforts are seen as beyond the scope of many of the agencies currently managing warning systems. While the choice of medium to communicate with the public is important, there may be times during emergencies when no means of communication is open and when community volunteers such as amateur radio operators and emergency coordinators become critical (e.g. CANWARN, a volunteer organization of amateur ham radio operators).

In some regions, communication with those at risk may require an appreciation of local and indigenous knowledge. As illustration, the Bangladesh Meteorological Department recognized the importance of communications and community involvement in disaster risk reduction following forensic analyses of the catastrophic losses of lives from flooding in 1970 and 1991. Analyses following the devastating cyclone of 1970 revealed that the huge loss of lives resulted when the warnings prepared by the Storm Warning Center of the Meteorological Department were not disseminated to or believed by the people at risk (Monowar, 1998). Based on results from the forensic studies, the Bureau instituted a warning system supported by 33,000 volunteers spread over all the villages in the coastal belt and offshore islands, where volunteers were made responsible for dissemination of cyclone warning to each and every household in the vulnerable areas. The volunteers were trained, committed and charged with the responsibilities to provide other services e.g. evacuation, rescue, shelter and post-cyclone relief and rehabilitation operations. This warning system also recognized that warnings issued through national electronic and print media often do not reach the majority of the people at risk and may not be understood in specific village contexts by those who receive them. In some rural villages, flood warnings may be disseminated more effectively using locally recognized means such as flag codes, beating of drums or the use of the mosque microphone. The proof of the success of the warning dissemination system in prompting proper precautionary measures was demonstrated in a May, 1997 cyclone that killed 127 people compared to 11,069 people in a cyclone of similar intensity from May, 1985 (Akhand H.A., 1998). Similarly, during the Indian Ocean tsunami of December, 2004, Bangladesh suffered relatively fewer casualties despite being a populous low-lying country and being situated at the northern end of the Bay of Bengal.

Creeping Disasters

Some disasters appear as emerging or “creeping” hazards that evolve over a period of days to months. This timing presents different opportunities for prevention, planning and preparedness as these disasters unfold. The UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, recommended to the General Assembly in March, 2005 that global early warning systems be established for all natural hazards. These early warning systems need to consider the variety of hazards, their timing and the linkages between sequential and antecedent multi-hazard events and disaster vulnerability.

Increasingly, studies are highlighting the adverse contributions to disasters that have resulted from less “traditional” weather events. The so-called “creeping hazards” often result from cumulative or sequential multi-hazard events and vulnerability to disasters (e.g. drought, waterborne disease potential). For example, flooding events can result from less extreme rainfall events if preceded by several days of antecedent rainfall and saturated ground conditions. As a result, specific criteria for issuing rainfall warnings often need to consider antecedent rainfall and saturated or frozen ground conditions before entering into a rainfall event. The challenge for forecasting flooding risks where antecedent precipitation is expected to play a significant role is the uncertainty in modelling and predicting the soil moisture conditions preceding the critical precipitation event. As illustration, flood forecasters in the province of Ontario, Canada have developed a semi-empirical system to monitor rainfall accumulations and to regionally determine the additional 24-hour rainfall and snowmelt amounts that would be needed to trigger increased risks of regional flooding. The system is based, in part, on an Antecedent Precipitation Index (API) that uses daily precipitation and temperature data to estimate soil moisture indices and runoff values at each of the synoptic weather stations. An API model is used to estimate the amount of rainfall (and snowmelt) required in a 24 hour period to produce 15 mm, 25 mm and 50 mm of runoff at each modeled synoptic station. This amount of rainfall or snowmelt is factored in, along with streamflow conditions, in estimates of the amount of rainfall or snowmelt needed to cause flooding. Using forecasts of precipitation and snowmelt, guidance can be issued to regional watershed managers in the form of a “flood potential map (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, personal communications, 2007). China uses a Comprehensive Drought Index (CI) covering a 10-day period and based on the Beijing Climate Centre’s long experience in drought monitoring and impact assessment. This CI is a function of the last 30-day and 90-day Standardized Precipitation Index and corresponding potential evapotranspiration (WMO, 2006). China uses a Comprehensive Drought Index (CI) covering a 10-day period and based on the Beijing Climate Centre’s long experience in drought monitoring and impact assessment. This CI is a function of the last 30-day and 90-day Standardized Precipitation Index and corresponding potential evapotranspiration (WMO, 2006).

Droughts represent a powerful creeping hazard, capable of persisting for prolonged periods, bringing great losses and impacting very large regions. Of all of the hydro-meteorological hazards, droughts are one of the most costly worldwide and are responsible for massive economic losses, destruction of ecological resources, food shortages and starvation for millions of people in developing nations (IPCC, 2007). Periods of dryness along with unsustainable land use practices can result in almost irreversible land degradation and potential increases in desert land areas or desertification. Whether drought conditions develop into a disaster depends on land use practices and the impact of the extended dry conditions on local people, economies and the environment and their ability to cope with and recover from the conditions (WMO, 2006). Improved drought monitoring and early warning systems are major components of drought risk management. Water managers, agricultural producers, hydroelectric power plant operators and ecosystem managers sometimes require different drought monitoring indices to characterize the intensity or severity of the drought conditions. As a result, measures to monitor and detect creeping drought conditions need to be region, user and impact specific. Similarly, drought early warning systems work best when designed to detect regionally critical and specific thresholds of climate and water supply trends and to assess the probability of occurrence and the likely severity of drought conditions (WMO, 2006).

A particular challenge in developing drought early warning systems for decision-makers is the need to present drought information and indices in simplified and readily understood terminology and to use monitoring indices that can be related to decision-maker thresholds for action (i.e. tiered warnings). In some regions, standard drought monitoring indices can prove inadequate for detecting the early onset and end of drought conditions and require regional adjustments. In other cases, the indices require data that is not readily available.

Whether dealing with fast or creeping hazards, early warning systems are most effective when they can provide adequate lead times for the activation of emergency response plans and identification of the most significant risks. The U.K. Meteorological Office, for example, currently provides Early Warnings of potentially disastrous weather events to emergency responders up to five days in advance so they can be prepared for the effects of potentially high impact weather. Because prediction of severe weather at this range is difficult, these Early Warnings are expressed in terms of probabilities, with warnings issued when the probability of disruption due to severe weather somewhere in the UK is 60% or more (U.K. Meteorological Office, 2004).

Recovery and Rebuilding

The disaster recovery and rebuilding phase requires careful integration of all of the hydro-meteorological services from the other pillars. These integrated services include tailored weather warning services to protect affected populations and infrastructure rendered even more vulnerable by the disaster as well as updated atmospheric hazards and climatic design information to rebuild more disaster resilient structures and communities. Critical to recovery is the need for restoration of critical infrastructure to support the affected populations, especially communications infrastructure (e.g. cellular phone and radio towers). It becomes very difficult, if not nearly impossible, to coordinate emergency response and recovery operations without the benefit of having at least some communications and transportation infrastructure still functioning. Communications and transportation infrastructure have the best chance of withstanding high impact events when they are designed using accurate climatic and hydrological design values.

The confusion surrounding the emergency period from a disaster can lead to short-term decisions for rebuilding that can adversely affect the community’s ability to achieve sustainable, long-term reconstruction goals in the end. To minimize unintended consequences, it is important to plan in advance for post-disaster restoration and to consider existing and changing hazards. The transition from the disaster to a return to a normal life is best accomplished if a Disaster Recovery Plan has been developed ahead of time. This Disaster Recovery Plan needs to consider weather and water hazards and to undertake a risk analysis and operations impact analysis of the top potential disasters. Ideally, the risk analysis should include the worst-case scenario of completely damaged facilities and destroyed resources.

Climate change

The earth’s climates are changing globally and regionally and will continue to do so in future, even with the most ambitious of GHG mitigation successes. As a result, the changes in climate observed to date will accelerate for decades and centuries to come. One of the most threatening aspects of global climate change is the likelihood that extreme weather events will become more variable, more intense and more frequent as storm tracks shift and storm frequencies and intensities increase regionally.

A report by the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) financial services initiative anticipates that the global cost of natural disasters will top US$300 by the year 2050 (ISDR, 2004; Berz, 2001) if the likely impacts of the changing climate are not countered with aggressive disaster reduction measures. The report calculates potential losses in such areas of energy, water, flood protection efforts, ecosystems, agriculture and forestry, construction, transportation, and tourism. In addition to the impacts of climate change, the risks posed by the increasing degradation of the environment can only add to future impacts (e.g. deforestation, loss of biodiversity, reduced water quality and supply and desertification).

Adaptation steps taken today to reduce the impacts of weather hazards will provide opportunities for regions to become better prepared for future climate change challenges. As a first step to reducing climate change disaster risks, a “no regrets approach” that reduces vulnerability to near-term hazards becomes an even more effective strategy for reducing long-term risks. The barriers to managing the risks associated with current climate variability are the same barriers that will inhibit regions and nations from addressing future increases in risk due to climate change (UNDP, 2004). As a result, the “no regrets” adaptation lessons learned from current risk reduction practices, along with a commitment to forensic studies and learning from failures, will constitute a critical component of ongoing climate change adaptation. Other adaptation actions to cope with future climate change impacts will be restricted by considerable uncertainty in projections on future extremes and by the difficulties of retrofitting or changing the existing built environment

The future

The implementation of disaster reduction strategies poses global challenges today and for the future. While the 1990-1999 UN International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) was dedicated to promoting solutions to reduce risk from natural hazards, the decade ended with more deaths from more disasters and involving greater economic losses and more human dislocation and suffering than when the decade began (ISDR, 2004). As a successor to the IDNDR, the UN General Assembly founded the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) in 2000 to continue the commitment to disaster reduction. The ISDR has worked to shift its primary focus from hazards and their physical consequences to a greater emphasis on the processes involved in incorporating physical and socio-economic dimensions of vulnerability into the wider understanding, assessment and management of disaster risks (ISDR, 2004). The ISDR aims to build disaster resilient communities by increasing awareness of disaster reduction as an integral component of sustainable development.

The WMO supports the achievement of the international Millennium Development Goals to “halve the loss of life associated with natural disasters of meteorological, hydrological and climatic origin”. Accordingly, the WMO has set a target to reduce the 10-year average fatalities from all natural disasters related to weather, climate and water by 50 per cent (relative to 1994-2003) over the next 15 years (WMO, 2005). The WMO has established a Natural Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Program to ensure optimization of WMO’s global programs and infrastructure and to integrate its core scientific capabilities and expertise into all relevant phases of disaster risk management decision-making, particularly related to risk assessment and early warning systems (WMO, 2005). This Program applies at the international, regional and national levels.

WMO and its NMHSs have the capability to develop and deliver critical products and services to the entire disaster risk management decision process. These capacities include the multidisciplinary science to understand the vulnerability of communities to weather, climate and water-related hazards using historical records, climatic design values and climate projections provided by the NMHSs. Similarly, early warning systems can provide communities with the information needed to activate disaster plans in time to protect life and minimize economic losses. These systems need to operate alongside educational and other capacity-building services that help to ensure nations can better meet national needs for disaster risk reduction and management.

Without the benefits of existing preventative services through the WMO and NMHSs, it is sobering to think that the disaster statistics during the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction likely would have been even higher than the current values show (Golnaraghi, 2004). In future, changing climate conditions will likely translate into more frequent occurrences of extreme weather in one form or another. Without aggressive disaster management actions, it is likely that new and unexpected vulnerabilities will arise from unfamiliar hazards. In the end, surprise has the potential to become the biggest killer. Prudent planning for disaster risk management should therefore factor in current and future risk reduction adaptation actions to current and evolving hazards and risks.


The author thanks Sharon Fernandez of Environment Canada and Yongping You of the Chinese Meteorological Administration for providing valuable assistance, inputs, and recommendations for the development of this paper. The author also wishes to thank the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Congress for the invitation to present to the WMO Congress in Geneva, May, 2007 and to Environment Canada for its support.


Abramovitz J., 2001. Unnatural disasters. Worldwatch Paper 158, Worldwatch Institute, Washington DC, USA, 61 pp.

Akhand, M.H., 1998. Disaster management and cyclone warning system in Bangladesh. In The Third International Conference on Early Warning (EWC III) – From Concept to Action. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, March 27-29, 1998, Potsdam, Germany.

Auld, H., D. MacIver, N. Urquizo and A. Fenech, 2002. Biometeorology and Adaptation Guidelines for Country Studies. Proceedings of the 15th Conference on Biometeorology and Aerobiology, October 28 – November 1, 2002, Kansas City, USA.

Auld, H. and D. MacIver, 2006a. Changing Weather Patterns, Uncertainty and Infrastructure Risk: Emerging Adaptation Requirements. In Proceedings of Engineering Institute of Canada Climate Change Technology Conference, Ottawa, May 2006. Updated as Occasional Paper 9, Environment Canada, Adaptation and Impacts Research Division, Environment Canada, Toronto, Canada.

Auld, H., D. MacIver and J. Klaassen, 2006b. Adaptation Options for Infrastructure under Changing Climate Conditions. In Proceedings of Engineering Institute of Canada Climate Change Technology Conference, Ottawa, May 2006. Updated as Occasional Paper 10, Environment Canada, Adaptation and Impacts Research Division, Environment Canada, Toronto, Canada, 2007.

Auld, H., D. MacIver, J. Klaassen, N. Comer and B. Tugwood, 2006c. Planning for Atmospheric Hazards and Disaster Management under Changing Climate Conditions. In Proceedings of Engineering Institute of Canada Climate Change Technology Conference, Ottawa, May 2006. Updated as Occasional Paper 12, Environment Canada, Adaptation and Impacts Research Division, Environment Canada, Toronto, Canada, 2007.

Berz, G. 2001. Insuring Against Catastrophe. Our Planet, Volume 11, No. 3, 2001, United Nations Environment Program. Available from http://www.ourplanet.com/

Burton I., 2004. Climate Change and the Adaptation Deficit. In Fenech et al (eds), Climate Change: Building the Adaptive Capacity. Environment Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, 2005. National Building Code of Canada. National

Research Council, Government of Canada, Ottawa, Canada.

Cheng S., H. Auld, G. Li, J. Klaassen, Q. Li., N. Comer, M. Campbell, N. Day, D. Pengelly and S. Gingrich, 2004. An Analysis of Possible Climate Change Impacts on Human Mortality in South Central Canada. In Proceedings of AMS 16th Biometeorology and Aerobiology Conference, Vancouver, August 25-26, 2004.

Cheng C.S., H. Auld, G. Li, J. Klaassen, and Q. Li 2007. Possible impacts of climate change on freezing rain in south-central Canada using downscaled future climate scenarios. Natural Hazards and Earth Systems Science, 7: 71-87.

Coleman T., 2002. The Impact of Climate Change on Insurance against Catastrophes. Insurance Australia Group, Melbourne, Australia.

DeGaetano, A. T. and D. Wilks, 2000. Migrating Snow-induced Roof Collapses Using Climate Data and Weather Forecasts. Meteorology Applications, 6: 301-312.

Emergency Management Ontario, 2004. Guidelines for Provincial Emergency Management Programs in Ontario. Government of Ontario, Queens Park, Toronto, Ontario.

Environment Canada, 2006. Atmospheric Hazards in Ontario. Adaptation and Impacts Research Division, Environment Canada, Toronto, Ontario.

Freeman P. and K. Warner, 2001. Vulnerability of Infrastructure to Climate Variability: How Does This Affect Infrastructure Lending Policies? Report Commissioned by the Disaster Management Facility of The World Bank and the ProVention Consortium, Washington DC, USA.

Gérard F., 2002. The EMMA proposal for weather risk management. In Proceedings of the Workshop “GMES, meteorology and climate monitoring”, Paris, France, April 15-16, 2002. Available from: http://www.eumetnet.eu.org/GMESwkp/AbsEmma.PDF

Golnaraghi M., 2004. Early warning systems. The Environment Times, UNEP/GRID-Arendal. Available from: http://www.environmenttimes.net/article.cfm?pageID=129.

Government of Ontario, 2004. Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Emergency Management, Ontario, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Government of Ontario, Toronto, Canada. Available from: http://www.cityofelliotlake.com/Emerg/Legislation/02%20-%20EMCPA%20Regulations.pdf

Holm, F., 2003. Towards a Sustainable Built Environment Prepared for Climate Change. Presentation to Global Policy Summit on the Role of Performance-Based Building Regulations in Addressing Societal Expectations, International Policy, and Local Needs. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, November 3-5, 2003.

International Hurricane Centre, 1999. Weathering the Storm. In Florida International University Magazine, Spring 1999, Florida International University, Division of External Relations, Miami, Florida, USA.

IPCC, 2001. Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report, Report of Working Group II, Geneva, Switzerland.

IPCC, 2007. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, Report of working Group I, Geneva, Switzerland.

ISDR, 2002. Natural Disasters and Sustainable Development: Understanding the Links between Development, Environment and Natural Disasters. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, , United Nations Publications Centre Geneva.

ISDR, 2004. Progress report on the review of implementation of the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action for a Safer World of 1994. Inter-Agency Task Force on Disaster Reduction, United Nations Publications Centre, Geneva, May 2004.

Klaassen, J., C.S. Cheng , H. Auld , Q. Li , E. Ros , M. Geast , G. Li and R. Lee, 2003. Estimation of Severe Ice Storm Risks for South-Central Canada. Report prepared for Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness. Meteorological Service of Canada, Environment Canada, Toronto, Canada.

Lavell A., 2002. Local Level Risk Management. Concepts and Experience in Central America. In Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation Summit, New Delhi, India, November 21-23, 2002.

Liso, K., G. Aandahl, S. Eriksen and K. Alfsen, 2003. Preparing for Climate Change Impacts in Norway’s Built Environment. Building Research and Information, 31 (3-4): 200-209.

McNair S. and M. Beland, 2007. Environmental Prediction for Canada. In The Americas: Building the Adaptive Capacity to Global Environmental Change. Environment Canada (and Inter-American Institute), Toronto, Canada.

Mills, E., 2003. Climate change, insurance and the buildings sector: technological synergisms between adaptation and mitigation. Building Research and Information, 31 (3-4): 257-277.

Monowar H.A., 1998. Disaster management and cyclone warning system in Bangladesh. In Proceedings of International Conference on Early Warning Systems for Natural Disaster Reduction, Potsdam, Germany, September, 1998. Available from http://www.gfz-potsdam.de/ewc98/welcome.html

Munich Re, 2000. Topics—Annual Review of Natural Disasters 1999 (supplementary data and analyses provided by Munich Reinsurance Group/Geoscience Research Group). Munich Reinsurance Group, Munich, Germany.

Munich Re., 2005. Flooding and Insurance (1997). Munich Reinsurance Group, Munich, Germany. Updated by Munich Re for UNFCC COP events, Montreal, December, 2005.

Munich Re, 2006 . Topics Geo Annual review: Natural catastrophes 2005. Munich Reinsurance Group, Munich, Germany. Available from : http://www.munichre.com/publications/302-04772_en.pdf

Munich Re, 2007. Topics Geo Natural catastrophes 2006 Analyses, assessments, positions. Munich Reinsurance Group, Munich, Germany, February 2007. Available from : http://www.xn--mnchenerrck-thbi.de/publications/302-05217_en.pdf

Natural Hazards Working Group, 2005. The Role of Science in Physical Natural Hazard Assessment. Report to the UK Government by the Natural Hazard Working Group. Department of Trade and Industry, London, U.K. , June, 2005. Available from :


Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 2007. Personal communications.

Red Cross, 2006. World Disasters Report 2006. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva, Switzerland.

Sharp D.W., D.L. Jacobs, J.C. Pendergrast, S.M. Scott, P.F. Blottman and B.C. Hagemeyer, 2000. Graphically Depicting East-Central Florida Hazardous Weather Forecasts. NOAA Technical Attachment, SR/SSD, pp. 2000-27 4. Available from http://www.srh.noaa.gov/mlb/ghwo_ghls_ta.html

Swiss Re, 1997. Tropical Cyclones. 201_9678, Swiss Reinsurance Company, Zurich, Switzerland.

U.K. Meteorological Office, 2004. Forecasting the Nation’s Health. Available from: http://www.met-office.gov.uk/health/nationhealth.html

UNDP, 2004. Reducing Disaster Risk: A Challenge for Development. UNDP, New York, 146 pp.

UNISDR, 2001. Early Warning Issues: A Discussion Paper. Background paper to The Secretariat for The International Strategy For Disaster Reduction (ISDR).

Yongping Yuo, 2007. Personal communications. Chinese Meteorological Administration.

WMO Secretariat, 2007. The Social and Economic Benefits of Meteorological and Hydrological Services: Issues and Actions. A Concept Paper for the Sustainable Living – Reducing Risks and Increasing Opportunities Conference, Madrid, Spain. WMO Secretariat, Geneva March 19-22, 2007. Available from http://www.wmo.int/Madrid07/confmadrid/ConceptPaper.pdf

WMO, 2007. WMO to provide guidance for heat health warning systems. WMO Press Release 781, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva.

WMO, 2004a. Natural Disaster Prevention and Mitigation: Role and Contribution of the WMO and NMHSs. World Meteorological Organization discussion paper, September 13, 2004.

WMO, 2004b. Report in the Expert Meeting on Meteorological Information for Locust Control. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, October 18-20, 2004. Available from: http://www.wmo.ch/pages/prog/wcp/agm/meetings/milc-geneva/documents/mtgreport-MILC.pdf

WMO, 2005. Guidelines for Integrating Severe Weather Warnings into Disaster Risk Management. Authors Davidson, J. and M.C. Wong. World Meteorological Organization, WMO/TD-No. 1292, Geneva, Switzerland..

WMO, 2006. Drought Monitoring and Early Warning: Concepts, Progress and Future Challenges. WMO-No. 1006, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.

World Bank, 2004a. Natural Disasters: Eluding Nature’s Wrath. World Bank, Washington, DC, USA.

World Bank, 2004b. Natural Disasters: Counting the cost. World Bank, Washington, DC, USA, March 2004.


* Adaptation and Impacts Research Division, Environment Canada, Toronto, Canada
M3H 5T4

back to top


Condensed version/
version condensée
cover   cover
English   Français

Regular features
WMO activities
In the news
Recently issued
Upcoming events
Recent events
High-impact weather events
50 years ago

MeteoWorld archive


Contact: MeteoWorld Editor - WMO ©2008 Geneva, Switzerland