Donovan Finn, an assistant professor of Environmental Design, Policy and Planning in the Sustainability Studies Program at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, is one of nine early career faculty named to conduct interdisciplinary research into the impacts of climate change and natural hazards on US coasts through a new program launched by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
The program’s goal is to learn more about potential weather and climate threats and help build greater societal resilience. With storms, flooding, and other weather and climate disasters taking a more expensive toll on the world’s growing population, scientists are increasingly focused on understanding the far-reaching impacts of natural hazards on society.
Finn’s project, “A User-driven Framework for Harnessing Atmospheric Research to Inform Planning and Policy for Coastal Resilience,” deals with how to manage coastal human settlements as sea levels rise, coasts erode and extreme weather events become more common. Coastal counties in the US represent less than 10% of the nation’s land area but house 40% of the US population, comprise 30 to 40% of US GDP annually and contain significant numbers of residents from vulnerable socio-demographic groups, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Moreover, coasts are growing in population and economic activity, while climate-related risks increase.
These risks and their impacts on communities will force planners, engineers, politicians, business owners and residents to make increasingly difficult decisions about how to adapt to likely changes in the natural environment and mitigate harmful effects using strategies ranging from coastal retreat to more rigorous building codes to massive infrastructure projects. Making these kinds of critically important decisions will be more effective if they can be informed by actionable climate science and mechanisms for effective communication of regional climate information and its associated uncertainties to decision-makers. Using surveys, review of existing literatures, interviews with planners and other coastal decision-makers as well as close collaboration with NCAR scientists, Finn’s project will:
- Assess the strengths and weaknesses of available climate-related data sources and decision-making tools used by, and not used by, local coastal stakeholders
- Develop a better understanding of the barriers to utilizing cutting-edge climate science in local decision-making
- Create a framework for more useful and timely knowledge transfer between climate scientists and local planners, regulators and policymakers
The National Science Foundation will fund the faculty members and graduate students for a two-year period. Faculty members will have summer sabbaticals at NCAR, while graduate students will get year-round funding.