Extreme rainfall, vulnerability and risk: a continental-scale assessment for South America

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
By: , and 

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Abstract

Extreme weather continues to preoccupy society as a formidable public safety concern bearing huge economic costs. While attention has focused on global climate change and how it could intensify key elements of the water cycle such as precipitation and river discharge, it is the conjunction of geophysical and socioeconomic forces that shapes human sensitivity and risks to weather extremes. We demonstrate here the use of high-resolution geophysical and population datasets together with documentary reports of rainfall-induced damage across South America over a multi-decadal, retrospective time domain (1960–2000). We define and map extreme precipitation hazardexposureaffectedpopulations, vulnerability and risk, and use these variables to analyse the impact of floods as a water security issue. Geospatial experiments uncover major sources of risk from natural climate variability and population growth, with change in climate extremes bearing a minor role. While rural populations display greatest relative sensitivity to extreme rainfall, urban settings show the highest rates of increasing risk. In the coming decades, rapid urbanization will make South American cities the focal point of future climate threats but also an opportunity for reducing vulnerability, protecting lives and sustaining economic development through both traditional and ecosystem-based disaster risk management systems.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Extreme rainfall, vulnerability and risk: a continental-scale assessment for South America
Series title Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
DOI 10.1098/rsta.2012.0408
Issue 371
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Royal Society Publishing
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description 17 p.
Other Geospatial South America
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N