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Societal Impacts of Weather and Climate

The importance of advancing the social and behavioral sciences across the Weather Enterprise cannot be overstated in order to optimize weather information services so that they are value-focused and deliver optimally on NOAA’s mission of saving lives, protecting property, and bettering the U.S. economy.”

Report on Priorities for Weather Research, Section 7.1, NOAA Science Advisory Board, Dec 2021

At CIRA, we recognize the importance of developing meaningful interdisciplinary partnerships to help us apply our research in ways that directly benefit society.  As such, the Societal Impacts of Weather and Climate (SIWC) research group was established to address NOAA’s social science research priorities.  Through our partnership with CSU, we’ve been able to collaborate with experts in areas such as risk communication, impacts of extreme weather on human health, and economic impacts of weather and climate.  In addition, our participation in the NSF AI Institute for Research on Trustworthy AI in Weather, Climate, and Coastal Oceanography (AI2ES) Risk Communication group has allowed us to develop strong working relationships with social scientists at NCAR and University of Washington.  We also have two employees (Dr. Fooks and Dr. Were) embedded within the National Weather Service’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBES) program.

Risk communication

Tropical cyclone (TC) wind exceedance graphics evaluation: CIRA scientists, in collaboration with NOAA/NWS Miami and the National Hurricane Center, are developing a new version of the Tropical Cyclone Wind Speed Probability (WSP) product with support from the NOAA/WPO JTTI program (FY21-23). This project includes the development of a new graphical TC wind exceedance product, analogous to the storm surge flood inundation map, that will be used to communicate TC wind hazards to NWS forecasters, private and government users, and potentially the public. As such, CIRA is collaborating with Dr. Marilee Long and a PhD student in the CSU Department of Journalism and Media Communication to conduct research examining how different design elements impact users’ understanding of the wind exceedance guidance. This work will provide the information needed to develop clear, understandable, and user-vetted graphics ready for use as soon as the product is implemented in operations. A more general goal of this project is to demonstrate how conducting social science research during the product development phase can potentially streamline and improve the R2O process.

Figure: Examples of new wind exceedance prototypes used in social science testing.

Foundational Research in AI Risk Communication (RC) for Environmental Science (ES) Hazards: CIRA scientists are actively working in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) to develop new satellite algorithms and models for forecasters. As developers adopt new machine learning (ML) methods, it is important to understand how the use of these methods might impact the ability of forecasters to understand, evaluate, and develop trust in new models. To address these concerns, the NSF AI Institute for Research on Trustworthy AI in Weather, Climate, and Coastal Oceanography (AI2ES) has a research team devoted to conduct foundational research on AI risk communication. CIRA currently has 4 employees on this research team, working on a variety of topics related to ethics and bias, trust and trustworthiness, and transparency and explainability in AI/ML forecast product development.

Extreme weather and human health

Estimating hurricane wind exposure for health impacts studies: Numerous epidemiological studies have found that hurricanes cause severe human health impacts in U.S. communities. These studies typically fall into two categories; case studies that link health outcomes to specific hurricanes (e.g., hospitalizations after Hurricane Katrina) and longer-scale studies that estimate community-wide excess mortality and morbidity associated with hurricanes. These latter studies require meteorological hurricane data that is consistent over multiple years and storms and comparable across communities. CIRA scientists assisted Dr. Brooke Anderson, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology in the CSU Department of Environmental & Radiological Health Sciences, to develop such a dataset and made it available as open source R packages. This model and the dataset have already been adopted by many in the epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health communities.

Figure:  This map shows the cumulative rain in each county for two days before to one day after the date that 1999 Hurricane Floyd passed closest to the county.

Hurricane health impacts in varying climatic regimes: CIRA scientists are collaborating with Dr. Brooke Anderson and a PhD student in the CSU Department of CSU Department of Environmental & Radiological Health Sciences to study county-level tropical cyclone wind exposure and projected TC-wind-induced excess mortality under varying climate scenarios. CIRA researchers have provided synthetic TC tracks expected under different climatic regimes such as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Millenia of synthetic tropical cyclone data from each climate state will be input into a wind model to compute expected county-level wind exposure during each combination of ENSO and AMO. These wind data will then be input into the public health model used by Brooke and Daniel to calculate expected county-level excess mortality during each climate state.

NWS Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBES)

CIRA has two social scientists embedded in the National Weather Service’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBES) program. The program is young and just beginning to drop its anchor into the Office of Science and Technology Integration (OSTI). Dr. Valerie Were and Dr. Jacob Fooks joined CIRA in August and December 2021, respectively, and the SBES program itself was officially established on November 30, 2021. Dr. Fooks and Dr. Were supported the Acting Program Director until Ji Sun Lee, the permanent Director was hired in November 2022. Given the youth of an official program, the major goal and therefore much of Dr. Fooks’ and Dr. Were’s work, is related to building the program. The program is currently finalizing its research priorities for the next three to five years.

All the projects fall under the umbrella of ensuring equitable services to all communities (Strategic Goal 2 in the NOAA FY 2022-26 Strategic Plan and Goal 3.8 in the NWS 2023-2033 Strategic Plan). There are four priorities:

NWS SBES is working on a number of ongoing activities that fall within these research priorities.  Examples include:

Through CIRA’s work, the NWS is now better positioned to apply SBES to meet its mission. The outcome of CIRA’s work maximizes the value of the NWS’ investments and actions while ensuring products and services are delivered equitably. Beyond the science and technology, the impact on society will be equitable service delivery and improvements to forecast messaging so people can take life and property-saving actions.

Figure: Social Vulnerability and Outreach Dashboard for the NWS WFOs to Identify Areas to Visit (Jacob Fooks).

Social science datasets for weather research

Hurricane evacuation order database:  Hurricane evacuation order data is needed for various types of socio-economic research.  Yet this data is very time-intensive and difficult to collect because it is issued by inconsistent sources via inconsistent methods.  To date, there is no comprehensive, consistent, searchable, openly available dataset available for obtaining U.S. evacuation order data – researchers must search government websites, social media, and news archives to find orders and then reconcile any differences these sources provide.  To address this need, CIRA scientists developed a methodology for systematically collecting U.S. mainland tropical cyclone evacuation order data.  So far, 3 main cases (Laura/Marco 2020, Henri 2021, Ian 2022) have been collected in detail and made available in CSV format via a git repository.  All U.S. mainland TC evacuation orders from the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season have been collected and are currently being vetted and quality controlled, and will be added to the repository when ready.  In addition to the datasets, CIRA is currently designing a searchable web interface that can be used to easily find the evacuation order data needed.  We hope that making this data available in a consistent and searchable/sub-settable way will help facilitate future social science research related to TC impacts.

Economic impacts of weather and climate

Coming soon!

Recent Presentations

Schumacher, A.B., M. DeMaria, A. Brammer, K. Musgrave, P. Santos, Z. Rosen, M. Long, and W. Hogsett, 2023: Taking steps to unify and improve NWS TC wind forecast products.  2023 Tropical Cyclone Operations and Research Forum / Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference, Miami, FL, 7-9 March 2023.

Jacob Fooks, Jeff Adkins, Valerie Were, Jennifer Sprague-Hilderbrand. 2023. Serving the Underserved: Increasing Our Skill. Oral presentation. 103rd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, January 8-12, 2023, Denver, Colorado.

Jacob Fooks, Jeff Adkins, Paul Roeber, Jennifer Sprague-Hilderbrand. 2023. Predicting Surprising Outcomes: Agent-Based Models at the intersection of complex human and environmental systems. Oral presentation. 103rd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, January 8-12, 2023, Denver, Colorado.

Valerie Were. 2023. Sea Level Rise Risk Communication: Research Findings and Emerging Best Practices to Advance Equity. Oral presentation. 103rd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, January 8-12, 2023, Denver, Colorado.

Schumacher, A.B., K. Musgrave, O. Ostwald, and M. Niznik, 2023: A New Evacuation Database for Societal Impacts Research. 103rd AMS Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, 8-12 January 2023.

Schumacher, A.B., K. Musgrave, O. Ostwald, and M. Niznik, 2023: A New Evacuation Database for Societal Impacts Research. 103rd AMS Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, 8-12 January 2023.

Stephen Smith, Cindy Woods, Tyra Brown-Harris, Patricia Brown, John-Michael Bloomquist, and Valerie Were. 2023. Equitable Services for a Weather-Ready Nation:
The NWS Service Equity Action Plan. Oral presentation. 103rd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, January 8-12, 2023, Denver, Colorado.

Valerie Were. 2022. To Flee or not to Flee: A Best Practices Guide for the Consistent Depiction of Risk at the National Weather Service. Oral presentation. 2022 NOAA Hurricane Conference, November 29 to December 2, 2022, Virtual Conference.

Schumacher, A. B., 2021: Using hurricane data for health impacts research.  International Society for Environmental Epidemiologists – N. American Chapter (ISEE-NAC) Workshop on Climate Change, Hurricanes, and Health. Virtual (, 14 April 2021.

Recent Publications

McGovern, A., D.J. Gagne II, C.D. Wirz, I. Ebert-Uphoff, A. Bostrom, Y. Rao, A. Schumacher, M. Flora, R. Chase, A. Mamalakis, M. McGraw, R. Lagerquist, R.J. Redmon, and T. Peterson, In Review: Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence for Environmental Sciences: An Innovative Approach for Summer School. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., in press.

Anderson, G. B., A. Schumacher, J. M. Done, and J. Hurrell, 2022: Projecting the impacts of a changing climate: Tropical cyclones & flooding. Current Environmental Health Reports, 9(2), 244-262,

Anderson, G. B., A. Schumacher, and J. M. Done, 2022: Exposure assessment for tropical cyclone epidemiology. Current Environmental Health Reports, 9(1),

Nethery, R. C., N. Katz-Christy, M. Kioumourtzoglou, R. M. Parks, A. Schumacher, and G. B. Anderson, 2021: Integrated causal-predictive machine learning models for tropical cyclone epidemiology, Biostatistics,

Anderson G. B., J. Ferreri, M. Al-Hamdan, W. Crosson, A. Schumacher, S. Guikema, S. Quiring, D. Eddelbuettel, M. Yan, and R. D. Peng, 2020: Assessing United States county-level exposure for research on tropical cyclones and human health. Environmental Health Perspectives. 128(10),

Yan, M., A. Wilson, S. Magzamen, F. Dominici, Y. Yang, M. Al-Hamdan, W. Crosson, A. Schumacher, S. Guikema, R. Peng, and G. B. Anderson, 2020: Tropical cyclone exposures and risks of emergency Medicare hospital admission for cardiorespiratory diseases in 175 United States counties, 1999–2010. Epidemiology. 32(3), 315-326,

Anderson G. B., A. Schumacher, S. Guikema, S. Quiring, J. Ferreri, A. Staid, M. Guo, L. Ming, and L. Zhu, 2020: `stormwindmodel`: Model tropical cyclone wind speeds. Version 0.1.4 [Software]. Available from:

Anderson G. B., M. Yan, J. Ferreri, W. Crosson, M. Al-Hamdan, A. Schumacher, and D. Eddelbuettel, 2020: `hurricaneexposure`: Explore and Map County-Level Hurricane Exposure in the United States. Version 0.1.1 [Software]. Available from: https://cran.r-

Anderson G. B., A. Schumacher, W. Crosson, M. Al-Hamdan, M. Yan, J. Ferreri, Z. Chen, S. Quiring, and S. Guikema, 2020: `hurricaneexposuredata`: Data Characterizing Exposure to Hurricanes in United States Counties. Version 0.1.0 [Software]. Available from: