September 24, 2019

Professor Ann Bostrom to testify in U.S. House committee hearing on causes, consequences and impacts of extreme weather

On the heels of climate strikes, marches, and protests worldwide, this Thursday, Professor Ann Bostrom will testify in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in a hearing titled, “Understanding, Forecasting, and Communicating Extreme Weather in a Changing Climate.”

The purpose of the hearing is to discuss the state of the science on the causes, consequences and impacts of extreme weather, focusing on the role of global climate change in increasing their severity. The hearing will also address future projections of extreme weather, uncertainties in these projections, and how to discuss them with the public.

Professor Bostrom will speak to communication and decision-making in the context of extreme weather. Fundamentally, how extreme weather is forecasted and communicated, and how uncertainties are conveyed, will be critical for organizations’ ability to anticipate and manage how communities plan for and respond to new extremes and prevent disasters.

Professor Bostrom will testify that our recent advances in the ability to forecast extreme weather have not been sufficient for preventing catastrophic damage to our communities from hurricanes, floods, droughts, and wildfires.

“To protect lives and property…we need to invest in the social and behavioral sciences of extreme weather and climate change,” she will argue.  “People need to know what to do when a tropical storm or hurricane threatens – for example, how driving might be affected, and how to evacuate.”

Bostrom notes that people tend to be more prepared for an event when they have prior experience of it, but that alone is not an indicator of extreme weather preparedness, and extreme weather under climate change is likely to surpass prior personal experiences.

“Tropical Depression Imelda hit southeast Texas earlier this month, dumping three feet of rain in 24 hours,” she notes. “This caught people by surprise, despite the region’s experience with Hurricane Harvey the prior year.”

Much remains to be learned about how best to prepare for and communicate about extreme weather under climate change. Bostrom will argue the need for additional research that brings social, behavioral, and other scientists together to determine how climate and weather information can most effectively be integrated, analyzed and delivered to help forecasters, emergency managers, drivers—indeed, all of people—make better decisions.