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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

How the New NOAA and DOI Mapping Tool Can Boost Climate Resilience

CMRA supports users in evaluating future climate threats to federally-funded projects. It also provides information on various federal grant programs that can fund climate resilience efforts.

As climate changes, many communities are seeing more events where weather- and climate-related events are damaging infrastructure. Giving easy access to information about future conditions helps communities plan for the future.

Recognizing a gap in data availability for climate resilience, the Biden-Harris Administration in partnership with the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of the Interior recently launched the Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation (CMRA) portal, a new website to help communities across the nation understand the real-time climate-related hazards in their area, analyze projected long-term exposure to those hazards, and identify federal funds to support climate resilience projects for their communities.

Homeland Security Today spoke with NOAA to find out more about the climate mapping tool and how climate mitigation measures can save lives and money.

NOAA said that the portal serves as a key tool to aid in the planning and implementation of federal investments, such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act. CMRA supports users in evaluating future climate threats to federally-funded projects. It also provides information on various federal grant programs that can fund climate resilience efforts.

NOAA told us that CMRA integrates decision-relevant information from across the U.S. government, including climate maps and data; non-climate data such as building code standards, economic justice, and social vulnerability information; and federal grant funding opportunities. Data sources include the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL). NFHL is the official assessment of areas in the U.S. susceptible to flooding and provides 100-year (1% annual chance of flooding) and 500-year (0.2% annual chance of flooding) floodplain areas. 

The website’s new CMRA Assessment Tool offers information on past, present, and projected future climate conditions to support planners and managers in assessing their exposure to climate-related hazards, including drought, extreme heat, coastal and inland flooding, and wildfire. The site helps local resilience planners and other users create their own custom climate exposure assessment for specific locations and customize statistics and visual representations of the hazards in their particular area. This interactive application will enable users to understand how future temperature, precipitation, and flooding conditions may impact their community in the near-term and by mid- and late-century. 

NOAA explained to Homeland Security Today how state and local government planners and managers can use the CMRA portal to assess risks, perform analysis, and create proposals based on their local climate hazards and needs: 

Assess Risks

  • Use the CMRA assessment tool to discover how temperature, precipitation, and flooding conditions will change in the future.
  • Generate hazard reports to demonstrate how to incorporate the information into future projects, such as your community’s climate action plan

Perform Analysis

  • Access GIS-ready data organized by hazard to perform more custom analysis.
  • Authoritative data and information products are curated from federal agencies and trusted partners to support a range of mapping and analysis needs.

Create Proposals 

  • Use the steps outlined in the Climate Resilience Toolkit to create a detailed, data-driven proposal to support local resilience projects.
  • Explore the resources in CMRA to identify funding opportunities organized by hazard that are available for your community.

NOAA explained the complexity of climate risks facing the United States, and said that considering specific assets against the hazards to which they are exposed gives an infinite number of risk situations. Consequently, defining the “biggest threats” depends on what things people care about and how they could be harmed by climate-related hazards – there is no general case scenario.

So what are the three single most important things state governments and infrastructure management can do right now to mitigate the climate disasters of the near future? NOAA referred to the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit’s Steps to Resilience and underlined three key steps: First, there is a need to understand exposure by identifying the specific threats that could destroy property, reduce business, and damage important infrastructure. Second, they should assess the vulnerability and risk to these assets and recognize potential consequences if these assets are damaged or lost. Then, options for reducing risk should be investigated, including considering potential sources of federal funding to pay for resilience-building projects.

We asked NOAA if the agency foresees any challenges in getting the right people to use the new climate mapping portal, and whether it thinks climate skepticism is still an issue in 2022. The agency responded simply that “CMRA is a tool for people who want to know what climate science can tell us about the future.” Given the myriad climate threats, it is hoped that all of those charged with planning for safety and resilience will want to know how science can boost their defenses, and CMRA is the ideal place to start.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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