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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 22, issue 11 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 5657-5673, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 01 Nov 2018

Research article | 01 Nov 2018

Challenges to implementing bottom-up flood risk decision analysis frameworks: how strong are social networks of flooding professionals?

James O. Knighton1, Osamu Tsuda2, Rebecca Elliott3, and M. Todd Walter1 James O. Knighton et al.
  • 1Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, 14850, USA
  • 2Department of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Cornell University, Ithaca, 14850, USA
  • 3Department of Sociology, London School of Economics, London, WC2A 2AE, UK

Abstract. Recent developments in bottom-up vulnerability-based decision analysis frameworks present promising opportunities for flood practitioners to simplify complex decisions regarding risk mitigation and climate adaptation. This family of methodologies relies on strong social networks among flood practitioners and the public to support careful definition of stakeholder-relevant thresholds and vulnerabilities to hazards. In parallel, flood researchers are directly considering distinct atmospheric mechanisms that induce flooding to readily incorporate information on future climate projections. We perform a case study of flood professionals actively engaged in flood risk mitigation within Tompkins County, New York, USA, a community dealing with moderate flooding, to gage how much variance exists among professionals from the perspective of establishing a bottom-up flood mitigation study from an atmospheric perspective. Results of this case study indicate disagreement among flooding professionals as to which socioeconomic losses constitute a flood, disagreement on anticipated community needs, weak understanding of climate–weather–flood linkages, and some disagreement on community perceptions of climate adaptation. In aggregate, the knowledge base of the Tompkins County flood practitioners provides a well-defined picture of community vulnerability and perceptions. Our research supports the growing evidence that collaborative interdisciplinary flood mitigation work could reduce risk, and potentially better support the implementation of emerging bottom-up decision analysis frameworks for flood mitigation and climate adaptation.

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Short summary
Decision-making for flood risk management is often the collective effort of professionals within government, NGOs, private practice, and advocacy groups. Our research investigates differences among flood experts within Tompkins County, New York (USA). We explore how they differ in their perceptions of flooding risk, desired project outcomes, and knowledge. We observe substantial differences among experts, and recommend formally acknowledging these perceptions when engaging in flood management.
Decision-making for flood risk management is often the collective effort of professionals within...