Future property damage from flooding: sensitivities to economy and climate change

J. Liu, T. W. Hertel, N. S. Diffenbaugh, M. S. Delgado, and M. Ashfaq

Climatic Change (1 October 2015)

DOI: 10.1007/s10584-015-1478-z

Recent trends in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events have raised the concern that climate change could increase flooding risks and property damage. However, a major challenge in attributing and projecting changes in disaster risk is that damage is influenced not only by the physical climate hazard, but also by non-climatic factors that shape exposure and vulnerability. Recent assessments of integrated disaster risk have been hampered by the paucity of literature analyzing local-scale interactions between hazard, exposure and vulnerability in the historical record. Here we develop an integrated empirical analysis of historical flood damage that emphasizes spatial and temporal heterogeneity in flood hazard, economic exposure and social vulnerability. Using the Midwestern United States as a testbed, we show that annual property damage from flooding is projected to increase by 13 to 17.4 % over the next two decades. At the state level, over half of the increase is driven by projected growth in housing units. However, at the county level, the dominant factor causing future damage varies, emphasizing the value of a fully integrated, spatially and temporally resolved approach to assessing flooding risk and control strategies.

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