Feb. 9, 1999 BOULDER--Tornadoes cost Texas on average more than $40 million a year, while Iowa ranks first in costs of flooding, according to a new site launched today on the World Wide Web. The site provides quick access to data on the cost of damages from hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes in the United States and its territories. Created at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the Extreme Weather Sourcebook (http://www.dir.ucar.edu/esig/HP_roger/sourcebook) reports decades of information in constant 1997 dollars, simplifying comparisons among extreme-weather impacts and among states or regions. NCAR's primary sponsor is the National Science Foundation.
"We created the site to spur investigation, because we're all affected by weather and climate," says political scientist Roger Pielke, Jr., who led the NCAR team that built the site. The Sourcebook is also intended to be a user-friendly tool for journalists on deadline.
"Users of information on weather impacts have been frustrated in the past by data in incompatible formats," says Pielke. With the harmonized data on the new Web site, "people can compare apples with apples."
Visitors to the Extreme Weather Sourcebook will find the states and U.S. territories ranked in order of economic losses from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and all three events combined. A dollar figure for the average annual cost in each category for each state is also provided. Links take the reader to graphs with more detailed information on cost per year for each state and each hazard. For those who want to dig deeper, there's a link to Pielke's Societal Aspects of Weather pages (http://www.dir.ucar.edu/esig/socasp).
The site allows relative comparisons of where a region or state stands in the national picture. "This is quantitative information that should be used in a qualitative way," says Pielke. He also warns that historical costs should not be used to predict what future damages might be. "We're making no predictive claims. The future could be very different," he says.
The data for hurricane impacts covers 1925-1995 (based on a study by Pielke and Christopher Landsea of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration); for tornadoes, 1960-1994 (based on a database maintained by the Storm Prediction Center); and for floods, 1983-1996 (based on data published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers). The flood and tornado data were updated to 1997 dollar values using the Gross National Product Implicit Price Deflator, which is published annually by the White House. The hurricane data were normalized to 1997 values by adjusting for growth in population and wealth, in addition to inflation.
The Sourcebook was partially funded by the U.S. Weather Research Program, a federal program focused on improving predictions and their use by decision makers. The USWRP home page is at http://uswrp.mmm.ucar.edu/uswrp.
NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a consortium of more than 60 universities offering Ph.D.s in atmospheric and related sciences.
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