BOULDER--Tornadoes cost Texas on average more than $40 million a year,while Iowa ranks first in costs of flooding, according to a new sitelaunched today on the World Wide Web. The site provides quick access todata on the cost of damages from hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes inthe United States and its territories. Created at the National Centerfor Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the Extreme Weather Sourcebook(http://www.dir.ucar.edu/esig/HP_roger/sourcebook) reports decades ofinformation in constant 1997 dollars, simplifying comparisons amongextreme-weather impacts and among states or regions. NCAR's primarysponsor is the National Science Foundation.
"We created the site to spur investigation, because we're all affectedby weather and climate," says political scientist Roger Pielke, Jr., wholed the NCAR team that built the site. The Sourcebook is also intendedto be a user-friendly tool for journalists on deadline.
"Users of information on weather impacts have been frustrated in thepast by data in incompatible formats," says Pielke. With the harmonizeddata 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 theaverage annual cost in each category for each state is also provided.Links take the reader to graphs with more detailed information on costper year for each state and each hazard. For those who want to digdeeper, 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 standsin the national picture. "This is quantitative information that shouldbe used in a qualitative way," says Pielke. He also warns thathistorical costs should not be used to predict what future damages mightbe. "We're making no predictive claims. The future could be verydifferent," he says.
The data for hurricane impacts covers 1925-1995 (based on a study byPielke and Christopher Landsea of the National Oceanic and AtmosphericAdministration); for tornadoes, 1960-1994 (based on a databasemaintained by the Storm Prediction Center); and for floods, 1983-1996(based on data published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers). The floodand tornado data were updated to 1997 dollar values using the GrossNational Product Implicit Price Deflator, which is published annually bythe White House. The hurricane data were normalized to 1997 values byadjusting for growth in population and wealth, in addition to inflation.
The Sourcebook was partially funded by the U.S. Weather ResearchProgram, a federal program focused on improving predictions and theiruse 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 atmosphericand related sciences.
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