AT&T Provides Climate Data that Helps At-Risk Neighborhoods Prepare for Extreme Weather Events

Several weeks ago, a winter storm struck Texas, leaving devastation in its wake. It was so powerful it earned a name – Uri – a recognition reserved typically for tropical storms and hurricanes.  And while the storm wreaked destruction, it was particularly damaging in low-income and minority areas.

As the earth’s temperature warms, we may continue to see these extreme examples of climate change that disrupt daily lives, especially in at-risk neighborhoods. From stronger, more frequent hurricanes, to destructive wildfires and increased flooding.

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Imagine if communities could look decades into the future to understand how these natural disasters could affect their long-term resilience and stability and heed a warning, especially in the areas typically most affected.

Through our Climate Resiliency Community Challenge, we are finding ways to do just that. We’re bringing data and technology together with leading climate scientists to help cities, counties and states better anticipate, prepare for and respond to looming climate impacts. Researchers have discovered a need to focus on social and economic impact and greater community engagement when exploring climate resilience programs.

Following the announcement of our Climate Change Analysis Tool, we donated a total of $250,000 to five universities to help communities in the southeastern United States evaluate the long-term risks of flooding and hurricanes and help boost community resilience. As part of the program, we provided universities with hyper-localized data analyzed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to help communities look decades into the future to understand how climate-related extreme weather may affect their long-term resilience and stability.

Here are some highlights from the work of the five universities:

  • The University of Miami used hyper-localized flood projection data from our to study climate impacts on two neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County most susceptible to challenges from high flooding and little shade. Using sophisticated geospatial analyses and community interviews, this research offers ways to create advocacy tools for citizens and organizations to engage their governments in preparation strategies and climate resilience projects for areas most at risk.
  • Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., contrasted national data with hyperlocal information, finding that while flooding, landslides and wildfires pose threats in rural western North Carolina, the region has less cellular and data coverage for early response to natural disasters, fewer mitigation policies in place, and less capacity for fire, police and emergency management expenditures. The study also noted that poor rural and underserved communities in Appalachia often lack a voice in regulation setting and planning and have been marginalized within climate change initiatives. Moving forward, climate vulnerability, exposure and resilience must be assessed in terms of the socio-economic disparity and actual experience of the people living and working within each community.
  • The Georgia Institute of Technology looked at inland flooding patterns across the state of Georgia and in the cities of Atlanta, Austell, Albany and Carrollton to understand climate impacts in communities with large populations of color. The researchers found that communities with majority racial minority populations are likely to be most at risk from inland flooding.  The study concluded that technology and the use of visualization tools can help communities raise public awareness of flood risk and improve resilience through expanded stormwater infrastructure, green infrastructure, enhanced warning systems and stronger institutions including requiring the consideration of climate hazards in planning and disincentivizing building in the floodplain.
  • The University of South Florida conducted a hyperlocal study of St. Petersburg using a community resiliency information system (CRIS), discovering the need to improve communication between residents and local officials about the avenues for assistance following a hurricane and larger-scale flooding. The research found aggregating data with continual updates from residents can create detailed portraits of hot spots of concern around specific characteristics, such as disability, health threats from potential power loss, preparedness and community response to evacuation orders.
  • The University of Georgia examined the flooding in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, finding that Black, Hispanic and low-income communities had 38% to 185% higher flood risk compared to the average risk. The study also identified areas where flood risks exist but are not currently recognized as flood zones by local governments, and how flooding and social impacts may change in the future due to climate change.