University of Colorado at Boulder CU-Boulder Home CU-Boulder Search CU-Boulder A to Z Campus Map

Number 599 • November 29, 2012 | Past Issues













What’s Defense Got to Do With It? The Security Impacts of Climate Change

Around the world, countries are beginning to recognize that the extreme weather caused by climate change can set events in motion that lead to violence, supply chain disruptions, and other dynamics that put nations at risk. And while the oft-debated topic isn’t yet public enemy number one, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is starting to take the specter of global warming more seriously.

“The area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was quoted as saying by the American Forces Press Service. “Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar caps—the more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”

They can also raise levels of social and political stress that can lead to national security issues, according to a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences. The study, which was requested by the CIA, examines the unprecented threat of climate change and calls for full consideration of its impacts in U.S. national defense planning and strategies.

The recommendation makes sense, especially in the face of recent record-breaking natural disasters. But incorporating the caprice of climate change into defense planning might be easier said than done.

“Fundamental knowledge of climate dynamics indicates that many types of extreme climate events are likely to become more frequent, even though we do not know enough to predict which extreme events will occur where or when,” the National Academies report stated.

The report committee zeroed in on social and political stresses and security risks that stem from specific climate events. Since the intelligence community typically deals in more concrete threat assessments, the report examination was limited to manageable, near-term risks.

While some risks stemming from extreme events—diversion of military resources, for instance—might seem obvious, others are more subtle and indirect. These include nations made vulnerable by disaster, regions lacking access to resources such as petroleum and water, and even increased interpersonal violence.

So how should the United States mitigate national security risks in the wake of climate change? Jump on the bandwagon with the rest of the federal agencies, the report suggests.

“The intelligence community should participate in a whole-of-government effort to inform choices about adapting to and reducing vulnerability to climate change,” it states.

The study also highlights the importance of including disaster professionals and academics in this whole-bodied approach.

“An important need is to integrate the social science of natural disasters and disaster response with other forms of analysis,” the report stated. “This body of knowledge is particularly important for assessing the security consequences of climate change because disruptive climate events will typically be perceived and responded to as natural disasters.”

Not everyone agreed with the report’s findings and suggestions.

David Victor, a climate policy researcher at the University of California, San Diego, responded to Andrew Revkin’s Dot Earth post on the report by praising some of the recommendations, but offering a slightly different view.

“There’s a reality to all this, but also a huge amount of hype. And in the security/intelligence community, where most of what you do is deal with near term threats because the more distant future is so hard to manage, these environmental issues are seen as long on noise and short on signal,” said Victor.

Still, the report sheds light on beginning to conceptualize climate change as national security foe. And whether you think the CIA needs to pay attention to climate change or not, the committee’s bottom line for defense is clear:

“It is essential for the intelligence community to understand adaptation and changes in vulnerability to climate events.”

Stacia Sydoriak, Contributing Writer

Back to Top

Cloudy with a Chance of Flu: New Model Could Help Predict Seasonal Scourge

When it comes to weathering the flu season, there’s never been a good way to predict when an ill wind might blow—until now. Thanks to a newly developed model, scientists might soon be able to forecast flu outbreaks in much the same way weathermen forecast sleet or sunshine.

If the model works consistently—so far it’s only been applied to data from New York City—it could create a new paradigm for flu prevention.

“Flu forecasting has the potential to significantly improve our ability to prepare for and manage the seasonal flu outbreaks that strike each year,” Irene Eckstrand of the National Institutes of Health told AtmosNews.

The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Jeffery Shaman and Alicia Karspeck, married weather forecasting techniques with a predictive model that incorporates earlier findings that flu outbreaks often follow dry weather, according to AtmosNews. Data from Google Flu Trends were used to create retroactive forecasts to test the model.

“One exciting element of this work is that we've applied quantitative forecasting techniques developed within the geosciences community to the challenge of real-time infectious disease prediction,” Karspeck told AtmosNews. “This has been a tremendously fruitful cross-disciplinary collaboration.”

The research team was able to make confident predictions of the peak of flu outbreaks more than seven weeks in advance, according to the report abstract. If the results can be widely applied, they could drastically change how the public responds to risk of infection.

“Because we are all familiar with weather broadcasts, when we hear that there is an 80 percent chance of rain, we all have an intuitive sense of whether or not we should carry an umbrella,” Shaman told AtmosNews. “I expect we will develop a similar comfort level and confidence in flu forecasts and develop an intuition of what we should do to protect ourselves in response to different forecast outcomes.”

Health officials would also be able to act accordingly, stocking up on vaccines and antivirals or taking steps to limit disease spread in the case of aggressive viruses, Shaman said.

Despite the promise that flu forecasting holds, folks shouldn’t tune into the 10 o’clock news for the flu report just yet, Karspeck warns. Flu outbreak timing and intensity vary greatly from region to region, and with only one region tested, there’s lots of work to be done.

“These are very exploratory forecasts,” she told the Boulder Daily Camera. “At this point, you could more refer to this as a pilot study trying to demonstrate the capability of doing this.”

Back to Top

Head for the Workshop and Polish Up Your Session Suggestions

It's just about that time of year when we ask for your session suggestions for next July's Hazards Workshop. But listen up! Things are a going to be a little different this time.

Next week, we'll send an e-mail to everyone on the Hazards Workshop invitation list with a link and instructions for submitting sessions. Unlike prior years, submitted sessions will need to be complete, and we'll be making decisions as they come in about which ones are a good fit. The submission window will close when we have enough sessions to fill the program, or on December 31, whichever comes first.

The Natural Hazards Center will hold its 38th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop Saturday, July 13 through Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, Colorado.

If you've never been invited to the Hazards Workshop and would like an invitation, please write explaining your interest.

Back to Top

The Latest Natural Hazards Observer Is Online (and in Print!)

The latest edition of the Natural Hazards Observer is now available online. Featured articles from the November 2012 Observer include:

            •          How to Handle a Texas-Sized Drought
            •          Your Classic Climate Change Fish Stories
            •          Many Reactor Sites Face Tsunami Risks
            •          What is Resilience

And don’t forget, for those of you that would rather get the print edition, we’re now able to offer readers an Observer subscription for only $15 per year. Those interested in subscribing can sign up on our subscription page using a credit card, or be invoiced later.

Call Outs: Calls for Papers, Abstracts, Proposals, and More

Call for Applications
Experience Applied Epidemiology Fellowship
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Deadline: December 7, 2012
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is accepting applications for is CDC Experience Fellowship. The fellowship provides practical experience in using epidemiology to address public health problems. Eight third- and fourth-year medical students will be chosen for the 10- to 12-month fellowship. For more information and to submit an application, visit the CDC Web site.


Call for Applications
Postdoctoral Scholars in the Social Sciences and Humanities Program
University of South Florida
Deadline: December 7, 2012
The University of South Florida is accepting applications for its Postdoctoral Scholars Program, which will award six or more scholarships to study issues of global change in a dynamic world. Possible topics for research include sustainable development, hazard and disaster management, climate change, and technology and information issues. For more information on program offerings, eligibility criteria, and how to submit an application, visit the program Web site.


Call for Applications
IGNITE Stage Presentations
Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction
Deadline: December 28, 2012
The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction is accepting applications for IGNITE stage presentations at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, to be held May 19-23 in Geneva, Switzerland. The IGNITE stage will allow attendees to make 15-minute presentations on topics such as disaster reduction successes, public-private partnerships, innovative projects and collaborations, and the future of risk reduction. For full information, visit the IGNITE stage Web page.

Back to Top

Some New Web Resources

After 12 years of introducing little girls to the joys of engineering, the National Academies’ EngineerGirl Web site has gotten a makeover. Although there are a few added frills in the site’s layout and organization, the real wow factor comes in the form of added site offerings—including blogs about the engineering life and a section that gives girls the lowdown on different engineering careers. And with the 2013 EGirl Essay Contest in full swing, there’s no time like the present for girls to stop by.


Tracking and Reunification of Children in a Disaster
This online lesson will give healthcare workers a background in handling children who’ve become separated from their parents in a disaster. From creating general awareness of responder responsibility, to identifying lost children, to knowing what resources are available to help find parents, this tool will help guide emergency workers in the field. The lesson, created by the National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, is also eligible for a variety of continuing education credits.


Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue
Anyone who has seen the challenges of rescuing household pets during disasters would likely be daunted at the prospect of saving something bigger. Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue might just be able to overcome that fear. TLAER offers courses to emergency personnel on how to safely rescue trapped or injured horses and cattle from disaster and emergency zones—including education on how to prevent entrapment. Visit the site to learn more about how to form large animal rescue response teams, find training and education resources, and see pictures of real life rescues.


Knowledge Center on Public Health and Disasters
If you ever had a question relating to the intersection of public health and disasters, this Pan American Health Organization Web site probably has the answer. With information arranged in easy-to-access modules, the site spans everything from basic concepts and terminology to global trends and strategies to reduce disaster risk. The latest PAHO publications and opportunities for classes and training are also featured.


Build Back Smarter and Safer
The damage caused by Hurricane Sandy has many debating the merits of rebuilding in disaster zones. When the decision is to rebuild, this easy-to-follow report lays out nine steps community leaders can follow to lessen the impacts of future disasters. Complete with resources to support each stage of the process, this document can be used to troubleshoot problems or to structure policy.

Back to Top

Conferences, Training, and Events

[Below are some recent announcements received by the Natural Hazards Center. For a comprehensive list of upcoming hazards-related meetings, visit our Web site at]

December 8-11, 2012
Extreme Natural Hazards and Their Impacts
International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
Orange, California
Cost and Registration: $450 before November 30, open until filled
This conference will examine global natural hazards risks from differing geological and geophysical perspectives. Countries experiencing recent extreme events and increased vulnerability will be highlighted. Topics include the connection between extreme climate and natural hazards, reducing the uncertainty and risk associated with extreme geohazards, managing disasters in developing countries, and forensic investigation of disasters.


December 12-13, 2012
National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project Workshop
United States Geological Survey
Berkley, California
Cost and Registration: Free, open until filled
This workshop will support efforts to update U.S. seismic hazard maps by discussing ground motion models for different types of earthquake-prone areas. Topics will include summaries of similar workshops, new model development, advantages and disadvantages of standard models, and future map needs. All attendees are invited to speak, show up to three slides, and introduce additional topics.


January 21-23, 2013
New Chief Leadership Symposium
International Association of Fire Chiefs
Phoenix, Arizona
Cost and Registration: $950, open until filled
This symposium is designed to provide newly appointed fire chiefs with the skills and information needed to effectively manage their departments. Topics include critical thinking and decision making, budget management, political understanding, technology and social media, and work-life balance.


January 31-February 1, 2013
Coastal Hazards Summit 2013
University of Florida
St. Augustine, Florida
Cost and Registration $175 before December 1, open until filled
This conference will examine coastal hazards such as hurricanes, storm surge, and man-made environmental damage to determine upcoming research needs and share advances in coastal disaster management. Topics include coastal hazard policies, forecasting systems, climate change and sea level rise, coastal restoration options, and collaboration to better prepare for and respond to coastal disasters.


February 8-9, 2013
Disasters, Displacement, and Human Rights: Framing the Field
University of Tennessee Department of Anthropology
Knoxville, Tennessee
Cost and Registration: $40 before January 8, open until filled
This conference will explore questions related to disasters, development, and conflict with the aim of creating a new approach to understanding the human impacts of natural and man-made hazards. Topics to be discussed include holistic approaches to studying DDHR, culturally specific ideas and human rights, triggers of modern disaster, and common denominators of disasters.

March 19-21, 2013
Wildland Urban Interface
International Association of Fire Chiefs
Reno, Nevada
Cost and Registration: $375 before February 1, open until filled
This conference will discuss solutions to wildland-urban interface fire suppression, prevention, and mitigation challenges. Topics include creating fire-adapted communities, assessing wildfire hazards, preventing accidental or intentional wildfires, and reducing wildfire risk while protecting environmental interests.

Back to Top

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Lecturer in Uncertainty and Risk in Complex Systems and Networks
University of Liverpool
Liverpool, England
Salary: $47,432 to $60,037
Closing Date: December 7, 2012
This position will provide administrative, teaching, and research support to both the Centre for Engineering Sustainability and the Institute for Risk and Uncertainty. Duties include teaching graduate and undergraduate classes, providing research and consulting services to government entities, and conducting complex modeling. An established research record, strong publication history, and an ability to attract external funding are required.


Disaster Services Coordinator
American Red Cross
Santa Ana, California
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position coordinates operations for Red Cross chapters and other programs. Duties include recruiting and training volunteers, coordinating and teaching disaster-related workshops, maintaining records and statistics, and managing staff and volunteer emergency exercises. Two to four years of experience, administrative skills, and the ability to respond to unexpected events are required.


Environmental Planner
URS Corporation
Seattle, Washington
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will support the water and environmental planning group in environmental review planning, consulting, and permitting with an emphasis on assisting with matters related to national and state environmental policy acts. Duties include managing studies and development applications, interpreting codes and ordinances, researching and compiling statistical reports, and developing regional plans for hazard mitigation, coastal zone development, and water resource planning. A bachelor’s degree in urban planning, environmental science, or a related field; five years of experience; and advanced knowledge of the national and state environmental policy acts are required.


Erosion Control Engineer
City of Winston-Salem
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Salary: $48,100
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position is responsible for enforcing regulations related to erosion control, floodplain management, and water supply protection. Duties include monitoring construction sites for compliance, assisting with and reviewing plans, and providing floodplain control information to the public. A bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a related field, certification in erosion and sediment control, and knowledge of related regulations and programs are required.


Research Technician
Alaska Earthquake Information Center
Fairbanks, Alaska
Salary: $40,976
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position will perform lab and field duties related to the collection, analysis, and archiving of Alaskan seismic events. Duties include earthquake data processing, real-time data flow monitoring and troubleshooting, monitoring seismic stations, and participating in public outreach events. A bachelor’s degree in earth or physical sciences and two years of related work experience are required.

Back to Top

Contributions of jobs, conferences, and other content to this newsletter can be sent to Please include “for Disaster Research” in the subject line.

To subscribe, visit or e-mail
University of Colorado at Boulder

Natural Hazards Center
483 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0483
Contact Us: | (303) 492-6818

A Center in the Institute of Behavioral Science

© Regents of the University of Colorado