Featured Projects

image from workshop with Triangle J COG in North Carolina

Local Government Resilience Support

Our team delivers local government resilience decision support in multiple contexts: from providing resilience insight for comprehensive and stormwater master planning to leading full resilience planning projects; directly to cities and counties themselves or as a subconsultant to our engineering partners like Hazen and Sawyer and Kimley-Horn and Associates. Our active projects include work for Ft. Lauderdale, Broward County, Tallahassee, and West Palm Beach in Florida; Portsmouth, Virginia; and Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Durham County, Chapel Hill, Orange County, and Asheville in North Carolina.

West Palm Beach Community Resilience Plan

In 2017, the NEMAC-FernLeaf Collaborative began guiding staff from the City of West Palm Beach—with representatives from nearly every municipal department—through a five-step resilience planning process in a series of facilitated workshops, using the Steps to Resilience framework. Our team co-developed this framework with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit and have tailored it further for local government resilience planning. The goal of the planning project is to assist the City of West Palm Beach in prioritizing limited resources available in order to build maximum resilience to existing hazards and possible future change.

This project is near completion and there will be a public report published soon.

Step 1: Explore Hazards

As a coastal community, West Palm Beach is facing a number of acute inundation hazards caused by heavy precipitation, tidal events, and storm surge—all being exacerbated by gradual sea level rise. Additionally, the city faces a number of chronic challenges, such as water shortage and vulnerability to heat stressors, and non-climate stressors, such as recent population growth and resultant infrastructure pressure. Recent events and past experiences help in understanding impacts that can be assessed and documented in a thorough exposure analysis.

The NEMAC-FernLeaf Collaborative led a workshop with city departmental leadership to provide resilience theory training and climate scene setting. In this workshop, the Collaborative gathered input on the key assets, threats, and stressors city staff work with as a part of their jobs. Key findings were detailed in a report that will serve as the basis of the full resilience plan.

Step 2: Assess Vulnerability & Risk

Vulnerability is the susceptibility of societal assets and community services to impacts from existing or future threats. Vulnerability is made up of two main concepts: potential impact and adaptive capacity. Both physical and socioeconomic conditions can influence a system's resilience to the impacts from climate-related threats. This process will include a vulnerability and risk scoping assessment for identified assets to specific climate threats.

The NEMAC-FernLeaf Collaborative led a workshop with city departmental leadership to relay the key findings of the exposure assessment generated by AccelAdapt. The crosswalk of assets and threats identified in Step One was presented to the city. One major takeaway: unlike their southern neighbors, inland precipitation-driven flooding is and will likely continue to be a greater challenge than sea level rise. In addition to posters and the workshop presentation, the exposure assessment was provided as a report detailing assets exposed to a variety of climate threats.

We are currently working through defining sensitivity and adaptive capacity based on city ordinances and asset use types and other local factors. These rules will be used with AccelAdapt to determine what exposed assets are truly vulnerable and therefore should be prioritized.

Step 3: Investigate Options

Once vulnerable areas and assets are identified, options to build resilience are considered. Options are developed by brainstorming possible solutions and exploring what other groups have done in similar circumstances, and then are narrowed to a short list of actions that local stakeholders are willing to support.

Step 4: Prioritize & Plan

After developing a list of options, they are consolidated and prioritized. The prioritization process requires aligning limited resources to focus on the greatest risks, and involves discussing trade-offs with fellow stakeholders and determining the best way forward. These prioritized projects can then inform CIPs to maximize risk reduction.

Step 5: Take Action & Implement

The last step is implementing a plan. It is also important to monitor results and measure how effective the actions are.

step one excerpt
Excerpt from the West Palm Beach step 1 report.
Posters of key findings from step 2. Exposure assessment on display in the West Palm Beach planning department conference room.
asset threat pairs table
Excerpt from step 2 report detailing exposure of multiple asset types to a variety of inundation threats (some values are obscured until the report is released publicly).
Closeup of one of the posters on display.

map of yearly precipitation

National Resilience Leadership

If you have used or seen a federally-provided climate data tool or visualization, there's a strong chance we were involved in some capacity. Our team has supported technology transfer and communication for NOAA and the U.S. Global Change Research Program through many of the graphical, data processing, and visualization tools and outputs featured on Climate.gov, in the National Climate Assessment, the US Climate Resilience Toolkit, Climate Explorer, Climate at a Glance, the Severe Weather Data Inventory, and others.

US Climate Resilience Toolkit

The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit provides scientific tools, information, and expertise to help people manage their climate-related risks and opportunities, and improve their resilience to extreme events. The site is designed to serve interested citizens, communities, businesses, resource managers, planners, and policy leaders at all levels of government.

In response to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and Executive Order to help the nation prepare for climate-related changes and impacts, U.S. federal government agencies gathered resources that can help people take action to build their climate resilience. The impacts of climate change—including higher temperatures, heavier downpours, more frequent and intense droughts, wildfires, and floods, and sea level rise—are affecting communities, businesses, and natural resources across the nation. For some, taking a business-as-usual approach has become more risky than taking steps to build their climate resilience. People who recognize they are vulnerable to climate variability and change can work to reduce their vulnerabilities, and find win-win opportunities that simultaneously boost local economies, create new jobs, and improve the health of ecosystems. This is a climate-smart approach—investing in activities that build resilience and capacity while reducing risk.

Using plain language and easy-to-use tools, the Climate Resilience Toolkit illustrates climate-related vulnerabilities that people face, from national to local scales, and summarizes specific steps they can take to become more resilient. The site offers the following resources:

  • Steps to Resilience — a five-step process you can follow to initiate, plan, and implement projects to become more resilient to climate-related hazards. This resilience framework developed by our team in partnership with NOAA is our "playbook" for local government resilience planning. Learn more.
  • Real-world case studies describing climate-related risks and opportunities that communities and businesses face, steps they’re taking to plan and respond, and tools and techniques they’re using to improve resilience.
  • A catalog of freely available tools for accessing and analyzing climate data, generating visualizations, exploring climate projections, estimating hazards, and engaging stakeholders in resilience-building efforts.
  • The Climate Explorer — The NEMAC-FernLeaf Collaborative led development of a visualization tool that offers maps of climate stressors and impacts, as well as interactive graphs showing daily observations, long-term averages, and threshold exceedances from thousands of weather stations.
  • Climate Projections — The NEMAC-FernLeaf Collaborative created the software that produced climate projection visualizations at a county/city scale (over 3,000 counties and cities in the continental U.S.) for 19 different climate variables.

Members of the NEMAC-FernLeaf Collaborative are an integral part of the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit development and editorial team. Our staff partnered with NOAA personnel for the site’s initial conception and development, working from the brainstorming stage through design, content development, and initial launch. We continue to work closely with NOAA's Climate Program Office to manage the site's design, development, and content.

climate by location screenshot
Screenshot of a climate projection time series tool developed by the NEMAC-FernLeaf collaborative in partnership with ACIS, NOAA, and USGCRP.
climate explorer screenshot
Screenshot of the Climate Explorer developed by the NEMAC-FernLeaf collaborative team.
high tide flooding screenshot
Screenshot of the new high tide flooding projection time series developed by the NEMAC-FernLeaf collaborative, leveraging data from NOAA scientist Billy Sweet.