An Arctic Disaster and its Policy Implications
Keywords:policy, disaster, extreme events, adaptation, climate change, Barrow, North Slope
The purpose of the research reported here is to help the community in Barrow, Alaska, clarify its vulnerability to extreme weather events, and devise better-informed policies for reducing that vulnerability and adapting to climate variability and change. We examine the worst disaster on record there - a storm that struck on 3 October 1963 - from different disciplinary perspectives and in the context of other severe storms. The major policy responses to date have been a beach nourishment program, a feasibility study of additional means of erosion control, and an emergency management plan. Additional possible responses have been identified in the community's cumulative experience of these storms, but have not yet been fully explored or implemented. Meanwhile, given inherent uncertainties, it is clear that sound policies will allow for corrective action if and when expectations based on the best available knowledge and information turn out to be mistaken. It is also clear that the people of Barrow are in the best position to understand the evolving situation and to decide what to do about it.