Shown on Success Stories Page
In the past two decades, Colorado has experienced wildfires, sustained droughts, and intense flood events – natural hazards that have had significant impacts on the Colorado economy. The State of Colorado recognizes that these hazards can be exacerbated as climate change intensifies the severity of events, and a growing population puts more people into harm’s way. In response, the Colorado Department of Public Safety, in collaboration with the Colorado Water Conservation Board and FEMA, commissioned a statewide assessment of current and future risks from flood, drought, and wildfire. The project expresses risk in terms of monetary impacts to select sectors of the Colorado economy, including private housing, public infrastructure, agriculture, and tourism. The information assembled can be used to stimulate the implementation of smart adaptation strategies and policy frameworks that strengthen vulnerable sectors in a rapidly changing environment. The analysis, led by Lynker Technologies, takes a probabilistic approach to quantify and monetize current risks in terms of expected annual damage (EAD). Models of each sector’s vulnerability to flood, drought, or wildfire were run with future climate and population conditions to estimate how those expected damages might change by the year 2050. For flooding and wildfire, the impacts to commercial buildings, residential buildings, and infrastructure are similar to the types of impacts that Hazus is designed to quantify and follow the Hazus methodologies closely. For drought, the monetary impacts focused on reduced economic output from agriculture and recreation.
As a semi-arid, headwater state with terrain ranging from the High Plains to Rocky Mountains, Colorado is exposed to major economic impacts from floods, droughts, and wildfires. Recent events such as the 2013 flood, the 2002 drought, and 2012 wildfire season are examples of the physical magnitude and economic damages such hazards can exact. These extreme events are becoming more severe and potentially more frequent as global climate dynamics change regional patterns.
Researchers expect floods to increase in severity, droughts to deepen and become more spatially expansive, and wildfire seasons to become longer with more acres burned in a warming climate. In addition, Colorado’s growing population is projected to reach between 7.7 and 9.3 million by 2050. With more residents comes greater natural hazard exposure if floodplain margins become developed, agricultural land shrinks, and the number of people in the wildland urban interface increases.
The first step to understanding and preparing for these events is to assess the possible risks—both now and in the future. This is done by quantifying the difference in economic costs between historic relationships and modeled future scenarios. Tasked by the Colorado Department of Public Safety to perform such an analysis, the objective of this project is to estimate the expected costs of floods, droughts, and wildfires to a selection of economic sectors under historic and future climate and population scenarios.
These sectors varied by the hazard being examined. For flooding, we evaluated impacts to buildings and bridges. For drought, we examined agricultural—crops and cattle—and outdoor recreation—skiing and rafting—impacts. For wildfire, we again analyzed buildings and also computed the cost of suppression, which is the amount the state spends to fight and extinguish ongoing fires. In total, we analyzed eight sectors, all of which have experienced observed economic damages in the tens of millions to billions of dollars due to natural hazards.
The Eastern Snake Plain region of Idaho produces approximately 21 percent of the state’s goods and services, resulting in an estimated value of $10 billion annually, and water is the critical element in the region’s productivity. The development of both groundwater and surface-water water use across the Eastern Snake Plain has led to conjunctive management of the common water resource. In an on-going contract with the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators (IGWA), Lynker provides oversight on both development of a regional groundwater model of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPAM) and its application in water resource management. ESPAM is a groundwater model developed by the State of Idaho as a tool to help quantify the impacts of current water use practices and/or proposed alternatives on the common water resource of the State across the Eastern Snake Plain.
Over the course of the multi-year, multi-task relationship, Lynker has provided the following services to the groundwater appropriators: water rights and expert witness support, groundwater modeling, conjunctive used analysis, consumptive use modeling, development and review of mitigation plans, and hydrologic baseline and historical water use analysis.
Lynker staff developed an adaptive management framework for Lefthand Watershed Oversight Group that serves as an outline to ensure success of stream restoration for Left Hand Creek. Lynker, along with LVBrown Studio, developed a conceptual model which described the changes of Left Hand Creek watershed during floods. This model illustrates how the channel, riparian zones, and components of the ecological community in the creek changes over time. Lynker worked with project stakeholders to develop the Monitoring and Assessment Framework. These stream assessment protocols were used by citizen scientists to evaluate fish habitat, riparian habitat, wildlife, and invasive species. The project ended with a pilot test of the citizen science monitoring protocols including an analysis of results comparing citizen scientist scores to professional scores.
This monitoring and assessment framework serves as a living document for Lefthand leaders to use for future citizen science projects, and an outline for other agencies to develop their own adaptive management programs to ensure continued success of restoration projects.
Lynker’s Pacific Islands Observer Program Debriefers were recognized with a Federal Executive Board team award for their efforts to finalize the 2019 data earlier than the deadline. Our team also played an instrumental role in transitioning the NOAA Fisheries’ Pacific Islands Region legacy database to a new system, as well as the hard work and dedication they bring to the program every day. Said Dawn Golden, NOAA Pacific Islands Region Observer Program Lead “This would not have been possible without your staff so I wanted to pass this along to you. Jim, Lynn, and Kyle all played key roles in this effort.” Kudos to the Lynker Debriefer team!
Lynker scientists are currently working with the State of Colorado on a first-of-its-kind climate risk analysis project – Future Avoided Cost Explorer (FACE: Colorado Hazards). This statewide study estimates dollar-value damages from future floods, droughts, wildfires across select sectors of Colorado’s economy. The State of Colorado has recognized that these hazards are likely to worsen as the impacts of climate change intensify the severity of the hazards and as population growth increases the number of people at risk.
By helping Coloradans better understand their current and future economic risks from flood, drought, and wildfire, this tool can help stimulate the implementation of smart adaptation strategies and policy frameworks that can improve the prospects for sustainable prosperity in a rapidly changing environment. Stay tuned for the upcoming public release of the project resources – coming online in April 2020!
The US Secretary of Commerce recognized NOAA Fisheries’ ESA and MMPA programs with a Gold Medal Award for their contribution to regulatory efficiencies and effectiveness in protecting and sustaining at-risk marine and ocean living resources. The Department of Commerce Gold Medal is the highest honor award of the United States Department of Commerce. Since 1949, the Gold Medal is presented by the Secretary of Commerce for distinguished performance. Particularly noted, Lynker’s Dean-Lorenz Szumylo spearheaded the implementation of the ESA Section 7 Mapper, an interactive, GIS-driven visualization tool NOAA scientists, federal action agencies, and the general public use to help identify ESA-listed species and critical habitats along the East Coast. Dean was previously awarded NMFS Team Member of the Year for his efforts regarding this tool.
The innovative Mapper tool provides a dynamic web interface used to locate areas where Section 7 Consultations are recommended due to the presence of ESA-listed fish, marine mammals, or sea turtles at various life stages, exhibiting specific behaviors (such as migrating, foraging, spawning, rearing, or calving). The Mapper currently covers consultation areas along major waterways and marine zones of the Greater Atlantic Region and is expanding to include the South Atlantic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico later this year. The tool allows users to draw a project site on a map, determine which consultation areas overlap, and generate a detailed report of ESA species found there. In addition to greatly expediting the process of determining whether further consultation with NOAA Fisheries is necessary, the tool has reduced the number of unnecessary consultation requests received and has improved the quality, accuracy, and reliability of data needed to support regulatory compliance.
Version 2 is now out and represents a major update to the underlying Section 7 Consultation Area data. In the new version of the mapper, users now have increased control over the map display. They can toggle individual data layers on and off, rearrange the drawing order of data layers, and use a new tool that easily allows them to “swipe” away the data to view the underlying basemap.
Lynker, as part of a project for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a division of the state’s Department of Natural Resources, has launched an interactive dashboard that displays drought vulnerability at the state and county level based on Colorado’s 2018 Drought Plan. To more easily visualize drought vulnerability throughout the state, Lynker created an Esri Story Map. The platform takes users through visual summaries of Colorado drought risk by sectors, using images and graphs to provide an interactive and engaging experience.
The complete interactive Story Map can be viewed here.
The opening screen of the Story Map provides an overview of County Drought Risk Scores across Colorado as well as a snapshot of drought vulnerability risk by sector. Similar to the 2018 updated Plan, the Story Map also drills down into content specific to different sectors: agriculture, recreation, socioeconomic, environment, energy, and state assets. State assets include state buildings and critical infrastructure (dams), land board revenue, state-based recreation and park visitation, aquatic species and habitat (fisheries), and protected state-owned areas.
Further information on Colorado’s 2018 Drought Plan is available at drought.gov.
Lynker works with NOAA’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program to coordinate emergency responses to sick, injured, distressed, or dead marine mammals throughout an area covering over 3,700 statute miles (4,306 nautical miles) of shoreline in Washington, Oregon and California. Member groups include cooperating scientific investigators and institutions, wildlife and fisheries agencies, state and federal law enforcement, volunteer networks and individuals. In this high profile role, we ensure timely and professional response to hotline calls, and collect and assess data on entanglements, ship strikes, and other human interactions. Affected by human impacts, fisheries and environmental changes, each marine mammal stranding event is handled on a case-by-case basis and is dependent on local capability, available resources, personnel, and logistics.