Glossary

A B C D E F G H I L M P Q R S U V W

A

Avalanches

Avalanches occur when massive slabs of snow break loose from a mountainside and shatter like broken glass as they race downhill. These moving masses can reach speeds of 130km/hour within about five seconds. Winter avalanches become a hazard when the gradient is steeper than 22°, and whenever the depth of newly fallen snow is greater than 75 centimeters.

Abrupt climate change

The nonlinearity of the climate system may lead to abrupt climate change, sometimes called rapid climate change, abrupt events or even surprises. The term abrupt often refers to time scales faster than the typical time scale of the responsible forcing. However, not all abrupt climate changes need be externally forced. Some possible abrupt events that have been proposed include a dramatic reorganisation of the thermohaline circulation, rapid deglaciation and massive melting of permafrost or increases in soil respiration leading to fast changes in the carbon cycle. Others may be truly unexpected, resulting from a strong, rapidly changing forcing of a nonlinear system. © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

Adaptation

Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. Various types of adaptation can be distinguished, including anticipatory, autonomous and planned adaptation. © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

Acceptable risk

The level of loss a society or community considers acceptable given existing social, economic, political, cultural, technical and environmental conditions. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

B

Bayesian analysis

Bayesian analysis is used to update estimates as new or additional information arrives (see Behrens et al. 2006). If uncertainty is present in the loss distribution (for example, in case data is not fully reliable) one can optimize over a possible set of distributions with different distribution parameter. The set of possible distributions is dependent on the chosen parameter and has to be defined beforehand. The distribution that is received after the optimization is called posterior distribution, while the starting one is called prior distribution. Now, the posterior distribution of the parameters can be estimated based on the empirical data and on some prior distribution/information of these parameters. Generating the posterior distribution of the parameters based on the empirical data and some prior distribution of these parameters is called Bayesian analysis (Behrens et al., 2006). (ENHANCE, Catalogue and toolbox of risk assessment and management tools)

Building codes

Regulations controlling the design, construction, materials, alteration and occupancy of any structure to insure human safety and welfare. Building codes include both technical and functional standards. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

C

Climate

Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the 'average weather', or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years. These quantities are most often surface variables such as temperature, precipitation, and wind. Climate in a wider sense is the state, including a statistical description, of the climate system. The classical period of time is 30 years, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

Climate sensitivity

In IPCC reports, equilibrium climate sensitivity refers to the equilibrium change in the annual mean global surface temperature following a doubling of the atmospheric equivalent carbon dioxide concentration. Due to computational constraints, the equilibrium climate sensitivity in a climate model is usually estimated by running an atmospheric general circulation model coupled to a mixed-layer ocean model, because equilibrium climate sensitivity is largely determined by atmospheric processes. Efficient models can be run to equilibrium with a dynamic ocean. The effective climate sensitivity is a related measure that circumvents the requirement of equilibrium. It is evaluated from model output for evolving non-equilibrium conditions. It is a measure of the strengths of the climate feedbacks at a particular time and may vary with forcing history and climate state. The climate sensitivity parameter (units: °C (W m–2)–1) refers to the equilibrium change in the annual mean global surface temperature following a unit change in radiative forcing. The transient climate response is the change in the global surface temperature, averaged over a 20-year period, centred at the time of atmospheric carbon dioxide doubling, that is, at year 70 in a 1 % yr–1 compound carbon dioxide increase experiment with a global coupled climate model. It is a measure of the strength and rapidity of the surface temperature response to greenhouse gas forcing. © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

Climate (change) scenario

A plausible and often simplified representation of the future climate, based on an internally consistent set of climatological relationships and assumptions of radiative forcing, typically constructed for explicit use as input to climate change impact models. A 'climate change scenario' is the difference between a climate scenario and the current climate. © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

Climate system

The climate system is defined by the dynamics and interactions of five major components: atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, land surface, and biosphere. Climate system dynamics are driven by both internal and external forcing, such as volcanic eruptions, solar variations, or human-induced modifications to the planetary radiative balance, for instance via anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and/or land-use changes. © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

Climate variability

Climate variability refers to variations in the mean state and other statistics (such as standard deviations, the occurrence of extremes, etc.) of the climate on all spatial and temporal scales beyond that of individual weather events. Variability may be due to natural internal processes within the climate system (internal variability), or to variations in natural or anthropogenic external forcing (external variability). © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

Cost-effectiveness analysis

Cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) is used to identify least-cost options to meet a certain target or policy objective. As the project costs are the key variable of consideration and subjected to finding cost-minimal solutions, CEA does not require the quantification of benefits (which are fixed beforehand, such as reducing disaster fatalities and losses). (ENHANCE, Catalogue and toolbox of risk assessment and management tools)

Cost Benefit Analysis

Cost benefit analysis is a decision-making assistance method that identifies the economically efficient way to fulfil an objective by comparing benefits and costs of two or more courses of action. Since it is misleading to assess the benefits of prevention using deterministic models, the challenges for cost-benefit analyses in disaster risk management is to express avoided losses in probabilistic terms, evaluate and assess risk, monetize direct and indirect benefits and include dynamic drivers such as changing population, land use and climate. (ENHANCE, Catalogue and toolbox of risk assessment and management tools)

Capacity

The combination of all the strengths and resources available within a community, society or organization that can reduce the level of risk, or the effects of a disaster. Capacity may include physical, institutional, social or economic means as well as skilled personal or collective attributes such as leadership and management. Capacity may also be described as capability. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

Climate change

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines climate change as a change which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods. The UNFCCC thus makes a distinction between climate change attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition, and climate variability attributable to natural causes. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

Climate change adaptation

The adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

Climate risk management

An approach to systematically manage climate-related risks affecting activities, strategies or investments, by taking account of the risk of current variability and extremes in weather as well as long-term climate change. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

Coastal erosion

Landward movement of the shoreline due to the forces of waves and currents. Coastal erosion is likely to get worse due to sea level rise and more intense storms associated with climate change. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

Complex disaster

A disaster that has no single root cause (such as a storm) but emerges due to a combination of factors, which may involve an extreme weather event, conflict and/or migration, environmental degradation and other issues. Complex emergencies are becoming more likely due to climate change, which may alter hazards and amplify underlying vulnerabilities. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

D

Disaster

Disasters are a combination of hazards, conditions of vulnerability and insufficient capacity or measures to reduce the negative consequences of risk. A hazard becomes a disaster when it coincides with vulnerable situation, when societies or communities are unable to cope it with their own resources and capacities. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

Droughts

A drought usually refers to an extended period of below-normal rainfall. Although what is considered "normal" varies from one region to another, drought is a recurring feature of nearly all the worlds's climatic regions. The effets of drought vary greatly, depending on agricultural, urban and environmental water needs.

Disaster Risk Reduction

Disaster risk reduction (DRR) includes all the policies, strategies and measures that can make people, villages, cities and countries more resilient to hazards and reduce risk and vulnerability to disasters.

DRR includes different components:

- Prevention integrates all the activities to provide outright avoidance of the adverse impact of hazards and the means to minimize related environmental, technological and biological disasters.

- Mitigation has different meanings for practitioners in the climate change and disaster-management communities, often leading to confusion. For disaster management, mitigation focuses on structural and non-structural measures undertaken to limite the adverse impact of natural hazards, environmental degradation and technological hazards.

- Preparedness activities contribute to the pre-planned, timely and effective response of individuals and communities to reduce the impact of a natural hazard and deal with the consequences of a potential disaster.

- Recovery consists of decisions and actions taken after a disaster to restore or improve the pre-disaster living conditions of the stricken community.

- Reconstruction is the set of actions taken after a disaster to enable basic services to resume functioning, repair physical damage and community facilities, revive economic activities, and support the psychological and social well-being of the survivors.

(UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

Disaster preparedness

This includes activities that contribute to the pre-planned, timely and effective response of individuals and communities to reduce the impact of a hazard and deal with the consequences of a disaster. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

Disaster recovery and rehabilitation

Decisions and actions taken after a disaster with a view to restoring and improving the pre-disaster living conditions of the stricken community - that is to say, to enable basic services to resume functioning, to repair physical damage to community facilities, and to revive economic activities and support the psychological and social well-being of the survivors while contributing to reduce further risks. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

E

Extreme weather event

An extreme weather event is an event that is rare at a particular place and time of year. Definitions of rare vary, but an extreme weather event would normally be as rare as or rarer than the 10th or 90th percentile of the observed probability density function. By definition, the characteristics of what is called extreme weather may vary from place to place in an absolute sense. Single extreme events cannot be simply and directly attributed to anthropogenic climate change, as there is always a finite chance the event in question might have occurred naturally. When a pattern of extreme weather persists for some time, such as a season, it may be classed as an extreme climate event, especially if it yields an average or total that is itself extreme (e.g. drought or heavy rainfall over a season). © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

Early warning

The provision of timely and effective information through identified institutions, which allows individuals exposed to a hazard to take action to avoid or reduce their risk and prepare for effective response. Early-warning systems depend on: understanding and mapping the hazard; monitoring and forecasting; processing and disseminating understandable warnings to political authorities and the population; and undertaking the right, timely actions in response to the warnings. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

El Niño Southern Oscillation

A complex interaction of the tropical Pacific Ocean and the global atmosphere that results in irregularly occurring episodes of changed ocean and weather patterns in many parts of the world, often with significant impacts, such as altered marine habitats, rainfall changes, floods, droughts and changes in storm patterns. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

F

Floods

Flooding is usually the result of heavy or continuous rain that exceeds the absorptive capacity of the soil and the flow capacity of rivers, streams and coastal areas. Floods can be triggered by thunderstorms, tornadoes, tropical cyclones, monsoons, melting snow and dam breaks. The most common floods are flash floods, snowmelt floods, coastal floods and river floods.

G

Global warming

Global warming refers to the gradual increase, observed or projected, in global surface temperature, as one of the consequences of radiative forcing caused by anthropogenic emissions. © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

Greenhouse gas

A gas, such as carbon dioxide and methane, which absorbs and re-emits infrared radiation. When pollution adds these gases to the earth's atmosphere, they trap more solar energy in our planet (like in a greenhouse) warming the earth's surface and contributing to climate change. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

H

Hazard

A hazard is a physical event, phenomenon or human activity that can cause the loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption, or environmental degradation. Hazards have different origins: natural (geological, hydro, meteorological and biological) or due to human actions (environmental or technological). (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

I

Impact analysis

Impact analysis empirically studies the consequences of natural hazards and climate change and gathers information needed to develop recovery options. (ENHANCE, Catalogue and toolbox of risk assessment and management tools)

L

Land-use planning

Branch of physical and socio-economic planning that determines the means and assesses the values or limitations of various options in which land is to be utilized, with the corresponding effects on different segments of the population or interests of a community taken into account in resulting decisions. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

M

Multi-Sector Partnerships (MSPs)

MSPs are voluntary but enforceable commitments between partners from different sectors (public authorities, private services/enterprise and civil society), which can be temporary or long lasting. They are founded on sharing the same goal in order to gain mutual benefit, reduce risk and increase resilience (Rhodes, 1997).

Mitigation

This term has different meanings for practitioners in the climate change and disaster-management communities, often leading to confusion. Mitigation in disaster risk management means the structural and non-structural measures undertaken to limit the adverse impact of natural hazards, environmental degradation and technological hazards. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

P

Prevention

Prevention integrates all activities that provide outright avoidance of the adverse impact of hazards and means to minimize related environmental, technological and biological disasters. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

Q

Qualitative analysis

Risk studied through a qualitative risk assessment is descriptive and/or categorical in nature and not directly tied to a quantifiable risk measure. Qualitative risk assessments are commonly used for screening risks to determine whether they merit further investigation, and can be useful in preliminary risk management activities. (ENHANCE, Catalogue and toolbox of risk assessment and management tools)

R

Risk

Risk is the probability of harmful consequences or expected losses (deaths, injuries, property, livelihoods, economic activity disrupted or environment damaged) resulting from interactions between natural or human-induced hazards and vulnerable populations. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

Resilience

The ability of a social or ecological system to absorb disturbances while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning, the capacity for self-organisation, and the capacity to adapt to stress and change. © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

Risk perception

Risk perception is the judgment about the characteristics and severity of the natural hazards risk using mental, rather than numerical models (see IPCC 2012; for ENHANCE project details see Wadden Sea case study). Risk perception is shaped by cognitive, cultural and social factors (Slovic, 2010) and plays an essential role in judging if or if not to implement risk reduction measures. (ENHANCE, Catalogue and toolbox of risk assessment and management tools)

Risk modelling

Modelling disaster risk is a key tool to study potential impacts using numerical approaches. Four different types are worth noting. (ENHANCE, Catalogue and toolbox of risk assessment and management tools)

Retrofitting or upgrading

Reinforcement of structures to become more resistant and resilient to the forces of natural hazards. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

Risk assessment/analysis

A methodology to determine the nature and extent of risk by analysing potential hazards and evaluating existing conditions of vulnerability that could pose a potential threat or harm to people, property, livelihoods and the environment on which they depend. (UN, Disaster Through A Different Lens)

S

Sustainable development

Development that meets the cultural, social, political and economic needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

Stochastic Simulation

Comparing and evaluating different risk management options are based on running a large set of scenarios using different simulation techniques, e.g. Monte-Carlo simulation or optimal quantization (Pflug and Roemisch 2007; Robet and Casella 2004). (ENHANCE, Catalogue and toolbox of risk assessment and management tools)

Stochastic Optimization

Stochastic optimization is a decision-making technique to maximize or to minimize objective functions in a stochastic context. In this case, the optimal decision can be derived using stochastic optimization methods (single-stage stochastic programming, multi-stage stochastic programming) using generated samples from the empirically estimated loss distribution. (ENHANCE, Catalogue and toolbox of risk assessment and management tools)

U

Uncertainty

An expression of the degree to which a value (e.g. the future state of the climate system) is unknown. Uncertainty can result from lack of information or from disagreement about what is known or even knowable. It may have many types of sources, from quantifiable errors in the data to ambiguously defined concepts or terminology, or uncertain projections of human behaviour. Uncertainty can therefore be represented by quantitative measures, for example, a range of values calculated by various models, or by qualitative statements, for example, reflecting the judgement of a team of experts. © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

V

Volcanoes

A volcano is an opening, or rupture, in the planet's surface or crust, which allows hot, molten rock, ash and gases to escape from deep below the surface. Volcanic eruptions can be ranked along a spectrum from quiet to violent activity, from non-explosive, slow-moving lava flows to explosive eruptions that blast material into the air (magma and gas).

Vulnerability

Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate change and variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity. © European Climate Adaptation Platform - Glossary

W

Wildfires

The term "wildfire" is used for uncontrolled fire that destroys forests and many other types of vegetation, including animal species. Three conditions need to present for a wildfire to burn: fuel, oxygen and a heat source. Fuel is any flammable material surrounding a fire, including trees, grasses, bushes and even houses. A heat source can be anything from lightning, burning campfires or cigarettes, hot winds and even the sun.

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