Using Climate Forecasts across a State’s Emergency Management Network

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This paper examines the application by emergency managers in rural areas of forecasts of El Niño and other seasonal climate events to (1) improve the understanding of how diffuse networks can help overcome the obstacles to the use of complex scientific information and (2) to widen the use of seasonal forecasts to improve flood management. The investigation draws on ethnographic techniques of observation and conversation with emergency management networks in the state of Oregon, interviews of nearly 50 emergency managers in the state, and two detailed case studies of Oregon counties that have used seasonal climate forecasts to improve flood management. Emergency managers are more likely to use climate information tied to a time-specific and place-specific forecast and to feasible actions, and when the emergency managers are part of robust professional networks that include scientific professionals as well as end-users of forecast information.