Learning from the past in moving to the future: Invest in communication and response to weather early warnings to reduce death and damage

As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, governments and civil society organizations are making large investments in early warning systems (EWS) with the aim to avoid death and destruction from hydro-meteorological events. Early warning systems have four components: (1) risk knowledge, (2) monitoring and warning, (3) warning dissemination and communication, and (4) response capability. While there is room to improve all four of these components, we argue that the largest gaps in early warning systems fall in the latter two categories: warning dissemination/communication and response capability. We illustrate this by examining the four components of early warning systems for the deadliest and costliest meteorological disasters of this century, demonstrating that the lack of EWS protection is not a lack of forecasts or warnings, but rather a lack of adequate communication and lack of response capability. Improving the accuracy of weather forecasts is unlikely to offer major benefits without resolving these gaps in communication and response capability. To protect vulnerable groups around the world, we provide recommendations for investments that would close such gaps, such as improved communication channels, impact forecasts, early action policies and infrastructure. It is our hope that further investment to close these gaps can better deliver on the goal of reducing deaths and damages with EWS.

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