Heads Up! Early Warning Systems for Climate, Water and Weather-Related Hazards

Sample Chapter
  • Edited Michael H. Glantz

    ISBN-10: 928081169X,
    ISBN-13: 9789280811698
    United Nations University Press
    May 2009

    The forces of nature can have deadly and damaging consequences for societies and ecosystems that stand in their path. Early warning systems offer one of the best defenses against the adverse effects of climate, water, weather and geologic hazards, although far too often this realization is made after disaster strikes.

    Heads Up! provides a useful review of early warning systems in operation today, while exploring a range of hazards including hurricanes, heat waves, floods, droughts, tsunami and volcanoes. With contributions from an international team of scientists, this practical handbook serves as a valuable contribution to our awareness and understanding of the role early warning systems play in disaster avoidance and reduction.

    Michael H. Glantz is director of the Consortium for Capacity Building in the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado.

    Table of contents



    • Interest in early warning
    • The “Precautionary Principle” as the basis of early warning
    • What constitutes an early warning system (EWS)
    • Some tools of the early warning trade
    • Indigenous knowledge
    • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
    • Remote sensing
    • Forecast warning terminology
    • EWS quick facts
    • Threats: The perils that compel early warning
    • The perception of the role of EWSs
    • The reality of the role of EWSs
    • Surprises
    • The future has been arriving earlier than predicted… take global warming,
    • for example
    • Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Constraints assessment
    • Strengths
    • Weaknesses
    • Opportunities
    • Constraints

    Climate-, water- and weather-related hazards

    • Hurricanes
    • Hurricane Katrina: Good forecast, poor response
    • Cyclone Nargis
    • Severe winter storms
    • Superstorm 1993: North America and the Caribbean
    • Heat waves
    • Heat waves can be killers
    • European heat wave 2003
    • Early warning system for heat waves in Galicia, Spain
    • Tornadoes
    • El Niño Southern Oscillation
    • Vector-borne disease
    • Climate-based malaria early warning system in Ethiopia
    • Avian influenza
    • Severe weather
    • Fire Danger Index (FDI)
    • Anatomy and Australian bushfires
    • Air pollution in metropolitan areas
    • Dust and sandstorm warning

    Too much, too little

    • Floods
    • China’s 1998 Great Yangtze River Floods
    • Flash floods
    • Droughts
    • The NOAA’s Palmer Drought Severity Index and Crop Moisture Index
    • Drought in Africa
    • Famine Early Warning System Network
    • Australian monitoring for drought early warning
    • Drought in Latin America

    Global warming

    • Global warming
    • The Polar Regions: A “place” as an EWS for global warming
    • Coral reef bleaching
    • The coral bleaching phenomenon
    • Sea-level rise
    • Integrated Vector Management

    Earth hazards

    • Tsunamis
    • Indian Ocean tsunami 2004
    • Volcano early warning systems
    • Alaska Volcano Warming System
    • Development of the Mount Pinatubo Warning System
    • Earthquake early warning
    • Space weather
    • US ultraviolet forecasts

    Concluding thoughts

    • Lessons learned about “lessons learned”
    • Foreseeability of hazards


    Jennifer Boehnert, GIS Coordinator, NCAR • Thomas Bogdan, Director, Space Weather Prediction Center, Space Environment Center (NOAA National Weather Service), Boulder, Colorado • Bureau of Meteorology, Australia Melbourne, Australia • Stanley Changnon Emeritus Climatologist, Illinois State Water Survey • S. H. M. Fakhruddin Early Warning Systems Technical Specialist, ADPC, Bangkok • Michael H. Glantz Director, Consortium for Capacity Building, University of Colorado • Eve Gruntfest Director, Social Science Woven into Meteorology, University of Oklahoma • Mary Hayden Postdoctoral Fellow, ISSE, NCAR • Stefanie Herrmann Postdoctoral Fellow, ASP, NCAR • Ilan Kelman Scientist, Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO), Oslo, Norway • Joanie Kleypas Scientist, NCAR • Janet Larsen Director of Research, Earth Policy Institute, Washington, DC • Margaret LeMone Scientist, NCAR • Michael McPhaden Scientist, PMEL, NOAA, Seattle, Washington • Paulette Middleton Scientist, Panorama Pathways, Boulder, Colorado • Rebecca Morss Scientist, NCAR • Susanne Moser Director, Susanne Moser Research and Consulting, Santa Cruz, California • Lino Naranjo Diaz MeteoGalicia, A Coruña, Spain • Natural Resources Canada Ottawa and Ontario, Canada • Douglas Pattie Scientist, International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Bonn, Germany