Adaptation to extreme events – barriers to adapt to future extreme weather events in municipalities in western Norway

16:15 Wednesday 29 May


Room S6


Helene Amundsen (Norway) 1


In October 2014 an extreme precipitation event hit western Norway, which caused flooding and landslides. There were severe damages to infrastructure and houses. In some areas, this was a one in 200 years flood, and as such unprecedented in the memory of the inhabitants. Climate model projections for western Norway show that heavy precipitation events, such as the one in 2014, will increase. This paper discusses the barriers to proactive adaptation to high impact weather events in two municipalities in western Norway.

Interviews were conducted with representatives from two municipalities in the region. One municipality that was severely affected by the event and one that did not experience any severe damages. The focus of the interviews were to understand how the municipalities responded after this event and what adaptation measures were in place. Further, the interviews covered the barriers to adaptation, and specifically to proactive adaptation to extreme events in the future. We find that both municipalities have taken measures including updated flood zone maps and planning regulation for new buildings. Yet in accordance with previous research, the municipality that was most affected by this extreme event has introduced the most measures.

Both in the literature and in this study, there are few examples of proactive adaptation based on knowledge of future climate projections. In this paper, we address some of the barriers to proactive adaptation. A key barrier to proactive adaptation is the perceived need to adapt. The largest catchments in the region are regulated and did not experience flooding. The flooding occurred in protected catchments and in side rivers. Thus, the expectation is that the hydropower dams will be able to reduce the effect of a future event. The magnitude of the event meant that only a few of the interviewees expected the municipality to be hit by such an extreme event again in the near future, and as such did not see a need for major adaptation measures. Further, some assume that the municipality is sufficiently protected, because either their areas were not directly affected, or have been secured after the event. Finally, there is an assumption that it is not possible to adapt to such high magnitude events. We argue that some of these barriers may be addressed by a different way of presenting and communicating climate change information in the form of storytelling, which means using an observed high-impact event to illustrate the future.