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Dr. Colin Polsky
3200 College Ave., Building DW 
Davie, FL 33314 
Phone: (954) 236-1334

First Street Foundation

Examining how local human-environment processes affect flood resilience in select southeastern Florida and Gulf Coast communities currently exposed to varying rates of sea-level rise

Collaborator: First Street Foundation

Researchers: Dr. Colin Polsky, Richard Jones, Glen Oglesby, Ryan Amato, Jon Stonger

Funding Period: Fiscal Year 2020

Florida Atlantic University is one of three Florida universities that has joined the First Street Foundation Flood Lab to analyze the socio-economic impacts of flooding in Florida and across the United States. The researchers will use data from the First Street Foundation Flood Model to answer critical questions about climate gentrification; national buyout programs and the relocation of residents; fairness in federal flood mitigation spending; and the effectiveness of the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) Community Rating System.

The Florida researchers are among the new partners joining the Flood Lab this week, bringing the Lab’s total membership to 20 world-renowned universities. Other Flood Lab partners include researchers from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and Johns Hopkins University.

The team at Florida Atlantic University will study how cultural identity, social cohesion, and scientific information affect climate resilience in southern U.S. communities. Their research questions are:

  1. How do cultural identity, social cohesion, and access to scientific information affect climate resilience in select southeastern Florida and Gulf Coast communities?
  2. How do the spatial patterns of NFIP CRS scores correlate with spatial patterns of First Street Foundation’s Flood Factor scores? More broadly, are strong CRS scores associated with high community flood resilience?
  3. What are the technical, financial, and social feasibilities of green infrastructure for enhancing coastal flood resilience in urban Southeast Florida?

The Flood Lab was created to give economists, engineers, and public policy experts free access to comprehensive flood risk data for critical public analysis. While an oligopoly of for-profit firms sell proprietary flood risk data to large financial institutions and insurance companies, top academic researchers who inform public policy have limited, if any, access. The First Street Foundation Flood Model will be shared with Flood Lab partners for free. Through transparent, peer-reviewed methodologies, the Flood Model will be the first publicly available, comprehensive flood risk model of its kind, defining the past, present, and future
risk of individual homes and properties across the United States. As the data is generated, it is given to researchers on a rolling basis through an Application Programming Interface (API). When the First Street Foundation Flood Model is complete, the information will be shared directly with the public through the Foundation’s online visualization tool, Flood Factor™, which will be launched mid-June.

“Expanding our Flood Lab cohort means even greater accessibility to the National Flood Model data and increasingly finding new ways to apply greater understanding to myriad real-world issues,” said Matthew Eby, executive director of First Street Foundation. “We’re committed to working with academic partners across the country to ensure that this data is as widely available as possible.”

The group has recreated past hurricanes and major inland flooding events to calculate the likely flood history of homes and properties across the country. To calculate present risk, the group is modeling the probabilistic tidal, storm surge, pluvial (rainfall), and fluvial (riverine) flood risk of individual homes and properties. To calculate future risk, they are incorporating anticipated environmental changes like sea-level rise, and warming sea surface and atmospheric temperatures.

Florida remains one of the most vulnerable states to flood risk. A recent report from McKinsey Global called “Will Mortgages and Markets Stay Afloat in Florida?” underscored the urgent need to find solutions and generate awareness.

The First Street Foundation Flood Model is being built by a team of more than 80 hydrologists, researchers, and data scientists from First Street Foundation, Columbia University, Fathom, George Mason University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rhodium Group, Rutgers University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Bristol.



 Last Modified 5/21/20