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NOAA Reports on the Economic Impacts of Weather and Climate Related Disasters: Analysis of Data & Methodologies

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    As part of its responsibility to “monitor and assess the climate,” the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) tracks and analyzes extreme weather and climate events in the U.S. and globally that have great economic and societal impacts. This report and the supporting research further that mission by examining the data sources and methodologies used in production of the NCDC economic impact estimates. The research team examined the documentation and data used to produce estimates of cost from extreme weather-related damage by organizations within NOAA, other outside organizations producing similar or relevant estimates, as well as identifying data sources that could be useful to incorporate in further analysis. This report broadly summarizes these findings and identifies key areas of difference both between NOAA estimates as well as those of industry. This report is part of a larger project, whose goal is to ensure that the estimates of economic loss produced by NOAA, and by the NCDC in particular, employ the most up-to-date and valid approaches used in industry, academia, and government, as well as insuring that all estimates are consistent throughout time and in different regions of the US. Improving estimates of the economic impacts of weather events are particularly important given that they are fundamental for effective policy decisions that mitigate future impacts of disasters, including decisions made during recovery from events and future infrastructure investments. This report supports this goal by chronicling several of the approaches used to estimate economic costs, including those used by different groups within NOAA, those used by others that are commonly available, and identifying key sources of data that could be used in the future to improve and enhance the process. This report also summarizes key issues surrounding NOAA’s estimates, from internal consistency to differences from industry best practices. Additionally, this report outlines relevant federal mandates and guidance that NCDC must meet to fulfill its mission.
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