A multi-criteria geographic information systems approach for the measurement of vulnerability to climate change

  • Daniel Miller RunfolaEmail author
  • Samuel Ratick
  • Julie Blue
  • Elia Axinia Machado
  • Nupur Hiremath
  • Nick Giner
  • Kathleen White
  • Jeffrey Arnold
Original Article


A flexible procedure for the development of a multi-criteria composite index to measure relative vulnerability under future climate change scenarios is presented. The composite index is developed using the Weighted Ordered Weighted Average (WOWA) aggregation technique which enables the selection of different levels of trade-off, which controls the degree to which indicators are able to average out others. We explore this approach in an illustrative case study of the United States (US), using future projections of widely available indicators quantifying flood vulnerability under two scenarios of climate change. The results are mapped for two future time intervals for each climate scenario, highlighting areas that may exhibit higher future vulnerability to flooding events. Based on a Monte Carlo robustness analysis, we find that the WOWA aggregation technique can provide a more flexible and potentially robust option for the construction of vulnerability indices than traditionally used approaches such as Weighted Linear Combinations (WLC). This information was used to develop a proof-of-concept vulnerability assessment to climate change impacts for the US Army Corps of Engineers. Lessons learned in this study informed the climate change screening analysis currently under way.


Decision support Flooding GIS Multiple criteria evaluation Vulnerability Weighted ordered weighted average 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Miller Runfola
    • 1
    Email author
  • Samuel Ratick
    • 2
  • Julie Blue
    • 3
  • Elia Axinia Machado
    • 4
  • Nupur Hiremath
    • 3
  • Nick Giner
    • 2
  • Kathleen White
    • 5
  • Jeffrey Arnold
    • 5
  1. 1.The College of William and MaryWilliamsburgUSA
  2. 2.Clark UniversityWorcesterUSA
  3. 3.Cadmus CorporationWalthamUSA
  4. 4.Lehman College City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.US Army Corps of EngineersHanoverUSA

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