Introduction

This project was initiated by Krishna Krishnamurthy while completing MSc Environmental Change and Management at the University of Oxford. The purpose of this project is to analyse the vulnerability(ies) of different communities in the Gulf of Mexico.

To this purpose, it is necessary to create a web-based electronic data base that can easily be updated and expanded by interested researchers. Since vulnerability is a contextual condition, it is necessary to update data (but this is often beyond the interests of academics). As such, this website is a first step for the generation of data for future research on vulnerability to hurricanes or other climate-related risks. It is expected that such quantitative analyses can help politicians and interested agencies focus their attention on the most vulnerable parts of the already vulnerable communities.

Any study on vulnerability should be conducted with information generated from the communities themselves. This project suggests focus groups. It is imperative that their information is captured and conveyed in any research: some characteristics that are relevant for one site might be unimportant in another one. The following data must be collected for a basic analysis:


DATA SPECIFIC INFORMATION

Location of the household

X coordinates
Y coordinates (NB: since we are in the Western hemisphere, the number must be negative)

Social Risk

Demographic characteristics
Number of male adults
Number of female adults
Number of children
Number of disabled people (if applicable)

Economic Risk

Source of income

Physical Risk

House type (material)
Roof type (material)
Number of floors

Exposure

Distance to rivers or other sources of risk (coastline)

Others

In some cases, other data may be relevant; this is very specific to the study site


The data must be processed such that numbers are shown as percentages of the maximum total for each category. For example, if the maximum number of children in a household is 10, a household with 1 child must be shown as 0.1 in this category. The following model is suggested to estimate vulnerability (Krishnamurthy 2009):

Vulnerability = (5 x Exposure) x (4 x Economic Risk) x (4 x House type + 3 x Roof type + 3 x Number of floors) x (2 x Number of children + 2 x Number of women + Number of men)

The relative importance of each factor is expected to change according to the community. The information must be presented in tabular form in Excel. This facilitates conversion to a format that is compatible with ArcGIS (ArcCatalog>Converter>Convert to XY shapefile). NB: The coordinate system must be chosen in Properties.

The output is a map showing surveyed households as dots. The analysis will show the relative vulnerabilities of the households and any patterns of high vulnerability. These are the areas that require more political (or academic) priority. Any maps should be complemented with a brief description of the study site, the risks of the area and an interpretation of the map. Complementary data analysis is advised if there is time and financial resources.

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