American archives and climate change: risks and adaptation Public

Exposure assessment of American archives to sea level rise, storm surge, surface flooding, and temperature and precipitation change

Published work in Climate Risk Management Journal:  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crm.2018.03.005

Climate change directly affects the future security of cultural resources. Cultural heritage and in particular, archives, are increasingly at risk of degradation due to climate change threats and triggers. This study evaluated present and future consequences of water-related climate change impacts using a mapping methodology to assess exposure of American archives to incompatible weather extremes. Susceptibility to climate change threats like sea level rise, storm surge, surface water flooding, and humidity, all influenced by a combination of temperature rise and increased precipitation, at a worst-case scenario were assessed for 1,232 archival repositories. Results indicate that approximately 98.8% of archives are likely to be affected by at least one climate risk factor, though on average, most archives are at low risk of exposure (90%) when risk factors are combined. Future storm surge plus sea level rise was likely to impact 17.7% of archival repositories with 22.1% affected by only storm surge and 4.3% affected by only sea level rise (1.8-m scenario). Fewer archives were likely to be susceptible to surface water flooding (2.4%). More than 90% of archives were estimated to have a temperature change greater than +/- 1°C, with 7.5% of sites likely to change by +/- 10°C, and 69.5% of archives were likely to receive at least 152 mm more rainfall by 2100 over current annual averages. In terms of sustainability, developing appropriate socio-economic planning schemes that integrate cumulative exposure of archives to future climate patterns is critically important for safeguarding society and its heritage. The outcomes from the risk assessment in this study aid in the decision-making process by promoting strategic adaptation protocols and providing administrators a way to prioritize archival management goals based on the expected severity of future climate change impacts.

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