Developing a Climate Change Vulnerability Index for Nepal Using NASA EOS Data

Map showing vulnerability in Nepal. Image Credit: DEVELOP

Image Credit: DEVELOP

Authors: Binita KC, James Brenton, Eliza Shrestha, Florenica Tuladhar, Laxmi Thapa

Mentors/Advisers (affiliation): Dr. Marshall Shepherd (University of Georgia), Dr. Marguerite Madden (The University of Georgia), Sebastian Wesselmen (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, ICIMOD), Dr. Jeff Luvall (Global Hydrology and Climate Center)

Team Location: Marshall Space Flight Center, Hunstville, Alabama; and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal

Abstract: The main objective of this study was to develop a vulnerability index at district level in Nepal by combining biophysical and social data. In general, vulnerability is expressed as a function of the exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity of a region to climate change effects, especially natural disasters. For this project, the vulnerability index incorporated not only the frequency and intensity of hazard events such as floods, drought conditions, and natural disasters, but also the gradual changes in mean temperature and precipitation over a decadal span carried out from 1975 to 2012. The future vulnerability was predicted for 2020. NASA climate and land cover datasets were used to advance the climate change portion of the vulnerability assessment. Specifically, changes in temperature and precipitation were measured using monthly NASA’s
Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B43 datasets, respectively. Gridded precipitation gauge data by Willmott and Matsuura was used to measure temperature and precipitation prior to 2000. The satellite data were compared with the weather station data from the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology in Nepal. The socioeconomic data were obtained from the Central Bureau of Statistics, Nepal, and ICIMOD to measure the social vulnerability of the populations. Historical records of climatic disaster events were acquired from DesInventar (Disaster Information System) to measure exposure to climatic disasters. Landcover maps obtained from Landsat 7 were used to identify high-density urban areas prone to the urban heat island effect, and areas prone to landslides. Mapping vulnerability patterns across space and time helps to identify socially and biophysically vulnerable areas and assists with climate change adaptation strategies in areas of projected vulnerability.