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Researchers developing tools to help region plan for potential climate change-related population growth

FEMA and CDC risk/vulnerability data by county
Derek Van Berkel
Derek Van Berkel
Map of social and natural risk in the Great Lakes region, using data from the FEMA National Risk Index ranks and the CDC's Social Vulnerability Index. Dark green represents high vulnerabilities in both FEMA risk and the social vulnerability index. Gray indicates low vulnerabilities for both. Blue indicates high FEMA risk, while green indicates a high social vulnerability index ranking.

Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing web-based tools in anticipation of a future influx in climate migration. These include interactive maps that display various migration scenarios to residents, city planners, engineers, and policymakers.

Climate migration is when people leave high risk areas with more climate change-related disasters; the Great Lakes region's below-average risk index makes it an ideal destination, researchers say.

To prepare for possible future population growth, communities will be able to look at various scenarios in the context of their pre-existing needs and problems. So far, researchers have created an interactive map that shows risk and vulnerability data for counties across the region.

In a commentary published in the peer-reviewed journal Earth’s Future, the researchers argued that these digital tools can be an important piece of the planning process.

Derek Van Berkel, lead author of the commentary, said communities need to be ready for new residents if people begin moving to our region.

“While we do not know if people will come, how many, who they might be and where they might settle, it is important that Great Lakes communities prepare and plan for a potential future that includes new residents,” he said.

Van Berkel said his team hopes to have these tools available online by next year.

Emily is a junior at the University of Michigan double majoring in Communications and Creative Writing.