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From flood flows to flood maps: the understanding of flood probabilities in the United States

Von Flutströmen zu Flutkarten: das Verständnis von Flutwahrscheinlichkeiten in den Vereinigten Staaten
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Rumsey, Brian

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Abstract In the twentieth century, probability became an important tool in the understanding of flood recurrences and magnitudes. This article focuses on the development of probabilistic flood understandings in the United States. Early efforts focused on projecting flood volumes, but maps of flood risk, brought about in large part by the National Flood Insurance Program, did much to cultivate this way of thinking in a broad audience. Engineers such as Weston Fuller and Allen Hazen, and geographer Gilbert White, play important roles in the trajectory developed in the article. The closely related ideas of the hundred-year flood and the hundred-year floodplain became standard terminology for communicating flood risk, but the knowledge behind them has been called into doubt by the realization of rapid, anthropogenic climate change.
Keywords natural disaster; probability; risk assessment; disaster control; insurance coverage; climate change; risk communication; United States of America
Classification Ecology, Environment; Natural Science and Engineering, Applied Sciences
Free Keywords environmental history; National Flood Insurance Program; Weston Fuller; Allen Hazen; quantification methods; 100-year flood
Document language English
Publication Year 2015
Page/Pages p. 134-150
Journal Historical Social Research, 40 (2015) 2
Issue topic Climate and beyond: knowledge production about the earth as a signpost of social change
ISSN 0172-6404
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works