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Regional risk cultures of weather extremes

Regional risk cultures of weather extremes

Dr. S. Mohr, Prof. Dr. M. Kunz, Dr. M. Döring (Uni Hamburg)

Project Group:



Helmholtz Climate Initiative REKLIM


Universität Hamburg, Helmholtz-Zentrum Gesthaacht (HZG), Helmholtz Zentrum für Umweltforschung (UFZ)


Fig.: Strategies to cope with heat in the city: close window shutters during daytime, or take a rest in the shade in a public garden (Photo: T. Kunz-Plapp)..
Motivation and general aim

With climate change, in Germany an increase of extreme atmospheric and hydrometeorological events on regional scale is likely such as severe convection, hail, heavy precipitation, winter storms or heat waves. These extreme events individuals and societies have to respond and adapt to take place on different spatial and temporal scales: from local events with duration of minutes (convective storm, hail), to regional events lasting hours, days or even weeks (winter storms, storm surges, flood, heat waves, droughts). Accordingly, their impacts are different, as well as the possibilities to mitigate and prevent impacts and to adapt to future events. To develop and implement adequate risk management and adaptation strategies, it is at the same time necessary to understand the social risk cultures and the frames these risk cultures provide for the ways people conceive, experience extreme events, and how they incorporate experiences and risk interpretations into their response and adaptation practices. At the same time, the relationship between risk interpretation and its translation into action is complex. In particular the role of experience is regarded as crucial.

The project „Social risk cultures of extreme weather events in context of climate change“ investigates in a live-world-perspective experiencing, risk interpretation and risk action regarding several types of extreme weather events within in their regional and socio cultural foundation against the background of climate and the way it may change. The two main scientific research aims are to better understand human-environment-interaction in its cultural foundations and to better understand the interaction of experience, the risk perception and risk action in a life-world context. Questions for investigation are:

  • To what extent do people experience climate change?

  • How do people in affected regions perceive and cope with extreme weather events?

  • How do people rate their personal risk to be affected by extreme weather events?

  • How far does climate change represent a background against with extreme weather events are assessed?

  • How does the perception and interpretation of extreme weather events differ among regions in Germany and among those with and without experience of an extreme event?

  • How do patterns of risk interpretation change after an extreme weather event?

  • How do patterns of risk interpretation and action change according to socio-economic indicators?

  • How are risk interpretation and risk action interrelated with the different spatial and temporal scales of extreme events?

  • What is the status of risk action (preparedness and adaptation) to prevent damage from future hazard events?

In the first project phase the risk culture will be explored in their dimensions of experience, risk interpretation, response and adaptation to extreme events in context of climate change using qualitative interviews in several regions in Germany having been affected by different extreme events. In the second phase, a German-wide survey will be carried out to enable the comparison of social risk cultures across different regions in Germany.

The project is carried out within the framework of the Helmholtz Regional Climate Initiative REKLIM as a joint project of RERKLIM Topics 6 and 7 in cooperation with the University of Hamburg, the Helmholtz Centre Geesthacht (HZG), and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ).