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Extreme weather should be defined according to impacts on climate-vulnerable communities

Abstract

Climate change and related extreme weather events (EWEs) are expected to widen social and health inequalities. Yet, EWE thresholds and associated adaptation strategies do not centre experiences of vulnerable communities. This study explored the impacts of temperature- and precipitation-based EWEs for women in informal settlements, whether meteorological definitions of these EWEs capture impacts and whether self-reported impacts can be used to develop impact-based thresholds. We combined meteorological data with longitudinal monthly survey data collected from September 2022 through February 2023 from a probability sample of 800 women in two informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. Findings suggest that women experience health, economic, environmental, emotional, social and property impacts; thresholds of EWEs currently used for early action and preparedness are not capturing impacts; and, while self-reported impact data may provide an excellent first step in the process of (re)defining thresholds for some EWEs (for example, precipitation-based), more research and discussions with communities are needed.

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Fig. 1: Precipitation, flooding impact counts and modelled impact-based thresholds.
Fig. 2: Precipitation, heavy downpour impact counts and modelled impact-based thresholds.
Fig. 3: Maximum temperature, extreme heat impact counts and modelled impact-based thresholds.
Fig. 4: Minimum temperatures, extreme cold impact counts and modelled impact-based thresholds.

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Data availability

The data supporting this study’s findings are available at: https://github.com/scw2154/NCC_DefiningExtremes (ref. 30).

Code availability

Code supporting the analyses run in this study are available at https://github.com/scw2154/NCC_DefiningExtremes (ref. 30).

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Acknowledgements

We thank our participants who gave their time to this study. We want to deeply thank our 16 community team members, A. L. Akinyi, A. M. Wambua, C. A. Amollo, C. A. Oyugi, E. N. Sila, E. Achieng, E. Bowa, G. M. Wambui, J. M. Ndambuki, J. N. Nyambura, L. Simiyu, M. Odhiambo, M. A. Joel, N. W. Kimeu, R. A. Otieno and S. A. Otieno; our community partner and advisor, C. Musyimi; and our staff member D. K. Mwanthi, who are the heart and soul of this work. This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (R21MH127356, SCW). The funder was not involved in the study design or analysis.

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S.C.W. guided overall conceptual design for the study and analysis and preparation of the manuscript. M.R.W. contributed to data analysis, drafting of sections of the manuscript and revising the manuscript. L.P. contributed to data analysis and review and editing of the manuscript. A.K.B. contributed to data analysis and preparation of manuscript. M.D. directed and oversaw study implementation and data collection. L.P.T. guided data analysis and visualization and review and editing of manuscript. E.U., C.L. and L.O. drafted and reviewed sections of the manuscript. S.A.O. contributed to study implementation, data collection and analysis. R.M. conceived the study with S.C.W. and collected and analysed data. S.S.W. oversaw drafting of sections of the manuscript and revising of this manuscript. All authors read and approved this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Samantha C. Winter.

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Nature Climate Change thanks Katharine Vincent and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Tables 1 and 2 and Figs. 1–8.

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Winter, S.C., Winter, M.R., Plaxico, L. et al. Extreme weather should be defined according to impacts on climate-vulnerable communities. Nat. Clim. Chang. 14, 462–467 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-024-01983-7

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