Conclusion: Future Integration and Decision Support
The brief survey by the group of experts revealed that while we know much about the complex environment of the Gulf Coast and the great storms that attack it, existing knowledge needs to be better linked to planning and reconstruction. The potential for acquiring better and more useful knowledge needs to be vigorously pursued. Satellite imagery and observations need to be explored further. Necessary data need to be provided in real time to local and regional command centers. We see an immediate need for standing mechanisms to facilitate the integration of scientific knowledge into the massive reconstruction efforts currently in progress. Sound decisions should be informed by sound science. Incomplete or inaccurate information will surely lead to ineffective and wasteful measures.
As scientists, we see great needs for enhanced research. A large number of these research needs are being pursued at present. Future research is important, and it is also important to apply what we already know to the present issues and problems. This will require continuing interaction among scientists and planners at all levels. Scientists and levee-builders must be on the same team, and processes that foster an effective team must be designed and institutionalized.
The broad umbrella of AGU provides a forum and clearinghouse for virtually all of the scientific disciplines relevant to planning and executing the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast and building its defenses against future Katrinas. We propose an AGU-based framework for integrating science into reconstruction. Its elements would include the following:
- A standing interdisciplinary steering committee or focus group on post-Katrina reconstruction and environmental hazards to the Gulf Coast. This committee would review the overall reconstruction effort and continuing threats to the region, identify key scientific issues, and marshal scientific assets to address them.
- A database of experts in relevant areas, with an emphasis on experts within the affected areas. These individuals would be available to provide scientific guidance as needed or as requested by the steering committee.
- Periodic scientific assessments of the reconstruction and planning effort. Is existing science being fully utilized? What new knowledge is required?
- Educational resources must be developed to help citizens understand that the Earth is dynamic and that life-altering changes can and do occur on human timescales.