Critical Thresholds, Extreme Weather, and Building Resilience in the South Central United States

Authors: The Critical Thresholds, Extreme Weather, and Building Resilience Team.

This report explains the findings from a project on building resilience in the South Central United States. A multidisciplinary team used a participatory process to engage local citizens and identify locally relevant critical thresholds for extreme events, and use these thresholds to customize climate projections to community-specific needs. Identifying and better understanding critical thresholds for extreme events is key to developing effective community responses to climate change. Four small to medium-sized communities (Boulder, CO; Las Cruces, NM; Miami, OK, and San Angelo, TX) joined this multi-disciplinary project team to:

  1. Collaborate on identifying critical thresholds for extreme weather events in their communities;

  2. Create downscaled climate projections specific to those thresholds;

  3. Review the customized climate projections; and

  4. Identify and implement a resilience action project.

The team learned several lessons from applying this participatory approach to building community climate resilience:

  • Successful co-production of actionable science, based on the extreme weather events thresholds concept, show potential to bridge the gap between climate science and on-the-ground action to build resilience.

  • Both broad stakeholder engagement and expected attrition in participation can be used to strengthen efforts to build community climate resilience.

  • Communities are interested in threshold levels more extreme than those typically selected in scientific analyses, and in a wider range of extremes.

  • Communities are opportunistic when acting to build community resilience. In most cases, the communities chose resilience projects that fit with on-going efforts.

  • Each community selected a project that has co-benefits and helps build more than one aspect of resilience.

  • The threshold concept is useful as an entry point for discussions about climate change.


Adaptation International. (2017). Critical Thresholds, Extreme Weather, and Building Resilience. Boulder, CO: The Critical Thresholds, Extreme Weather, and Building Resilience Team.

Funded by: 

NOAA Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP)


Boulder Office

PO Box 20321

Boulder, Colorado 80308 USA

Phone 303-656-9609

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