Presentation slides | Presented on February 8, 2024



“Useful Prediction of Climate Extreme Risk for Texas-Oklahoma at 4-6 Years” by Mr. Matthew LaPlante (RC20-3056)

The interannual predictability of periods of flood and drought is limited by many factors. In certain regions of the world, however, robust precursive signals can inform risk assessments a year or more ahead of extreme events. For example, patterns of oceanic and atmospheric circulation have been associated with both flooding and drought in the U.S. Southern Plains, including ahead of a period of record-setting rain from 2015 to 2018. Utilizing global simulations of oceanic-atmospheric interactions and advanced observational data sets, this project has investigated and revealed stable signals at four-to-six years ahead of periods of drought and deluge in Texas and Oklahoma, with an apparently amplified signal after 2010. While both excessive precipitation and intense drought are projected to increase in coming decades, the connection between these cycles and modes of ocean temperature oscillations appears to be strengthening as well, potentially increasingly predictability. While such assessments can never be deterministic, the models upon which they are based may help national security decision-makers proactively assess risk and strategically allocate resources, impacting Guard-Reserve deployment cycles, strategic positioning of resources, and the assessment of climate-impacted geopolitical challenges.

“Advancing Resilience Theory and Tools to Combat Environmental Surprise” by Dr. David Alderson (RC21-1233)

While current practices for infrastructure currently follow principles of reliability and risk, these are – by necessity – based on knowledge of past events. They are not suited to adapt infrastructure to dramatic change and/or future surprises driven by growing system complexity, new conflicts and threats, or a changing environment driven by climate-related processes. In this talk, we present recent results of a research agenda for the development of novel training exercises that complement current approaches by drawing upon a theory of resilience that emphasizes adaptive response to surprise. We argue that experience with surprise in ‘realistic, yet fictitious’ infrastructure systems simulations can improve the capacity of infrastructure managers to sense, anticipate, adapt to, and learn from surprise in virtual crises gaming scenarios when trainees successfully integrate their experiences from simpler to more complex stages of expertise. Virtual platforms that are shareable and extensible to classroom and operational settings might speed this process of integration of experience and improve success rates among infrastructure managers confronted with surprise.

Speaker Biographies

Mr. Matthew LaPlante is an associate professor of journalism and doctoral student in climate science at Utah State University. He is a co-principal investigator for the SERDP Project RC20-3056. As a journalist, Matthew has reported from more than a dozen nations for organizations including The Washington Post, CNN, The Los Angeles Daily News, and The Salt Lake Tribune — the latter of which he served as national security reporter covering the U.S. Armed Forces. As a scientist, Mr. LaPlante has contributed to peer-reviewed research on the roles of natural variability and climate warming in hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and droughts. He is the author of "Superlative: The Biology of Extremes" (BenBella, 2019) and has co-written numerous other books on human health, scientific advancement, and society. Matthew is a veteran of the United States Navy and the host of UnDisciplined, a weekly program about exploration and discovery on Utah Public Radio. Mr. LaPlante has a bachelor’s degree in politics and the media from Oregon State University and a master’s degree in education from California State University East Bay.

Dr. David Alderson is a Professor in the Operations Research Department and serves as the founding executive director for the Center for Infrastructure Defense at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). His research focuses on the function and operation of critical infrastructures, with an emphasis on investing limited resources to ensure efficient and resilient performance in the face of accidents, failures, natural disasters, or deliberate attacks. Dr. Alderson’s research explores tradeoffs between efficiency, complexity, and fragility in a wide variety of public and private cyber-physical systems. He has been the principal investigator for several research projects funded by the U.S. Department of Defense including the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. He is an active member in the OSD Resource Competition, Environmental Security, and Stability (RECESS) Team and the DoD Environmental Security Working Group (ESWG). He serves as the advisor to the Climate and Security Network, which coordinates climate-related research and education, at NPS. Dr. Alderson received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a doctoral degree from Stanford University.