Adaptive capacity in light of Hurricane Sandy: The need for policy engagement

Melissa Wagner, Netra Chhetri, Melanie Sturm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy brings to light the tenuous U.S. model of natural disaster management. Climatic extremes, like Sandy, are projected to increase in magnitude and frequency, calling upon societies to adapt appropriately to imminent threats. In this paper, we describe the knowledge and policy disconnect exposed by Sandy between what we submit are four key elements of adaptive capacity: resources, institutions, knowledge and innovation of technology. Our synthesis of multi-disciplinary expert knowledge and admonition from civil engineers, climatologists, and urban planners demonstrates the significance of mobilizing knowledge to design robust socio-ecological systems. We contrast the U.S. model to the Dutch system of climate adaptation to emphasize the feasibility, value, and effectiveness of adopting robust adaptive capacities, rather than policies steeped in reactionary responses. Such strategies that integrate coordination and imagination from members across society are imperative in translating scientific foresight into institutional action. The solution we offer is not only material for a more action-based discussion, but also provides an illustration of crafting policy that enhances adaptive capacities of socio-ecological systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-23
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Geography
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Adaptive capacity
  • Climate change
  • Hurricane sandy
  • Science and policy
  • Socio-ecological systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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