Understanding the climate-sensitive decisions and information needs of freshwater resource managers in Hawaii

Melissa L. Finucane, Rachel Miller, L. Kati Corlew, Victoria W. Keener, Maxine Burkett, Zena Grecni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Understanding how climate science can be useful in decisions about the management of freshwater resources requires knowledge of decision makers, their climate-sensitive decisions, and the context in which the decisions are being made. A mixed-methods study found that people managing freshwater resources in Hawaii are highly educated and experienced in diverse professions, they perceive climate change as posing a worrisome risk, and they would like to be better informed about how to adapt to climate change. Decision makers with higher climate literacy seem to be more comfortable dealing with uncertain information. Those with lower climate literacy seem to be more trusting of climate information from familiar sources. Freshwater managers in Hawaii make a wide range of climate-sensitive decisions. These decisions can be characterized on several key dimensions including purpose (optimization and evaluation), time horizon (short term and long term), level of information uncertainty (known, uncertain, deeply uncertain, and completely unknown), and information type (quantitative and qualitative). The climate information most relevant to decision makers includes vulnerability assessments incorporating long-term projections about temperature, rainfall distribution, storms, sea level rise, and streamflow changes at an island or statewide scale. The main barriers to using available climate information include insufficient staff time to locate the information and the lack of a clear legal mandate to use the information. Overall, the results suggest that an integrated and systematic approach is needed to determine where and when uncertain climate information is useful and how a larger set of organizational and individual variables affect decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-308
Number of pages16
JournalWeather, Climate, and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Atmospheric Science


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