Frequently Asked Questions

The Environmental Resilience Institute provides numerous guides for using the Index, including webinars and other training sessions, and a User Manual and a Technical Document. We encourage you to consult those resources, especially the User Manual, for basic questions. More questions will likely arise as communities start using the Index. We will update this list on an ongoing basis as we receive questions from the public.

If you have a question that is not addressed below, please send it to resindex@iu.edu. We will do our best to respond within 48 hours.

General Questions about the Hoosier Resilience Index

1. What information does the Hoosier Resilience Index provide?

The Index provides two kinds of information. First, it provides information on current and projected future heat and precipitation for every county and every incorporated city and town in the state of Indiana. It also provides maps of current floodplains, land use, and types of social vulnerability across a community. This information is available on the HRI website to anyone. Second, the tool provides a set of worksheets for local governments to assess their own readiness to lessen and respond to these impacts.

2. Why doesn’t the Index rate local governments’ state of readiness?

IU does not have the information needed to know what programs and policies each unit of local government has in place or is planning. Based on feedback we received from numerous stakeholders, we felt the most useful tool would be one where communities could assess their own situations.

3. Where do the data come from? Are they reliable?

All the data used in the Index are from publicly available, transparent sources, including peer-reviewed academic institutions such as the Purdue Climate Research Center and federal agencies such as the US Census and Environmental Protection Agency. View the data sources.

4. Is this really an Index? Why doesn’t it rank the cities, like some other indices do?

The feedback we got from a number of Indiana mayors and other stakeholders was that ranking would be less useful than information about each community’s climate vulnerabilities and a specific list of actions they can take to prepare. Specifically, individuals we spoke with expressed interest in a process for communities to assess their own readiness.

5. If communities are essentially self-assessing, how can we be sure that they will fill out the assessment candidly?

The Readiness Assessment will only be as useful as it is accurate. If a community decides to use the Asssessment, our expectation is that they will fill it out as honestly as they can.

6. Are communities required to use the Index?

No. The Index is completely voluntary.

Questions about the Part 1: Climate Vulnerability

7. Why are the projections for the 2050s, and not for earlier or later years?

The 2050s were the years selected because they are far enough away that actual changes in our environment are evident compared to the present, but it is close enough in time that decisions being made today can impact future conditions. The 2050s also align with the data provided by the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment.

8. Why is the current observation for heat and precipitation from 1971-2000?

The current observation reflects the average of recorded values for heat and precipitation from 1971 – 2000. That window of time was selected by the INCCIA and incorporating data back to 1971 matches the future climate projections that fall across a 30-year window (e.g. 2041-2070 for the “2050s”). A 30-year window is consistent with the length of time used by climate scientists.

9. Why are the three vulnerabilities (heat, precipitation and flooding) not summed into one overall score?

There is no scientifically acceptable way to combine these vulnerabilities, which are influenced by a variety of factors, into a single score; they are just too different from one another. The Institute is interested in pursuing this goal in the long run, but at present, each vulnerability must be evaluated individually, so as to maintain scientific credibility.

10. What is “social vulnerability”?

Every community must prepare for and respond to hazardous events, whether a natural disaster like a tornado or a disease outbreak, or an anthropogenic event such as a harmful chemical spill. The degree to which a community exhibits certain social conditions, including high poverty, low percentage of vehicle access, or crowded households, may affect that community’s ability to prevent human suffering and financial loss in the event of disaster. These factors describe a community’s social vulnerability, and are consistent with the definition provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Questions about the Extreme Heat Data

11. Why is my high emissions heat number lower than my medium emissions heat number?

This situation does not arise for the vast majority of communities. However, projections of extreme heat in the Medium Emissions and High Emissions scenarios diverge more strongly the further into the future we project. It is likely the case that the High Emissions projection for 2080 is higher than the Medium Emissions projection for 2080, even if the High Emissions projection is slightly lower in 2050. 

Questions about the Extreme Precipitation Data

12. Question: Why is this information in decades instead of years?

When we viewed the data as a yearly average, the differences between the current observations and 2050 projections were not helpful. For example, using a one year timeline (still based on an average across 30 years), a community in Indiana may experience an increase from 2.3 events/year to 3.4 events/year (which is then rounded to 2 and 3) from present to 2050. These numbers did not seem noteworthy. However, going from 23 events to 34 events by 2050, over the course of 10 years, more accurately conveys the significance of the increase. The decadal timeline for precipitation allows us to communicate the threats posed more effectively.

Questions about the Floodplain Land Use Data

13. Why is the current land use displayed for 2010, and not for a more recent year?

The only known dataset that provides land use data is the USEPA’s Integrated Climate and Land Use Scenarios (ICLUS) tool. It provides 2010 as the most recent year.

Questions about the Social Vulnerability Index

14. Why is the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) data limited to Indiana, instead of using the country wide 2016 data already calculated by CDC?

The Index is focused on risks and readiness within Indiana, so we present the social vulnerability data in a way that each Indiana community can compare itself to other Indiana communities.

15. Why can’t we see a smaller analysis level than census tract? 

The Hoosier Resilience Index replicates the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index national methodology for the state of Indiana. Their methodology analyzes data at the census tract level. Census tracts, which are small subdivisions of counties, are designed to be demographically homogeneous. They generally have betwen 1,500 and 8,000 people, with an optimum size of 4,000 people. The Hoosier Resilience Index uses census tracts instead of block groups or census blocks because the margin of error is likely to be higher with comparing smaller groups of people. 

Questions about Part 2: Readiness Assessment

16. Who can complete the Readiness Assessment?

Any county government or incorporated city or town government in Indiana can obtain and complete the Readiness Assessment.

17. Why is it limited to governments?

The purpose of the Index is to assist Indiana local governments as they assess their readiness for climate change, and local officials and staff are in the best position to answer the questions. Local governments may work with community organizations, businesses, and members to help complete the Assessment, but the local government is responsible for submitting the full set of answers to the Environmental Resilience Institute.

18. Why are the assessment answers and readiness scores not publicly available?

The Index is a tool to help local governments reduce risks and improve community readiness for climate change impacts. Local governments can use whatever process they believe is most effective to use the tool, including publishing their responses and scores if they wish.

19. Where did the questions in the Readiness Assessment come from?

The questions come from a variety of resources developed by and/or for municipal government or other institutions (universities, for example). References are provided in the Technical Document. We considered each question carefully for its applicability to Indiana local government.

The readiness questions were developed by identifying the climate change impacts relevant in the state of Indiana, narrowing down that list of impacts to those that are able to be addressed by a local government in Indiana, and drafting a list of adaptation and mitigation actions through a review of best practice and individual expertise from academics and practitioners. See the Hoosier Resilience Index Technical Document for a more complete answer and a list of references.

General Resilience Questions

20. What is the difference between flash flooding, surface flooding, and river flooding?

Flash flooding can include surface or river flooding. The key distinction here is surface vs. river flooding. Surface flooding occurs when rainwater gathers on or flows over surfaces that are too impervious to permit the rainwater soaking into the ground. River flooding occurs when a river becomes so filled with rainwater that it spills over its natural banks. Flash flooding can be either surface flooding or river flooding, and is characterized by the flooding beginning within 6 hours of the extreme rainfall.