Climatic Effects on the U.S. National Security

Author(s): Emma Von Hoene

Mentor(s): Richard Todd Stafford, Honors College


With the issue of climate change escalating and the importance of military installations for our nation’s security, I have conducted a creative research project assessing how the effects of climate change is impacting the United States’ domestic military bases.  The U.S. Department of Defense 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review stated that numerous military installations are at high risk due to climate change. According to the National Defense Authorization Act (2018), military bases are facing various types of effects from climate change dependent on their location within the United States. These effects include sea level rise, flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires, and thawing permafrost. Based on this supporting research, the creative project focuses on how each of these factors impact specific military bases throughout the U.S. The overall theme of the project is to highlight the significance of military bases and accentuate their vulnerability by conducting analysis of differing effects of climate change on the U.S. installations with the application of GIS and cartographic skills. The final deliverable is an ArcGIS story map presenting research, data, and evidence on the topic. The product will incorporate supporting digital information, such as photographs, charts, and text, but conclusions will be heavily analyzed from maps produced with GIS techniques. Generally, the project is focused on the where and how climate change impacts domestic U.S. military bases, and the information produced is valuable and meaningful since the damaging climatic effects to our country’s bases will endanger our nation’s security.

Video Transcript

Hi, I’m Emma Von Hoene and I am currently a junior in George Mason’s Honors College studying Geography and Intelligence. So, we typically think of the United States being threatened by other countries, such as North Korea. And when we think of climate change, we usually think about how our environment is impacted from carbon emissions. However, do you ever think about how these two subject matters are related? My research is intended to show how climatic effects are impacting the United States’ national security. The focus of my research developed from my interests of study and this led to creating a project with multiple disciplines. I decided to combine my interests of Intelligence which narrows down to U.S. national security with climate change, and I also used my Geography and GIS skills to produce the project. Integrating my interests led to developing the questions that focused my research. First, I want to see how climate change impacts our nations security. As I was doing research for my project, I found a pattern that climate change is increasing the vulnerability of U.S. military bases, so I chose to concentrate on this aspect. So then I narrowed my project down by focusing on how the bases are impacted, what ones are impacted and where they are impacted. I intend on showing a correlation between the US national security and climate change with my research, so my main question I answer is how does climate change impact the vulnerability of domestic US military bases? My research will evaluate the location aspect. For example, I answer more specific questions of which regions within the country are military bases facing the most risk from climate change. I also focus on which specific bases are encountering the most vulnerability. The focus of my research is driven by the purpose, which is to capture attention and provide visual evidence in a geospatial manner that military bases are at high risk from varying climatic effects and this threatens the security of our country and our troops. This research I have conducted is important because the climatic effects are damaging the US military bases and this will weaken the country by limiting infrastructure and troops. According to the department of defense, the effects of changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to department of defense missions, operational plans and installations. You can see visual indications of this happening in the pictures included on the bottom of the slide. The first major concept of my project is GIS since that is the main skill I utilize for my research. GIS collects, stores, manages and analyzes different types of data. The system typically analyzes spatial data and creates visualizations by layering the data, and this allows the users to produce different forms of maps. With the visual on the right, you can somewhat comprehend what a GIS does. First there is data and that is uploaded into the software where computer hardware is needed. Then there are certain methods that differ depending on the purpose of your map and this can’t be conducted without people, who produce the map and draw conclusions based on analysis.

Another major concept that must be understood for my project is an arcgis story map since this will be the form of my final deliverable. It’s a web application that allows you to create a story through arcGIS online, which is a GIS but through the web. This also allows you to share and publish your maps with other types of media, such as maps, texts, lists, images and videos or any other embedded items. The process of my research is driven with the intention of answering the questions I previously stated in the presentation with the application of my GIS and cartographic skills. The overall process will end with a creative project, which will be an arcgis story map. I included many maps regarding my research focus and integrated them with supporting media and text to support my research questions. I will now go more in-depth along with a visual to explain the process of my final story map. It all started with research. I first started researching my interests which allowed me to establish my focus and this then resulted into forming the questions. After I knew which questions I wanted to answer using GIS, I had to gather data and make sure it was reliable. The data must then be processed and manipulated in GIS. I then applied methods, such as tools and techniques incorporated into the GIS. After that, the results can be analyzed to develop conclusions, which then led to creating the products, such as maps. The maps were then placed into the final story map and which is shared and published. The overall outcome of this research was a creative project in form of a arcgis online story map that displays the correlation between the effects of climate change and the vulnerability of military bases within the United States. After conducting this research and creating this project, a few major conclusions can be stated. First, each branch named at least 10 of their installations that are at high risk from climatic effects and there is a total of 44 of these, which are highlighted in the map on the right. Each of these bases are listed and briefly touched upon in my final project and it is noticeable that the bases are clustered towards the southwest United States and the east coast. Another central conclusion is that the bases are harmed from the key climatic effects of sea level rise, flooding, wildfires, drought, and thawing permafrost. My final project further focuses on significant bases or regions that are impacted the most by these effects. Thank you all for watching and listening about my research. Since my final project is an ArcGIS story map, the project is presented with a link. So, If you are interested, please let me know if you want the link to my final project! Thanks for following along and have a great rest of your day!

3 replies on “Climatic Effects on the U.S. National Security”

I love all the details and examples you included in your story map! Visuals like this, and the examples you included, are crucial for getting people to care about climate change. Great presentation!

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