Faculty Publications

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Publication Version

Published Version


Vulnerability, Adaptive capacity, Qualitative interview, Farming communities, Winter storm

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Environmental and Sustainability Indicators




Winter storms have been reported as the second-most frequent catastrophe in the Midwest of the United States and can create non-negligible impacts on farming communities that highly rely on climatic-sensitive resources and activities. However, few studies have attempted to assess the vulnerability to winter storms in rural contexts. Focusing on all counties in Iowa, US, as the study area, this research aimed to evaluate the vulnerability of farming communities to winter storms and its major determinants. It first identified both climatic and non-climatic indicators for quantifying winter storm exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity by reviewing previous related studies and examining qualitative interview results. Then, spatial analysis tools were used to quantify and aggregate several indicators, such as winter temperature variation, natural shelter, energy capacity, and facility density. Next, factor analysis was employed to identify latent variables and estimate the index score for adaptive capacity. Finally, the vulnerability of Iowa counties to winter storms was calculated and mapped. The results showed that the determinants of adaptive capacity to winter storms in Iowa could be explained as farming economic status, environmental institutional capital, and innovative capital. Overall, high vulnerability was found in Southeast Iowa due to its low farming economic status and innovative capital, and Northwest Iowa as a result of high exposure and low environmental institutional capital. In a state with dominant farming communities, whether to include its major metropolitan areas to assess winter storm vulnerability seemed to only affect the evaluation of the general pattern of adaptive capacity but not exposure or sensitivity.


Department of Geography

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UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa

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©2021 Yiyi Zhang and Bingquing Liang



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