About the Neighborhoods at Risk Tool
See where flooding, urban heat, and hurricanes impact the most vulnerable people. Map and explore information at the neighborhood level for every community in the U.S.
With better access to socioeconomic and climate data to visualize problems and make informed decisions, communities can better adapt to long-term climate change.
Neighborhoods at Risk is designed to meet community planning needs to protect people and property from the impacts of climate change. A free, web-based tool, Neighborhoods at Risk generates customized, interactive maps and reports that describe characteristics of potentially vulnerable neighborhoods (by census tract). Additionally, Neighborhoods at Risk provides community-level climate projections for temperature and precipitation.
Neighborhoods at Risk can be used to prioritize capital improvements, conduct vulnerability assessments, inform land use and policy decisions, and support FEMA Hazard Mitigation Plans and Carbon Disclosure Project reporting.
Neighborhoods at Risk reports are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, FEMA, Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium, First Street Foundation, and the Northeast Regional Climate Center’s Applied Climate Information System. See details in the FAQ below.
Neighborhoods at Risk was developed with support from the Tableau Foundation, Mapbox, Urban Sustainability Directors Network, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Climate Resilience Fund, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
The tool was made possible by the generous commitment of time and talent of NOAA RISA climate scientists and city partners from Ann Arbor, MI; Cleveland, OH; Indianapolis, IN; Cincinnati, OH; Buffalo, NY; Evanston, IL; Dearborn, MI; Youngstown, OH; Detroit, MI; Minneapolis, MN; Milwaukee, WI; Columbia, MO; Springfield, MO; Lancaster, PA; Richmond, VA; City of Gaithersburg, MD; Newark, NJ; and Blacksburg, VA.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Neighborhoods at Risk?
Neighborhoods at Risk is a free, interactive data tool that provides neighborhood-level (by census tract) information about potentially vulnerable people and climate change. The tool allows users to filter and explore census tracts based on 13 socioeconomic and climate exposure variables. It also provides climate projections for changes in temperature and precipitation for the selected location. Users can download customized reports showing socioeconomic data for selected census tracts.
What data are used in Neighborhoods at Risk and how often are they updated?
People. Neighborhoods at Risk uses census tract-level socioeconomic data from the latest release of the U.S. Census American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates. Headwaters Economics updates Neighborhoods at Risk with newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey within 90 days after data publication. This page shows the update frequency and timing.
Neighborhoods at Risk displays nine socioeconomic variables and filters about people. For each characteristic, the tool provides a margin of error as reported by the Census. Data include:
- Children under 5 years old
- Families in poverty
- Households with no car
- Housing units that are rentals
- People of color including Hispanics
- People over 65 years old
- People who don’t speak English well
- People with disabilities
- People without health insurance
Climate exposure. Neighborhoods at Risk uses census tract-level data about land area with climate exposure from First Street Foundation, Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium, and FEMA. There are four climate exposure variables:
- Area in hurricane flood zone, defined as the average percent of area inundated by storm surge in the event of a Category 3 hurricane in 2018.
- Area lacking tree canopy based on remotely sensed data from 2016.
- Area of impervious surface based on remotely sensed data from 2016.
- Area in 500-year floodplain, defined as the percent of area that intersects with the 500-year floodplain, which includes all 100-year floodplain areas.
Climate projections. Neighborhoods at Risk uses climate projection data from the Northeast Regional Climate Center’s Applied Climate Information System representing LOCA Scenarios developed for the Fourth National Climate Assessment. There are four climate projections variables:
- Days per year above 90°F/95°F/100°F.
- Average annual temperature.
- Days per year with precipitation above 1″/2″/4″.
- Average annual precipitation.
Precipitation includes rainfall and snowfall equivalent. As a rule of thumb, ten inches of fallen snow is estimated to contain roughly one inch of water, but this number can vary greatly depending on snow density.
How should I cite data from Neighborhoods at Risk?
To cite data about people and socioeconomic conditions found in the Neighborhoods at Risk web application and report, Headwaters Economics recommends that you use the following citation:
U.S. Department of Commerce. 2019. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Office, Washington, D.C., as reported by Headwaters Economics’ Neighborhoods at Risk. Retrieved [date] from https://headwaterseconomics.org/apps/neighborhoods-at-risk/
To cite climate exposure data found the Neighborhoods at Risk web application, Headwaters Economics recommends that you use the following citations:
Hurricane Flood Zone
Porter J, Lewis-Gruss S, Freeman N, Chu Z. (2018). First Street Foundation Coastal Tidal and Surge Flood Model Technical Methodology https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/methodology/, as reported by Headwaters Economics’ Neighborhoods at Risk. Retrieved [date] from https://headwaterseconomics.org/apps/neighborhoods-at-risk/
FEMA National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL). (2018). Flood Risk Database (FRD) Technical Reference https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-hazard-layer-nfhl, as reported by Headwaters Economics’ Neighborhoods at Risk. Retrieved [date] from https://headwaterseconomics.org/apps/neighborhoods-at-risk/
Tree Canopy and Impervious Surface
Homer CG, Dewitz JA, Jin S, Xian G, Costello C, Danielson P, Gass L, Funk M, Wickham J, Stehman S, Auch RF, Ritters KH. (2020). Conterminous United States land cover change patterns 2001–2016 from the 2016 National Land Cover Database. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 162, 184-199, at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2020.02.019, as reported by Headwaters Economics’ Neighborhoods at Risk. Retrieved [date] from https://headwaterseconomics.org/apps/neighborhoods-at-risk/
To cite climate projection data found in the Neighborhoods at Risk web application, Headwaters Economics recommends that you use the following citations:
Northeast Regional Climate Center. (n.d.). Applied Climate Information System (ACIS). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University. Retrieved from http://rcc-acis.org
DeGaetano AT, Noon W, Eggleston KL. (2015). Efficient Access to Climate Products using ACIS Web Services. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 96(2), 173-180. Retrieved from http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/10.1175/BAMS-D-13-00032.1
Why are these “People” and “Climate Exposure” characteristics included?
The nine characteristics and filters included under “People” in Neighborhoods at Risk are indicators of populations that are potentially more vulnerable to climate risk and climate-related disasters. Not all people who fit these criteria are more vulnerable, but research shows that these populations are, on average, more likely to experience difficulty during all phases of climate-related disasters including:
- Mitigation: reducing the potential risk
- Preparedness: getting plans and resources ready
- Response: protecting and rescuing
- Recovery: rebuilding
The downloadable Neighborhoods at Risk report provides detailed information and references documenting how each variable is associated with potentially higher risk to climate change.
The four characteristics and filters included under “Climate Exposure” in Neighborhoods at Risk are indicators of land area that may experience more significant impacts from climate change. These variables (hurricane flood zones, floodplains, impervious surface, and lack of tree canopy) represent characteristics of our physical environment that make us more or less vulnerable to climate change by affecting the likelihood of extreme heat and flood events.
How are the top three “People” characteristics selected?
When you first view Neighborhoods at Risk, the application shows only the three “People” variables that are most significant for the selected place. To identify the top three variables, all nine “People” variables are ranked against all other places in the United States. By default, the tool will show only the three that rank highest for the selected location, but users can change these variables by selecting the “see more” button. To account for ties in ranks and locations with missing data, the ranks are normalized by dividing by the maximum rank for that variable across the entire U.S.