City of Asheville, North Carolina

Planning, assessment, and communications for climate resilience
Cityscape of Asheville, North Carolina

Climate resilience is the ability of the natural, human, economic, and built systems to recover from and withstand impacts from weather and climate. Climate resilience planning is a way for communities to develop strategies for reducing their vulnerability to impacts from extreme weather events and climate change and to manage risk.

In 2016, the NEMAC team started working with the City of Asheville to guide staff through a five-step resilience planning process developed for the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit in a series of facilitated workshops. At the end of 2016 the team completed the assessment phase that highlights the primary climate-related threats the City faces. Currently, the team is identifying options to build resilience to the threats identified in the assessment phase.

City of Asheville | Climate Resiliency  »


Asheville has a history of climate-related impacts, including major flood events in 1916 and 2004, multiple landslides, and the record drought of 2007–2008. Communities and businesses, however, are not impacted solely by climate—they also face many non-climate stressors. These may include economic changes, land use issues, and the desire to preserve a sense of place. Asheville is experiencing some of these non-climate stressors, such as pressures from population growth and increasing demand for municipal services.

Building resilience involves consideration of both climate and non-climate factors.

The Goal

The goal of the climate resilience planning project is to assist the City of Asheville in becoming more resilient in the face of existing hazards and environmental change. To that end, NEMAC led city staff through a series of six workshops between June and December, 2016, aligned with the Steps to Resilience set forth in the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.

In Phase I of the project, over 25 participants representing 14 municipal departments worked through Steps One through Four of the resilience-building process as described below, and will continue to Step Five in 2017.

The Process

Step One: Explore Climate Threats

The main climate threats in Asheville are related to climate variability and extreme events, such as extreme precipitation, severe drought, and extreme heat. Recent events and past experiences help in understanding impacts, including flooding and runoff, landslides, water shortages and wildfire, and extreme heat. These impacts were assessed and documented in a thorough exposure analysis.

Step Two: Assess Vulnerability and Risks

Vulnerability is the susceptibility of societal assets and community services to impacts from existing or future threats. Vulnerability is made up of two main concepts: exposure and adaptive capacity. Both physical and socioeconomic conditions can influence a system's resilience to the impacts from climate-related threats. This process included a vulnerability and risk scoping assessment for identified assets to specific climate threats.

Step Three: Investigate Options

Once vulnerable areas and assets were identified, options to build resilience were considered. Options were developed by brainstorming possible solutions and exploring what other groups have done in similar circumstances, and then were narrowed to a short list of actions that local stakeholders were willing to support.

Step Four: Prioritize Actions

After developing a list of 100 options, they were consolidated into actions and the important work of prioritization was begun. This prioritization process requires aligning limited resources to focus on the greatest risks, and involves discussing trade-offs with fellow stakeholders and determining the best way forward.

Step Five: Take Action (Implement)

The last step is implementing a plan. It is also important to monitor results and measure how effective the actions are. 


The NEMAC team is currently working with the City of Asheville on the final stages of Step Four.

More information about the process and how the climate resilience work will be integrated with the City's comprehensive plan can be found on the City's project page

Image credit: City of Asheville, North Carolina (infrared), by Ken Lane, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr.