Brent Yarnal

Introduction

Please note: Brent is retiring at the end of the 2015-16 academic year and is no longer taking graduate students.

 

I’m a geographer interested in integrating physical science, social science, and information science to improve the lives of people and their communities. In general, my research addresses global change in local places––that is, how people and the places in which they live contribute to problems such as climate change or land-use change, and how these global changes affect people and places. I am particularly interested in how addressing environmental and social problems, such as natural hazards, climate variations, unwise land uses, or wasteful energy use, can make people and communities, less physically and socioeconomically vulnerable, financially stronger, and more resilient to shocks today and, at the same time, better prepared for climate change in the future.

Current research interests and activities

I have several research interests and activities, many of which have been under way for years. I outline three important streams of recent and current research here, but do not list them all. See my list of recent publications to see some of the other research topics my students and I have been working on.

One of my continuing activities involves the vulnerability of coastal communities to contemporary hurricane storm surge and the increased vulnerability to this storm surge caused by sea level rise. Our work involves modeling and mapping storm surge and land use, identifying vulnerable people, resources, and infrastructure, and working with leaders in local government, business, planning, resource management, and emergency management to reduce this vulnerability through wise policy and planning. Most recently, we have been doing this work in coastal Florida, where hurricanes and sea level rise are urgent issues.

Another ongoing area of research is developing techniques for inventorying local greenhouse gas emissions, conducting emissions inventories, and helping governments and institutions develop climate change mitigation action plans. As we have refined our methods, we have helped Pennsylvania universities, counties, and municipalities improve their energy efficiency, transportation management, and waste management while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and saving money—a win-win success story for these places.

We also continue to work closely with water managers so they can use climate information to enhance the operation of their systems and to reduce their vulnerability to weather and climate extremes today and in the future. Our work has included both rural and urban water systems in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Florida. Collaborations with colleagues have extended this work to Massachusetts, South Carolina, Kansas, and Arizona.

All of this work applies theory to practice; it requires modeling and analysis of physical and socioeconomic systems and the interaction of these systems; and it involves significant interaction with community stakeholders at most stages of the research.

To summarize, I am generally interested in global change in local places, and especially in the topics climate variation and change, land-use/land cover change, and natural hazards. I focus on the interaction of extreme events and natural hazards with global change and socioeconomic development. Other key words associated with my work might include, greenhouse-gas emissions inventories and mitigation action plans, vulnerability assessment, water management, and stakeholder interaction.

Research Interests

  • global change in local places
  • climate variation and change
  • land-use/land-cover change
  • natural hazards
  • coupled human-environment systems

Previous Appointments

  • 1985-present, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor, Department of Geography, Penn State
  • 1984-1985, Visiting Fellow, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • 1982-1984, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Northern Iowa

Education

  • Ph.D., 1982, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University; contemporary climate-glacier interactions
  • M.Sc., 1979, Department of Geography, University of Calgary; paleoclimate-landform interactions
  • A.B., 1973, University of California at Davis; History major, Anthropology minor

Advisees

(Since 2000)

Peter Howe, Ph.D. (current)

David Retchless, M.S. (current)

Ratchanok Sangpenchan, Ph.D. (current)

Chongming Wang, M.S. (current)

Craig Eissler, MGIS (2009)

Tim Frazier, Ph.D. (2009)

Peter Howe, M.S. (2009)

Kim Rohrs, MGIS (2009)

Jessica Whitehead, Ph.D. (2009)

Destiny Aman, M.S. (2008)

Janet Fabien, M.GIS (2008)

Tania Lopez, Ph.D. (2008)

Nnyaladzi Batisani, Ph.D. (2006)

Sarah Knuth, M.S. (2006)

Tim Frazier, M.S. (2005)

Brandi Nagle, M.S. (2005)

Rob Neff, Ph.D. (2005)

Amy Heasley, M.S. (2004)

Lisa Rygel, M.S. (2004)

Christopher Steuer, M.S. (2004)

Rachel Kurtz, Ph.D. (2003)

Steven Lachman, Ph.D. (2003)

Mark Read, M.S. (2002)

William Pike, M.S. (2001)

Chris Ryan, M.S. (2000)

Robin Shudak, M.S. (2000)

Courses Taught

  • GEOG 115: Landforms of the World
  • GEOG 333: Human Dimensions of Natural Hazards
  • GEOG 438W: Human Dimensions of Global Warming
  • GEOG/HDNRE 536: Causes and Impacts of Global Environmental Change
  • GEOG 502: Research Scholarship in Geography
  • GEOG 500: Introduction to Geographic Research
  • Earth 297A: Coastal Processes, Hazards and Society

Publications

2010    NJ Batisani and B Yarnal. Rainfall variability and trends in semi-arid Botswana: Implications for climate change adaptation policy. Applied Geography

2010    NJ Batisani and B Yarnal. Elasticity of capital-land substitution in housing construction, Gaborone, Botswana: Implications for smart growth policy and affordable housing. Landscape and Urban Planning, doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2010.08.016.

2010    T Frazier, N Wood, B Yarnal, and DH Bauer. Influence of potential sea level rise on societal vulnerability to hurricane storm-surge hazards, Sarasota County, Florida. Applied Geography.

2010    T Frazier, B Yarnal, and N Wood. Stakeholder perspectives on land-use strategies for adapting to climate-change-enhanced coastal hazards: Sarasota, Florida. Applied Geography.

2010    B Yarnal, Guest Editor. Special Issue: Climate Change and Applied Geography –– Place, Policy, and Practice. Applied Geography 30 (4).

2010    El Nino, Catastrophism, and Culture Change in Ancient America, DH Sandweiss and J Quilter (eds), Journal of Latin American Geography 9, 187-188.

2010    DD Aman and B Yarnal. Home sweet mobile home? Benefits and challenges of mobile home ownership in rural Pennsylvania. Applied Geography 30, 84-95.

2010    T López-Marrero and B Yarnal. Putting adaptive capacity into the context of people’s lives: A case study of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico. Natural Hazards 52, 277-297.

2009    C Yu, AM MacEachren, DJ Peuquet, and B Yarnal. Integrating scientific modeling and supporting dynamic hazard management with a GeoAgent-based representation of human environment interactions: A drought example in Central Pennsylvania, USA. Environmental Modelling and Software 24, 1501-1512.

2009    NJ Batisani and B Yarnal. Urban expansion in Centre County, Pennsylvania: Spatial dynamics and landscape transformations. Applied Geography 26, 235-249.

2008        NJ Batisani and B Yarnal. Uncertainty awareness in urban sprawl simulations:  Lessons from a small US metropolitan region. Land Use Policy 26, 178-185.

2007    K Dow, R O’Connor, B Yarnal, GJ Carbone, and CL Jocoy. Why Worry? Community water system managers’ perceptions of climate vulnerability. Global Environmental Change 17, 228–237.

2007    L Kleinosky, B Yarnal, and A Fisher. Vulnerability of Hampton Roads, Virginia to storm-surge flooding and sea-level rise. Natural Hazards 40, 43-70.

2007    S Knuth, B Nagle, C Steuer, and B Yarnal. Universities and climate change mitigation: Advancing grassroots climate policy in the US. Local Environment 12, 485-504.

2007    C Polsky, R Neff, and B Yarnal. Building comparable global change vulnerability assessments: The Vulnerability Scoping Diagram. Global Environmental Change 17, 472-485.

2007    B Yarnal. Vulnerability and all that jazz: Addressing vulnerability in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Technology in Society 29, 249–255.

2007    B Yarnal and R Neff. Teaching global change in local places: The HERO Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.  Journal of Geography in Higher Education 31, 413-426.

2006    AM MacEachren, W Pike, C Yu, I Brewer, M Gahegan, SD Weaver, and B Yarnal. Building a geocollaboratory: Supporting Human–Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) collaborative science activities. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems 30, 201-225.

2006    L Rygel, D O’Sullivan, and B Yarnal. A method for constructing a social vulnerability index: An application to hurricane storm surges in a developed country.  Mitigation and Adaptations Strategies for Global Change 11, 741-764.

2006    B Yarnal, AL Heasley, RE O’Connor, K Dow, and CL Jocoy. The potential use of climate forecasts by Community Water System managers. Land Use and Water Resources Research 6, 3.1-3.8.

2005    RE O’Connor, B Yarnal, K Dow, CS Jocoy, and G Carbone. Feeling at-risk matters: Water managers and the decision to use forecasts. Risk Analysis 25, 1265-1275.

2005    W Pike, B Yarnal, A MacEachren, M Gahegan, and C Yu. Retooling collaboration: A vision for environmental change research.  Environment 47 (2), 8-21.

2005    A Rose, R Neff, B Yarnal, and H Greenberg. A greenhouse gas emissions inventory for Pennsylvania. Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association 55, 1122-1133.

2004    B Yarnal, and R Neff.  Wither parity? The need for a comprehensive curriculum in human-environment geography.  The Professional Geographer 56, 28-36. 

2003    B Yarnal, RE O’Connor, and R Shudak.  The impact of local versus national framing on willingness to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: A case study from central Pennsylvania.  Local Environment 8, 457-469.

2002    RE O’Connor, RJ Bord, B Yarnal, and N Wiefek.  Who wants to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions?  Social Science Quarterly 83, 1-17.

2002    S-Y Wu, B Yarnal, and A Fisher.  Vulnerability of coastal communities to sea-level rise: A case study of Cape May County, New Jersey.  Climate Research 22, 255-270.

2000    R Neff, H Chang, CG Knight, RG Najjar, B Yarnal, and HA Walker.  Impact of climate variation and change on Mid-Atlantic Region hydrology and water resources.  Climate Research 11, 207-218.

1999    RE O’Connor, B Yarnal, R Neff, R Bord, N Wiefek, C Reenock, R Shudak, CL Jocoy, P Pascale, and CG Knight.  Weather and climate extremes, climate change, and planning: Views of community water system managers in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River Basin:  Journal of the American Water Resources Association 35, 1411-1419.

Books and Edited Special Journal Issues

In press    B Yarnal, Guest Editor. Climate Change and Applied Geography –– Place, Policy, and Practice. Special Issue of Applied Geography.

2009    B Yarnal, C Polsky, and J O’Brien, Editors. Sustainable Communities on a Sustainable Planet: The Human-Environment Regional Observatory Project.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.

2003    Association of American Geographers Global Change in Local Places Research Team, Editors. Global Change in Local Places: Estimating, Understanding, and Reducing Greenhouse Gases.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.

Book Chapters

2009    B Yarnal.  Integrated regional assessment: Overview and framework.  In: Integrated Regional Assessment, CG Knight and J Jager, editors, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 29-49.

2009    B Yarnal, J Harrington Jr, AC Comrie, C Polsky, and O Ahlqvist. Infrastructure for observing local human-environment interactions.  In: B Yarnal, C Polsky, and J O’Brien, Editors. Sustainable Communities on a Sustainable Planet: The Human-Environment Regional Observatory Project. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1-12.

2009    J Harrington, Jr., B Yarnal, D Liverman, and BL Turner II. Human-environment interactions that shaped the local landscape: The historical context. In: ibid, 107-136.

2009    C Polsky, A Comrie, J Whitehead, C Sorrensen, LMB Harrington, M Lu, R Neff, and B Yarnal. Rapid vulnerability assessments of exposures, sensitivities, and adaptive capacities of the HERO study sites.  In: ibid, 175-208.

2009    C Polsky, C Sorrensen, J Whitehead, LMB Harrington, M Lu, R Neff, and B Yarnal. Evaluating vulnerability assessments of the HERO study sites.  In: ibid, 209-228.

2009    B Yarnal. Central Pennsylvania: Vulnerability in a mixed-culture region.  In: ibid, 250-268.

2009    B Yarnal, J Harrington Jr, AC Comrie, C Polsky, and O Ahlqvist. Lessons learned from the HERO project.  In: ibid, 317-338.

2008    DL Feldman, KL Jacobs, G Garfin, A Georgakakos, J Kochendorfer, B Morehouse, R Webb, B Yarnal, C Rosenzweig, M Sale, B Udall, and C Woodhouse. Decision-support experiments within the water resource management sector. In: Decision-Support Experiments and Evaluations using Seasonal-to-Interannual Forecasts and Observational Data: A Focus on Water Resources. A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research, N Beller-Simms, H Ingram, D Feldman, N Mantua, KL Jacobs, and A Waple, editors, NOAA National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC, 65-100.

2008    DL Feldman, KL Jacobs, G Garfin, A Georgakakos, B Morehouse, P Restrepo, R Webb, B Yarnal, D Basketfield, HC Hartmann, J Kochendorfer, C Rosenzweig, M Sale, B Udall, and C Woodhouse, 2008: Making decision-support information useful, useable, and responsive to decision-maker needs. In: Decision-Support Experiments and Evaluations using Seasonal-to-Interannual Forecasts and Observational Data: A Focus on Water Resources. A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research, N Beller-Simms, H Ingram, D Feldman, N Mantua, KL Jacobs, and A Waple, editors, NOAA National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC, 101-140.

2003    A Denny, B Yarnal, C Polsky, and S Lachman.  Global change and Central Pennsylvania: Local resources and impacts of mitigation.  In: Global Change in Local Places: Estimating, Understanding, and Reducing Greenhouse Gases, Association of American Geographers Global Change in Local Places Research Team, editors, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 122-140.

2003     WE Easterling, C Polsky, D Goodin, M Mayfield, WA Muraco, and B Yarnal.  Changing places and changing emissions: Comparing local, state, and United States emissions.  In: Global Change in Local Places: Estimating, Understanding, and Reducing Greenhouse Gases, Association of American Geographers Global Change in Local Places Research Team, editors, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 143-157.

2003     CG Knight, S Cutter, J DeHart, A Denny, D Howard, S-L Kaktins, DE Kromm, SE White, and B Yarnal.  Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: Learning from local analogs.  In: Global Change in Local Places: Estimating, Understanding, and Reducing Greenhouse Gases, Association of American Geographers Global Change in Local Places Research Team, editors, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 192-213.

2003        D Liverman, B Yarnal, and BL Turner II.  Human dimensions of global change.  In: Geography in America at the Dawn of the 21st Century, G Gaille and C Willmott, editors, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, 267-282.

2001    RE O'Connor, RJ Bord, K Dow, and B Yarnal, Risk perceptions of natural hazards: Community water system managers in Pennsylvania and South Carolina.  In: Risk-Based Decisionmaking in Water Resources IX, YY Haimes, DA Moser, and EZ Stakhiv, editors, American Society of Civil Engineers, Reston, VA, 87-95.

2000      B Yarnal. El Niño impacts in the United States.  In: El Niño-Southern Oscillation and Its Global Impacts, LC Nkemdirim, editor, Commission on Climatology of the International Geographical Union, Bonn, Germany, 108-132.

Other publications

In press    B Yarnal. Book review: El Nino, Catastrophism, and Culture Change in Ancient America, DH Sandweiss and J Quilter (eds), Journal of Latin American Geography.

2007        N Wood, A Church, T Frazier, and B Yarnal. Variations in Community Exposure and Sensitivity to Tsunami Hazards in the State of Hawai`i. US Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5208, 42 pp.

2001        V Sasidharan, C Yarnal, B Yarnal, and G Godbey.  Climate change: What does it mean for parks and recreation management?  Parks and Recreation, March, 54-60.

2000        A Fisher, D Abler, E Barron, R Bord, R Crane, D DeWalle, CG Knight, R Najjar, E Nizeyimana, R O’Connor, A Rose, J Shortle, and B Yarnal.  Preparing for a Changing Climate: The Potential Consequences of Climatic Variability and Change.  Mid-Atlantic Foundations.  The US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, and The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

2000        A Fisher, D Abler, E Barron, R Bord, R Crane, D DeWalle, CG Knight, R Najjar, E Nizeyimana, R O’Connor, A Rose, J Shortle, and B Yarnal.  Preparing for a Changing Climate: The Potential Consequences of Climatic Variability and Change.  Mid-Atlantic Overview.  The US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, and The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.