Mapping recent (1997–2017) and future (2030) county-level social vulnerability to socio-economic conditions and natural hazards throughout Iran

Davood Mafi-Gholami, Eric K. Zenner, Abolfazl Jaafari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Social vulnerability assessments are intended to help mitigate or prevent adverse socio-economic effects of environmental hazards on human societies. In this study, we monitored the change of social vulnerability to multiple environmental hazards over a 20-year (1997–2017) period in Iran and provide a prediction of social vulnerability for 2030 under the RCP 8.5 climate change scenario. Following validation of two social vulnerability index (SoVI) values based on Principal Components Analysis (PCA) and a weighed method using observed county-level disaster outcomes, social vulnerability to four environmental variables or risk factors (i.e., drought, flood, landslide, and earthquake) was evaluated with 32 socio-economic values using the weighted method. Social vulnerability was strongly correlated with its three dimensions (i.e., exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity), and each dimension was strongly correlated with its constituent variables. Results showed that despite improved adaptive capacity between 1997 and 2017, simultaneously increased sensitivity and exposure increased social vulnerability spatially unevenly throughout the country, with greater increases in northern and northeastern than in central and southeastern counties. Extrapolating socio-economic variables and accounting for projected increases in drought severity is expected to increase the social vulnerability of the country by ∼27%, with forty-three (11%) mostly northern, northwestern, and northeastern counties with a combined population of ∼37 million people (46% of the current Iranian population) exposed to high to very high levels of vulnerability by 2030. Adaptation programs to enhance the resilience following deteriorating socio-economic conditions and climate change-induced droughts in these counties may require better water management strategies to enhance water security. Given the socio-economic conditions of the country and international sanctions, programs should be flanked by more balanced investment in less developed and more vulnerable counties to increase economic and social prosperity and prevent mass migration to more developed areas. This major challenge necessitates more accurate economic planning, development of investment, and improved international relations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number131841
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
StatePublished - Jun 25 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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