Wednesday :: Apr 9, 2008

Climate Change to Significantly Impact Transportation Infrastructure and Operations


by Turkana

When you have an administration that pretends climate change isn't happening, you also have an administration that ignores its inevitable consequences. In March, the National Academy of Sciences explained one:

While every mode of transportation in the U.S. will be affected as the climate changes, potentially the greatest impact on transportation systems will be flooding of roads, railways, transit systems, and airport runways in coastal areas because of rising sea levels and surges brought on by more intense storms, says a new report from the National Research Council. Though the impacts of climate change will vary by region, it is certain they will be widespread and costly in human and economic terms, and will require significant changes in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of transportation systems.

The U.S. transportation system was designed and built for local weather and climate conditions, predicated on historical temperature and precipitation data. The report finds that climate predictions used by transportation planners and engineers may no longer be reliable, however, in the face of new weather and climate extremes. Infrastructure pushed beyond the range for which it was designed can become stressed and fail, as seen with loss of the U.S. 90 Bridge in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

"The time has come for transportation professionals to acknowledge and confront the challenges posed by climate change, and to incorporate the most current scientific knowledge into the planning of transportation systems," said Henry Schwartz Jr., past president and chairman of Sverdrup/Jacobs Civil Inc., and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "It is now possible to project climate changes for large subcontinental regions, such as the Eastern United States, a scale better suited for considering regional and local transportation infrastructure."

The committee identified five climate changes of particular importance to U.S. transportation; 1) increases in very hot days and heat waves; 2) increases in Arctic temperatures; 3) rising sea levels; 4) increases in intense precipitation events; and 5) increases in hurricane intensity.

Copies of the report can be obtained here.

Turkana :: 6:42 PM :: Comments (16) :: Digg It!