Impacts of climate change and variability on transportation system

Integration of the impacts led by climate change into transportation decisions is quiet a moderately emerging concept. In various sectors, decision makers deal with information on effects of climate change and how they may or may not affect their core mission. However they are whirling to the current tools and approaches in order to get guidance. Up to now, at least three almost similar approaches are being applied by transportation decision makers to assist them to deliberate and formulate for future climate impacts (CCSP, 2008). These three approaches include: risk assessment, adaptation assessment and vulnerability assessment. But in this report I have only discussed vulnerability assessment, including the method or tool I applied, reasons for choosing this infrastructure component, additional information which a may require for a thorough research and challenges that I encountered.

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This vulnerability assessment starts with the documentation of present stressors which are facing transportation systems and also adds information on how the change of climate will influence and/or lead to new trends in the future. These findings of the assessment can be rated to address vulnerabilities, assess and prioritize (Larsen et al., 2007). This approach have been functional at changing levels of complexity in evaluating the impacts of climate change on man-made and natural systems. In this document details have been given on how the approach have been or could be applied to incorporate the impacts of climate change into transportation conclusions and eventually make the adaptive capability of the highway system to rise. This vulnerability assessment is centered on climate data, modification literature review and a local application of matters discussed in other plans

Vulnerability be defined as the point to which a system is subject to, and incapable to deal with hostile effects of change in climate, including climate extremes and changeability (IPCC, 2007). The vulnerability of a certain system to the change of climate can differ with the special feature of that system comprising its sensitivity, experience, and the rate to adapt a certain environment (Snover, 2007). The change of climate can benefit any system by presenting new stressors to the structure, and may also worsen present stressors. The purpose of this assessment is to provide an integrated assessment which comprise approaches to mitigate these impacts and provide the policy decisions on future navigation of the transport system

In referring on how a system can be defined in order to make vulnerability assessment to be successful, many factors can be considered. These factors include: development patterns, existing stressors, the supply of resources, and the adjacent physical surroundings (IPCC, 2007). The analysis of vulnerability has developed over time illustrating on issues associated with diversity, flexibility, and entitlement (Turner et al., 2003). Entitlement relates to human wants that concentrate a system to be vulnerable more or less. Diversity, states the need for terminated functions while flexibility has roots in environmental science, mentioning to a system’s capability to maintain balance (even when the balance is active) notwithstanding exposure to disturbance. However, there is a speedily growing agency of literature discussing terms such as flexibility, the rate of adapting to the environment, and vulnerability mainly for normal systems.

Vulnerability to the change of climate and its variability accomplishes as a purpose of the operational integrity and strength of the infrastructure, including the potential disruption and damage in services used in transport (CCSP, 2008). Even though factors for defining the vulnerability of transportation infrastructure may differ across transportation organizations. Different factors may influence this including; the lifespan of the infrastructure element comprising other elements, condition of the infrastructure component, closeness to other infrastructure components and the level of service. At this time, there is no detailed inventory of United States transportation infrastructure considered vulnerable to the change of climate, the degree at which the infrastructure is vulnerable, or the assessed costs of related harms (CCSP, 2008). Nevertheless, there are several regional and local studies available in the United States that apply this methodology to evaluate the vulnerability of infrastructure that try to apprehend this information (Larsen et al., 200). Furthermore, different global vulnerability assessments have been studied and documented at native and local levels (Andrey, Knapper, 2003).

Methodologies applied

           The main methodology applied in this context is temperature change concerning the transportation planning and rise of the level of sea. Various elements have to be applied because of the current change in climate which has led to many adverse impacts on the transportation system. The range of temperature and precipitation have been high according to various sources because if for example we can take concrete which is used to construct roads and other transportation systems, if it is fixed at air temperatures greater than 32.4 °C, then it loses its strength and the capability of construction manual workers and staff in charge on maintenance staff to accomplish their duties is severely affected at temperatures above 32.4 °C. A study showed that ports, highways, and railway infrastructure are mainly vulnerable to projected sea level rise (Andrey and Knapper, 2003). Furthermore, the infrastructure maintenance is anticipated to be vulnerable to the rise of temperatures while bridges are anticipated to be particularly vulnerable to changes in flooding and the range of precipitation. To those systems along coastal region, tropical storms at hurricane strength can destruct infrastructure through increased storm surges, storm and the action of wave.

Most bridges affected by the storms are found to be the frequent river crossings and inlet and across many considered regions. Many bridges have been completely demolished, while others sustain substantial destruction. The vulnerability of these bridges and roads are credited to the surging of storm and action of wave from the storms, together with problems of structural design. Moreover along roadways there is likewise inundation and damage caused by these storms leading roadway to weaken and sinkhole reconstruction (Smith and Wilson, 2007). In consideration to the value of cost needed to effect this assessment, estimation of 15-20 dollars can ensure that the transportation system have been improved in order also to rebuild those infrastructures that have been damaged.


           This assessment have mostly considered the vulnerability of local transportation infrastructure to climate change and relying on the results, the change is “High” because there are numerous highways which are adjacent to the Inlets and others crossing the Inlet. Submerging of these highway sections in the local transportation network would interrupt the distribution of goods to other parts. However the above estimate provide an indication of possible expense that would occur if the sea level and temperature range increase as the climate changes.


           Design principles for drainage would need to be updated to consider these varying conditions of climate. Furthermore improving materials and developing fresh materials; using other methods therefore advancing current systems with advances in design thus enhancing protection. In addition to design and operational changes, adaptation options should always be available, especially for new construction and development so that it can incorporate projected changes of climate into the planning procedure. For example, expansion can be restricted in regions most at risk from flooding, sea level rise, and storm surges. Moreover application of modern culvert infrastructure will mostly help to meet the probable increased occurrence of heavy precipitation events. These applications will help to improve the transport system which cannot be affected by the change in climate to most of the regions because according to the assessment, this infrastructure component requires upgrading.


Andrey, J. and C. Knapper, eds. 2003. Weather and Transportation in Canada. Department of Geography Publication Series #55. Ontario, Canada: University of Waterloo.

Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). 2008. Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure: Gulf Coast Study, Phase I. A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research. Savonis, M. J., V.R. Burkett, and J.R. Potter (Eds.). Washington, DC: Department of Transportation.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 2007. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, eds. M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Turner, Larsen, P., S. Goldsmith, O. Smith, M. Wilson, K. Strzepek, P. Chinowsky, and B. Saylor. 2007. Estimating Future Costs for Alaska Public Infrastructure at Risk from Climate Change. Anchorage, Alaska: University of Alaska Anchorage

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