PREP Publications


Studies have already detected intensification of precipitation events consistent with climate change projections. Communities may have a window of opportunity to prepare, but information sufficiently quantified and localized to support adaptation programs is sparse: published literature is typically characterized by general resilience building or regional vulnerability studies. The Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC observed that adaptation can no longer be postponed pending the effective elimination of uncertainty. Methods must be developed that manage residual uncertainty, providing community leaders with decision-support information sufficient for implementing infrastructure adaptation programs. This study developed a local-scale and actionable protocol for maintaining historical risk levels for communities facing significant impacts from climate change and population growth. For a coastal watershed, the study assessed the capacity of the present stormwater infrastructure capacity for conveying expected peak flow resulting from climate change and population growth. The project transferred coupled-climate model projections to the culvert system, in a form understandable to planners, resource managers and decision-makers; applied standard civil engineering methods to reverse-engineer culverts to determine existing and required capacities; modeled the potential for LID methods to manage peak flow in lieu of, or combination with, drainage system upsizing; and estimated replacement costs using local and national construction cost data. The mid-21st century, "most likely" 25-year, 24-hour precipitation is estimated to be 35% greater than the TP-40 precipitation for the SRES A1b trajectory, and 64% greater than the TP-40 value for the SRES A1fi trajectory. 5% of culverts are already undersized for the TP-40 event to which they should have been designed. Under the "most likely" A1b trajectory, an additional 12% of culverts likely will be undersized, while under the "most likely" A1fi scenario, an additional 19% likely will be undersized. These conditions place people and property at greater risk than that historically acceptable from the TP-4025-year design storm. This risk level may be maintained by a long-term upgrade program, utilizing existing strategies to manage uncertainty and costs. At the upper-95% confidence limit for the A1fi 25-year event, 65% of culverts are adequately sized, and building the remaining 35%, and planned, culverts to thrice the cross-sectional area specified from TP-40 should provide adequate capacity through this event. Realizable LID methods can mitigate significant impacts from climate change and population growth, however effectiveness is limited for the more pessimistic climate change projections. Results indicate that uncertainty in coupled-climate model projections is not an impediment to adaptation. This study makes a significant contribution toward the generation of reliable and specific estimates of impacts from climate change, in support of programs to adapt civil infrastructures. This study promotes a solution to today's arguably most significant challenge in civil infrastructure adaptation: translating the extensive corpus of adaptation theory and regional-scale impacts analyses into localscale action.

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Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, Durham, NH

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