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The National Academies

NCHRP 15-61A [Anticipated]

Updates to the Design Practices Guide for Applying Climate Change Information to Hydrologic and Coastal Design of Transportation Infrastructure

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Staff Responsibility: Edward T. Harrigan
Fiscal Year: 2020

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected to be available on this website. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

BACKGROUND[

Transportation hydraulic engineers are being asked to account for global climate change within hydrologic and hydraulic (H&H) design practice. Current H&H design procedures stipulate use of historical data that are assumed to represent a stationary process. Climate change introduces non-stationary risks such as sea level and temperature rise, and changes in timing and distribution of precipitation, snowpack, and snowmelt. Failure to account for such non-stationary risks may compromise the operational characteristics of existing and future transportation infrastructure.

Climate change scientists
employ outputs from a cascade of models to develop regional scenarios representing these non-stationary phenomena that are not associated with specific probabilities. Existing guidance for H&H design does not provide methods to incorporate such information. Collaborative efforts and a common set of terms and definitions between climate change scientists, hydrologists, hydraulic engineers, and coastal engineers are essential to harmonize climate change inputs and H&H design practice.

Incorporating the results of climate models may have large cost implications for future infrastructure. For example, overestimates of the magnitude of peak flows can result in costly oversizing of drainage infrastructure, while underestimates might leave infrastructure vulnerable and the resultant flooding impacts on surrounding lands and structures inadequately addressed. It is often questioned if the magnitude of change in hydrologic and hydraulic inputs due to climate change are within the range of uncertainties accounted for in the current state of practice and how the uncertainties vary for the design of various hydraulic features ranging from stormwater management facilities to bridges, given that they are typically evaluated for varying design events (e.g., intensity, duration, and frequency). Furthermore, accounting for climate change in hydraulic design is complicated by additional non-stationary processes arising from urbanization and other land cover changes.

NCHRP Project 15-61, “Applying Climate Change Information to Hydrologic and Hydraulic Design of Transportation Infrastructure,” delivered a proposed AASHTO Design Practices Guide for Applying Climate Change Information to Hydrologic and Coastal Design of Transportation Infrastructure. Research is needed to prepare a revised version of the design guide addressing important topics subsequently identified by NCHRP.

OBJECTIVE

The objective of this research is to address important research topics that require further analysis and elaboration in the Design Practices Guide for Applying Climate Change Information to Hydrologic and Coastal Design of Transportation Infrastructure before the design guide is submitted to the Technical Committee on Hydrology and Hydraulics (TCHH) for review and consideration for AASHTO adoption.


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