Home > Explore News > U.S. Department of Transportation Updates Coastal Infrastructure Risk Assessment Using NCCOS Research

U.S. Department of Transportation Updates Coastal Infrastructure Risk Assessment Using NCCOS Research

Published on: 12/18/2014
Research Area(s): Coastal Change
Region(s) of Study: Waterbodies / Gulf of Mexico
Primary Contact(s): david.kidwell@noaa.gov

Modeling concepts developed by the NCCOS sponsored Gulf of Mexico Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise (EESLR) project are being used by the U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) as a case study in the latest DOT hydraulic engineering manual.

The manual, 'Highways in the Coastal Environment: Assessing Extreme Events,' provides technical guidance and methods to civil engineers for assessing the vulnerability of coastal transportation facilities to extreme events and climate change. The focus of the manual is to quantify transportation infrastructure exposure to sea level rise, storm surge, and waves considering climate change.

Pavement damage due to waves and surge in an extreme event. (Credit NC DOT and US DOT).

Pavement damage due to waves and surge in an extreme event. Credit: N.C. DOT and U.S. DOT.

Building on research published in the journal 'Terrestrial, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences,' the case study represents a 'change in management knowledge' regarding coastal engineering in the face of climate change relatedsea level rise. The case study is presented as a 'level of effort 3,' the most challenging level of analysis, where modeling of storm surge, sea levels, currents, and waves including tsunamis is conducted in a probabilistic risk framework while also incorporating impacts of climate change.

Two bridges destroyed by wave loads in Hurricane Katrina. (Credit US DOT)

Two bridges destroyed by wave loads in Hurricane Katrina. Credit: U.S. DOT.

The use of NCCOS-developed sea level rise modeling tools by the U.S. DOT illustrates the important paradigm shift in coastal modeling developed through EESLR. Our coastal infrastructure is highly exposed to extreme events today and that exposure is likely to increase with sea level rise and climate change. New approaches and solutions will be needed.

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