It’s no secret. Extreme weather is on the rise as a result of global climate change.
What impacts will climate change have on our transportation infrastructure? Expect an increase in dramatic weather events like: coastal storm surges, extreme precipitation events and an increase in higher than normal temperatures.
Across BC, there are thousands of bridges allowing motorists to travel over our many lakes, rivers and streams. Our roadways also have countless culverts to pass water safely and prevent flood damage and erosion. When unexpected weather events happen, we can be dealing with more water than normal in a short period of time and this can present serious issues for bridges, roads and culverts that may not have enough capacity for these changed conditions. As a part of B.C.’s Climate Adaptation Strategy, we’re working with other key players to understand exactly what climate change might mean to our infrastructure and identifying ways we can adapt in response. Here’s how:
1. We’re analyzing and determining the vulnerabilities of our infrastructure from climate change
Since 2007, we’ve been working with climate scientists, meteorologists, hydrology specialists, as well as transportation engineering and operations and maintenance specialists, to assess and understand climate and weather vulnerabilities to our infrastructure. In recent years, a number of extreme weather events have severely impacted BC highways. For example, events in Bella Coola, Stewart and Pine Pass caused major damage to our transportation infrastructure. We carefully studied how climate, weather, terrain and topography – as well as the nature of watersheds surrounding our infrastructure – contributed to these events. We’ve also recognized the ways in which Mountain Pine Beetle infestations and forest fires can worsen impacts to infrastructure during extreme weather events. By using climate model information we can develop a better understanding of future potential impacts on our infrastructure.
2. We’re developing ways to reduce vulnerabilities and adapt to changing climate
We require consideration and evaluation of any vulnerability associated with future climate change and extreme weather to be included in our infrastructure design work. This applies to new projects as well as rehabilitation and maintenance projects – which means we are considering appropriate climate adaptation over the entire design life of our infrastructure. We also contributed to the Engineers and Geoscientists BC Practice Manual to establish methods for developing climate adapted designs for our infrastructure. These measures will help us continue to provide a provincial transportation system that is resilient, reliable and efficient regardless of unfolding climate change and extreme weather events.
3. We encourage climate change and adaptation education for professionals, consultants, staff & students
Adaptation is defined as “a change or the process of change by which an organism or species
becomes better suited to its environment.” To make sure that our transportation infrastructure remains reliable in the face of climate change, we are taking steps to adapt BC highways, so that they can continue to connect communities across the province, whatever the weather.
Have any comments or questions? Let us know in the comments below.