Today, in a major step to advance the President’s Climate Data Initiative and the Climate Resilience Toolkit, the Obama Administration is providing data and tools that will help ensure our nation’s transportation systems are more resilient to the effects of climate change.
In the United States, transportation systems are designed to withstand local weather and climate. Transportation engineers typically refer to historical records of climate, especially extreme weather events, when designing transportation systems. For example, bridges are often designed to withstand storms that have a probability of occurring only once or twice every 100 years.
However, due to climate change, historical climate is no longer a reliable predictor of future impacts.
The impacts of climate change – including more intense storms and storm surge damage, more severe droughts and heat waves, and sea-level rise – can increase the risk of delays, disruptions, damage, and failure across our land-based, air, and marine transportation systems. This is particularly important considering the interconnectivity of these systems. Actionable science, data, information, and tools can empower planners and decision makers to account for these impacts in the transportation sector, potentially helping avoid disruptions to operations and costly repairs, and helping ensure that major investments into infrastructure intended to last many decades is not put at risk prematurely.
That’s why today, the Administration is launching new transportation “themes” of the Climate Data Initiative (CDI) and the Climate Resilience Toolkit (CRT). Now, anyone can log onto data.gov/climate/transportation and find over 90 datasets from across six Federal agencies related to climate change and transportation. These datasets include a comprehensive inventory of the nation's highway system, airports, and railroad crossings, as well as census data of all ferry operators in the United States and its territories. On toolkit.climate.gov/topics/transportation-and-supply-chain, a freely available set of case studies, visualizations, and other science-based resources enable users to better understand and respond to the impacts of climate change on the transportation sector. The new transportation themes of the CDI and CRT also includes more than 25 tools and maps and a compilation of key reports and websites from across the Federal government.
Climate change is already having and will continue to have significant impacts on transportation, affecting the way U.S. transportation professionals plan, design, construct, operate, and maintain infrastructure. The resources now available and centralized on the CDI and the CRT will help inform decisions made today in order to enhance the resilience of our Nation’s transportation sector to the impacts of climate change in the future.
Tamara Dickinson is Principal Assistant Director for Environment and Energy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Peter Rogoff is Under Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation.