Synthesis and Assessment Product (SAP) 4.7: Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure - Gulf Coast Study

This report is one in a series of 21 Synthesis and Assessment Products (SAPs) produced between 2004 and 2009, aimed at providing current assessments of climate change science in the U.S. to inform public debate, policy, and operational decisions. This SAP investigates risks to transportation systems in the Gulf Coast from climate change, and assesses the steps managers and policy makers can take to ensure the safety and resilience of those transportation systems. The findings represent the first phase of a three phased research effort.

Section 4 examines the specific impacts to modes of transportation in the region, including highways, transit, freight and passenger rail, marine facilities and waterways, and aviation, and it examines the implications to transportation emergency management.

Section 5 discusses how transportation officials can incorporate climate change into their decision making, such as in long-range planning and investments, and it provides a conceptual framework for assessing climate change impacts on transportation systems.

The ultimate goal of this research is to provide knowledge and tools that will enable transportation planners and managers to better understand the risks, adaptation strategies, and tradeoffs involved in planning, investment, design, and operational decisions. The objective of Phase I was to conduct a preliminary assessment of the risks to and vulnerabilities of transportation in the region, based upon the collection and integration of regional data including: physiography and hydrology, land use and land cover, past and projected climate, current population and trends, and transportation infrastructure.

Phase II will conduct an in-depth assessment of risks to transportation in the Mobile Alabama region, reporting on implications for long-range plans and impacts on safety, operations, and maintenance. This phase will also develop a risk assessment methodology and identify techniques to incorporate environmental and climate data in transportation decisions. Phase III will identify and analyze adaptation and response strategies and develop tools to assess these strategies, while enumerating future research needs.

Publication Date: March 2008

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Michael J. Savonis
  • Virginia R Burkett
  • Joanne R. Potter

Related Organizations:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

States Affected:


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