The Infrastructure and Climate Network (ICNet)

The Infrastructure and Climate Network (ICNet) brings together climate scientists, engineering researchers, private practitioners, and transportation officials to support adaptation in the transportation sector in the Northeast US.  The focus of ICNet is to deliver data, tools, partnerships, and education to help transportation agencies understand potential climate impacts to the transportation system and identify engineering solutions to prepare roads, bridges, and other infrastructure for the effects of climate change.  ICNet facilitates annual workshops, helps set research priorities, and has developed web portals and tools to deliver climate science and bring researchers together with transportation officials. 

The network is based out of New England, which faces unique climate threats to transportation systems. According to the National Climate Assessment, the New England region faces as much as a 74% increase in heavy precipitation. The region has also been identified as a sea-level rise “hot spot,” with sea-level rise rates three to four times greater than the global average, posing a serious threat to coastal properties and infrastructure such as roadways and bridges. Finally, increasing air temperatures and changes in the freeze/thaw cycle will affect pavements and other infrastructure and will increase maintenance costs in the region. ICNet helps transportation officials assess the effects of climate change in the region and incorporate these considerations into practice and planning.

Researchers in the network help “translate” climate data for regional planners and engineers, helping them to see which climate models are relevant and what they mean for the health and preparedness of a region’s infrastructure in a “non-stationary” climate; climate scientists get a better sense of what climate models to use and how to focus their research so that it can better inform transportation decision-making.

Principal activities and projects of ICNet include the following:

  • Workshops: ICNet hosts annual workshops to foster collaboration and relationships between researchers and transportation officials and practitioners.  Through the workshops, network members present emerging research on climate science and engineering, and discuss projects, challenges, and research needs.
  • Tools: ICNet’s website offers participants, their organizations, and their collaborators several tools to keep the network connected throughout the year. These include climate indicator maps identifying precipitation and temperature indicators relevant to the transportation infrastructure community, a climate model comparison tool, and a research guide with introductory materials for understanding the intersection of climate change and transportation engineering.
  • Webinars: ICNet also offers periodic webinars to provide more in-depth training for practitioners about different climate-related topics. Past webinars include: “Sea Level Rise Projections: where do they come from and what can we do with them,” “Climate change impacts on future pavement performance and maintenance cost,” and “Bridges and roads and climate change: a mile high view of meeting current and future challenges.” These webinars and ICNet’s tools are aimed at making climate change science accessible, relevant, and useful for civil engineers and state and local transportation and infrastructure officials.
  • Linking experts: ICNet further facilitates collaboration and communication between its members by providing information about each member and his or her expertise or area of study on their website. Its website features an “ICNet Experts” section where users can filter by subject matter to access contact information for network members to facilitate coordination outside annual workshops.
  • Climate Communication Guide: ICNet provides resources to members in the network including a “Guide to Climate Communication,” with a top-10 list of best practices to use when communicating the impacts of climate change on infrastructure to an audience beyond the group’s membership.
  • Research: The network also helps researchers identify research topics that will be of use to transportation officials. Cutting-edge research identified by ICNet that has been pursued by its members include: an analysis of how climate change will affect pavement performance; how to address uncertainty in both climate science and engineering design of assets; effect of coastal flooding, erosion and increased precipitation on transportation systems; and effects of repetitive flooding on assets and maintenance costs. These and other projects are catalogued and captured on the ICNet website.

The network is facilitated and led by researchers at the University of New Hampshire and is funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation. The $750,000 grant (2012-2016) was funded through the NSF’s Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) – Research Coordination Networks program.

 

This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on January 29, 2016.

 

Related Organizations:

  • University of New Hampshire

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  • Case study
  • Climate science
  • Organization
  • Tool (general)

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