Transportation Climate Change Sensitivity Matrix

The U.S. Department of Transportation's "Transportation Climate Change Sensitivity Matrix" is an Excel spreadsheet tool that includes detailed information about the sensitivity of different types of transportation assets to climate stressors. It is designed to be used in the process of assessing transportation system vulnerability to climate change,  so that transportation agencies can properly prioritize assets for adaptation measures.

Each asset type included in the Matrix (roads, bridges, rail, airports and heliports, ports and waterways, and oil and gas pipelines) is divided into subtypes. For example, the section on roads includes paved roads; unpaved roads; stormwater drainage; signals and signs; and road work, maintenance driver safety, traffic, and service. The Matrix provides detailed information about the potential sensitivity of each asset subtype to 11 different climate stressors: increased temperatures and extreme heat, precipitation-driven inland flooding, sea level rise/extreme high tides, storm surge, wind, drought, dust storms, wildfires, winter storms, changes in freeze/thaw, and permafrost thaw.

For each asset subtype - climate stressor combination, the Matrix includes:

  • Information about the relationship between the climate stressor and the asset type,
  • Thresholds at which the asset type might be expected to experience damage,
  • Indicators associated with increased sensitivity to the particular climate stressor,
  • Key sources of information on design, maintenance, and management of the asset type, and
  • Additional notes and historical examples of asset sensitivity to the particular climate stressor.

The Sensitivity Matrix was developed and tested as part of the FHWA Gulf Coast Phase 2 study. It is designed to be compatible with USDOT's other tools developed through that study, including the Vulnerability Assessment Scoring Tool (VAST), which incorporates sensitivity indicators as one of the components affecting overall vulnerability score. The Sensitivity Matrix and other USDOT climate adaptation tools can be used at different stages (modules) in the FHWA Framework for Vulnerability Assessment.


If you have trouble accessing the website link above, please find here an archived page.

Publication Date: 2015

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