ICNet Experts Work to Address Climate Extremes and Pressing Infrastructure Issues

by Jennifer Jacobs and Jo Daniels, University of New Hampshire

The Infrastructure and Climate Network (ICNet) is a network of transportation infrastructure researchers, practitioners, and climate scientists based in the U.S. Northeast. Its mission is to provide actionable climate change data needed to advance infrastructure research and adaptation.
If this sounds dry or tedious, you have been misled. The combination of interested, passionate researchers and practitioners in both engineering and climate science along with actively engaged social scientists leads to dynamic discussions and action on some of the world’s most pressing infrastructure issues.

ICNet’s annual workshop brings together engineering researchers, practitioners, social and climate scientists, and federal and state agency officials. The workshop provides a venue for the communication of the latest research, issues, and ideas. Through the workshop, working groups have been developed to target specific areas, such as extreme precipitation and transportation asset management. Animated conversations range from the technical and social science aspects of climate change to the impacts on agencies steeped in tradition.

In a short three and half years, ICNet has evolved from establishing the issues and concerns to developing tools and resources for engineers and others who wish to work or understand climate change. A rich series of webinars and presentations covering foundational knowledge, sea level rise, projects & studies, federal & state perspectives, and the more technical downscaling climate model output can be found on the ICNet’s website, http://theicnet.org/.

Perhaps the most valuable part of ICNet’s website for research is the Tools and Resources section. This section contains detailed information not available elsewhere. ICNet members identified 21 climate indicators that are relevant to the transportation infrastructure community. ICNet then created a series of Climate Maps to illustrate the projected changes in these indicators in the northeastern U.S. These maps cover a range of changes for global mean temperature warming by 1, 2 & 3°C and include annual averages, seasonal averages, and extremes. The Agency Reference Database has over sixty reports and documents related to climate change and infrastructure. It is comprised mainly of state and federal reports, and provides one stop shopping for research source materials. The ICNet Case study: REU Freeze-Thaw Project is a step-by-step walk through on using climate data for research or projects. The Communication Guide offers the ten best practices for communicating climate change for researcher presenting to industry or agencies. Need climate model output? The Climate Model Comparison Tool gives specific selection guidelines for choosing which CMIP5 Global Climate Models to use for research and projects. Links to Statistical, Regional, Observational, Raw output for CMIP3 and CMIP5 are all available as well as pertinent websites and papers are supplied.

The ICNet community and tools are a unique foundation to support individuals advancing transportation infrastructure and climate change. States’ departments of transportation are acutely aware of the challenges of climate change. Bridges, roads, and culverts are threatened not just with sea level rise, but also with changes in the intensity and duration of storms, temperature, etc. Engineering researchers need to have access to projected changes in climate, and understand how to use these projections. Climate scientists need understand the needs of engineering researchers and be able to project the changes that effect engineering design- be that wind speed, storm intensity, seasonal changes. Social scientists worked to bridge the communication between various fields and develop a communication plan to disseminate ICNet’s information.
We all know the saying… How to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Readying our transportation infrastructure for future climate is a daunting task. The ICNet is making an art of breaking down the challenge, taking action, and making progress.

Jennifer M. Jacobs, University of New Hampshire, is the principal investigator and Director of the ICNet
Jo S. Daniel, University of New Hampshire, is a co-investigator and co-director of the ICNet

The Infrastructure and Climate Network (ICNet) is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Infrastructure and Climate Network collaborations