The U.S. Department of Transportation's Center for Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting is conducting a comprehensive, multi-phase study of climate change impacts on transportation in the Central Gulf Coast region. This study, formally known as Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure: Gulf Coast Study (hereafter, "the Gulf Coast Study"), is the first such study of its magnitude in the United States and thus represents an important benchmark in our understanding of what constitutes an effective transportation system adaptation planning effort. This report presents the findings of the first task of Phase 2 of this study-identifying critical transportation assets.
While confidence in global climate change projections has been steadily increasing over recent years, investigations into the potential impacts of projected changes on a regional scale have been scarce. The exact risks that climate change poses to transportation systems are not yet well known. As many of the nation's infrastructure components, such as rail lines, highways, bridges, and ports, are expected to last for up to 100 years, it is important that their design and long-term operations consider factors that could affect their resilience and effectiveness over their life span, such as changing environmental conditions due to climate change.
The Gulf Coast Study was initiated to better understand climate change impacts on transportation infrastructure and to identify potential adaptation strategies. This study area was selected as the study's focal point due to its dense population and complex network of transportation infrastructure, as well as its critical economic role in the import and export of oil, gas, and other goods. The study is funded under the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Surface Transportation Environment and Planning cooperative research program, the USDOT's Center for Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting, and other USDOT offices, with FHWA managing the study for USDOT with assistance from the DOT Climate Center and individual modal administrations. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has provided support for much of the climate science work.
The Gulf Coast Study includes two phases:
Phase 2 Study Area
While Phase 1 took a broad look at the entire Central Gulf Coast region (between Houston/Galveston, Texas and Mobile, Alabama) with a 'big picture' view of the climate-related challenges facing infrastructure, the current effort in Phase 2 focuses on Mobile, Alabama. The area of the study includes Mobile County (including Dauphin Island) and the crossings of Mobile Bay to the east to landfall in Baldwin County (see Figure 1).
Phase 2 includes the following tasks:
This report summarizes the methodology and findings of Task 1, which identified the transportation infrastructure components most critical to the Mobile region.
Figure 1: Study Area