Weather and Climate Scaling: Impacts on City Infrastructure

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Geoffrey Austin, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand and Luke Sutherland-Stacey,, Auckland, New Zealand
Weather and climate systems have been identified as chaotic and complex systems and have been extensively studied as such for decades exhibiting occasional large extremes, sudden changes, difficulty in forecasting and all the characteristics and behaviour patterns of chaotic systems including temporal and spatial scaling regimes. Urban traffic systems are also well recognised to exhibit such properties.

However, centralised infrastructure such as water and energy are generally viewed as simple, centralised linear input/output engineering network systems which change slowly over time in an incremental, controlled fashion. Such systems can be overwhelmed by extreme events, causing system failure, often for extended periods of time. System failures and partial failures will become more frequent as the system reaches capacity as population and demand increases. As the risk of failure or partial failure increases and the capability to enable distributed capture and dissemination of resources improves, these systems will shift towards decentralisation. The decentralised segments of the systems will become increasingly dependent on weather (a chaotic system) but will be less subject to centralised system failure and could be buffered by the centralised segment when isolated failures occur. As decentralisation develops, the systems will become increasingly complex, potentially chaotic in nature and exhibit unexpected behaviours as well as self-organisation. Both criticality and resilience will also change and, it is likely that, should resilience reduce, the systems may become adaptive to compensate, potentially increasing resilience.

Interesting questions include "does decentralisation of infrastructure force complexity and/or chaos?" and "how will shifting from centralised to decentralised inputs change resilience and criticality of the system?" We aim to examine these questions in the contexts of urban waste and potable water systems as well as with domestic solar panel installation in New Zealand.