Translating Climate Projections for Bridge Engineering
Abstract:A bridge vulnerability pilot study was conducted by Iowa Department of Transportation (IADOT) as one of nineteen pilots supported by the Federal Highway Administration Climate Change Resilience Pilots. Our pilot study team consisted of the IADOT senior bridge engineer who is the preliminary design section leader as well as climate and hydrological scientists. The pilot project culminated in a visual graphic designed by the bridge engineer (Figure 1), and an evaluation framework for bridge engineering design.
The framework has four stages. The first two stages evaluate the spatial and temporal resolution needed in climate projection data in order to be suitable for input to a hydrology model. The framework separates streamflow simulation error into errors from the streamflow model and from the coarseness of input weather data series.
In the final two stages, the framework evaluates credibility of climate projection streamflow simulations. Using an empirically downscaled data set, projection streamflow is generated. Error is computed in two time frames: the training period of the empirical downscaling methodology, and an out-of-sample period. If large errors in projection streamflow were observed during the training period, it would indicate low accuracy and, therefore, low credibility. If large errors in streamflow were observed during the out-of-sample period, it would mean the approach may not include some causes of change and, therefore, the climate projections would have limited credibility for setting expectations for changes.
We address uncertainty with confidence intervals on quantiles of streamflow discharge. The results show the 95% confidence intervals have significant overlap. Nevertheless, the use of confidence intervals enabled engineering judgement. In our discussions, we noted the consistency in direction of change across basins, though the flood mechanism was different across basins, and the high bound of bridge lifetime period quantiles exceeded that of the historical period. This suggested the change was not isolated, and it systemically altered the risk profile. One suggestion to incorporate engineering judgement was to consider degrees of vulnerability using the median discharge of the historical period and the upper bound discharge for the bridge lifetime period.