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Past and Present Design Practices and Uncertainty in Climate Projections are Challenges for Designing Infrastructure to Future Conditions




climate change, failure, infrastructure, resilience, uncertainty


Designing infrastructure for a changing climate remains a major challenge for engineers. In popular discourse a narrative has emerged that infrastructures are likely undersigned for the future. Weather-related hazards are directly embedded in the infrastructure design process. Yet the codes and standards that engineers use for this risk analysis have been changing for decades, sometimes increasing and other times decreasing design values. Further complicating the issue is that climate projections show increasing or decreasing intensities depending on the hazard and region. Thus, it is not clear that infrastructure is universally underdesigned. Here, analyses are developed at both regional and national scales using precipitation and roadway drainage systems to answer this question. First, it is shown that modeling uncertainty can pose challenges for using future projections to update region-specific standards. Second, the results show that depending on the historical design conditions and the direction of projections, roadway drainage infrastructure may be designed appropriately in some regions while in others they are possibly underdesigned. Given these uncertainties, the authors believe that there is a need for alternative design paradigms, and these needs are discussed.


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