Impacts of Future Changes in Weather Condition on U.S. Transportation

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - 08:00
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High-resolution near-term climate projections suggest an intensification of the regional hydrological cycle over the U.S., leading to stronger and more frequent precipitation events. Increase in precipitation extremes is driven by both warm season convection driven rainstorms and frontal based cold season snowstorms. Results also indicate that future warming is driven more by hot extremes, as decrease in cold extremes is three times less than increase in hot extremes. While projected changes may likely impact the transportation system across the U.S., accurate estimation of such impacts requires knowledge of changes in precipitation types (rain, snow, ice, freezing rain). Here we apply four commonly used precipitation typing algorithms to determine different types of precipitation in an 11-memebr high-resolution (18 km) climate projections dataset that covers 40 years (1966-2005) in the baseline and 40 years (2011-2050) in the future period under Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5. The results are compared with the NARR-based precipitation classification in the historical period at the county level. Documented weather related county level fatal crash data for the CONUS and non-fatal crash data for selected states in the eastern half of the U.S. is compiled to develop the historical baseline for the impact of weather conditions on transportation. Further analysis is carried out to understand the ability of an ensemble of high-resolution simulations to produce different precipitation types in the baseline period, potential changes in the occurrence of each type of weather condition in the future period and that how such changes may impact road conditions, vehicle crashes and human fatalities. Additional analysis will also be explored to understand the impact of changes in winter weather conditions on the cost associated with road maintenance.

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