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Improving Infrastructure Resiliency Due to Extreme Weather Conditions

4654 words (19 pages) Essay

8th Feb 2020 Geography Reference this


This paper discusses the understanding and importance of infrastructure resiliency suggests ways in which infrastructure resiliency can be improved. The discussion initially introduces concepts and perspectives that are important for the analysis. Disasters or extreme weather conditions are not just a single event but rather as cycles with distinct phases. The paper also involves different type of existing conditions and scenario development for characterizing degree of dependence among infrastructures. It also proposes ways to address the vulnerabilities to improve infrastructure resiliency. The urban infrastructure can be planned as an integrated network of four main infrastructure components, which are the water infrastructure, the energy infrastructure, the transportation infrastructure and the land use pattern. Mainly two of the most noteworthy infrastructure interactions are between water and energy and that between energy and transportation, but this interrelatedness extends beyond the water and energy connections to all individual infrastructure components. A holistic system level approach is required to attain sustainability as an inclusive of these interrelations lead to better design and evaluation of the urban infrastructure system.


      Defining the threats possessed by urban settings due to extreme weather conditions.

      Impacts and consequences of extreme weather conditions.

      Identifying the weak links of a community

      Methods to improve the infrastructure resiliency

      Examples for mitigation and adaptation efforts during extreme weather conditions such as Intelligent Transportation Systems to mitigate adverse weather impacts on road mobility and connections among the critical infrastructure and protecting electric substations from power outages during hurricane and high wind conditions


Cities are both the cause and victims of climate change. The ongoing shift of people from rural areas and activities into towns and cities is a complicated process tied to economic development and technological change. Half (50%) of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas. This share is likely to reach 70% in 2050. Over 90% of all urban areas are coastal, putting most of them at risk of flooding from rising sea levels and powerful storms. Besides population, cities also control disproportion parts of the economy, resource consumption and the decision making power in most countries. Cities are responsible for 67% of the total global energy consumption and produce more than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions because most of the energy resources in cities around the world are still fossil fuel or conventional energy based. Presently, the concept of resilience emerges as the main agenda for industrial and urban development. It is efficient of serving as the premise and tool for deciphering the most critical issues of modern civilization, including strategic investments by developing institutions and humanitarian communities across the globe.  The impacts faced due to rising sea levels or extreme weather conditions are coastal inundation, storm surge flooding, saltwater intrusion and erosion  which lead to potential consequences such as loss of or damage to coastal property and infrastructure, loss of beach or shoreline access, conversion of freshwater to saltwater, population migration and decline in water quality from increased movement of sediments and toxic pollutants or failed septic tanks. A City’s ability to maintain essential functions is threatened by both acute shocks and chronic stresses. Sudden shocks or accumulating stresses can lead to social breakdown, physical collapse or economic downfall. Critical Infrastructure are systems that are essential in order to support society’s functions and services. Their operation under all environment, including post natural disasters, account for a basic connection of current modern societies and support humanitarian efforts to supplement growth in under development countries. Each of these infrastructures are dependent for their operation on other infrastructures, called lifeline systems, which are formed by physical assets, human resources and processes. Due to their societal importance, it is critical to improve critical infrastructure and lifeline systems resiliency to disasters.

Figure 1 A Resilient City

Urban Resilience:

The nature and components of urban resilience consists of:

1) Stop any possible threat

2) Resist any impact caused

3) Respond to emergencies derived from impact

4) Recuperate the city’s functionalities

5) Learn from the experience

The four major components of urban resilience are: industrial disaster and climate resilience, economic resilience, social resilience and urban resilience. All this can be achieved when a city becomes Smart City. There are two challenging concepts of Smart Cities. The first concept is used to provide the infrastructures and services for the most favorable management of the city as a roadway to making a Resilient City. In the latter concept the most favorable management of a city goes through already resilient nexus of services and infrastructure provided with smart technology to create a Smart City. In the second case the concept of a smart city is forged and builds up around optimizing implementation of following the key ideas:

The exchanging of good and services among the citizens and communities;

Minimize the consumption of fossil fuels and reducing carbon footprint and relying less on the conventional energy sources by using renewable energy;

The smooth communication among social stakeholders such as citizens, communities, government and companies so that that everyone feels included in the policy and decision making process;

Well integrating technologies, intelligent systems within the cities so that new information and emergency warnings can be readily conveyed to everyone without any delays;

The nexus operation which is the fundamental of resilience are:

1) achieve maximum security of supply of goods and services with balanced energy consumption;

2) Proper utilization of the existing infrastructure;

3) Equip the necessary social communication that helps the city to recuperate the functionalities in case of any disaster or emergency;

Performance of these ideas may include some improvisations in the design and management of:

1) Interdependent Services, concentrating on the ways that these services could support each other in case of an impact;

2) Psychology and rationality of the citizens in the community during such critical situations

Impacts and consequences of Extreme Weather Conditions:

Figure 2

                                       Places like Miami could flood often or more severely if sea level rise continues to rise

Weather Disasters – Storms:

•         There were 15 weather and climate disasters in the U.S. in 2016 with losses exceeding $1 billion.

•         0f the 203 weather disasters from 1980 to 2016, tropical cyclones have caused the most damage: $560.1 billion in total, with an average of $16 billion cost per event, and the highest number of deaths 3,210.


  • According to AccuWeather, the firm estimated Irma’s damages to cost about $100 billion and Harvey’s $190 billion
  • Katrina caused insured losses which were calculated to be $41 billion.
  • Sandy caused $18.75 billion in insured property losses.
  • Estimates for insured losses from Matthew were from $1.5 billion to $7 billion.
  • For Katrina, there were 167,985 flood insurance payouts, which amounted to $16 billion. The average paid loss was $97,140.

Transportation Infrastructure:

Roads and Bridges:

•         Around the world, transportation systems are designed to withstand local weather and climate.

•         Transportation engineers typically refer to historical records of climate, especially extreme weather events, when designing transportation systems.

•         For example, bridges are often designed to withstand storms that have a probability of occurring only once or twice every 100 years. Due to climate change, historical climate is no longer a reliable predictor of future risk.

Land-based, Air and Marine Transportation Systems:

•         Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events.  Specifically, heat waves will likely be more severe, sea level rise could amplify storm surges in coastal areas, and precipitation will likely be more intense.

•         These changes could increase the risk of delays, disruptions, damage, and failure across our land-based, air, and marine transportation systems.

•         Most transportation infrastructure being built now is expected to last for 50 years or longer. Therefore, it is important to understand how future climate might affect these investments in the coming decades.

Identifying the Weak Links:

Vulnerability assessment:

Vulnerability assessmentis the determination of the potential for loss of or harm/damage to exposed community assets largely due to complex interactions among natural processes, land use decisions and the community’s resilience. It is the foundation of a sustainable coastal strategy and action plans and helps us understand climate change issues, nature and type of impacts. It also helps to focus attention on areas or specific assets that are most vulnerable. Central to assessment vulnerability assessment is collection of data about key natural phenomena, potential impacts, area’s geography, existing threats and exposed assets.

Ways to categorize and address potential impacts and consequences:

  • One way is to categorize them by phenomena
  • Another way is to categorize by impact, sector or type of environment – natural vs built

Based on the phenomena the baseline data can be determined.

The baseline should be based on trends and observed changes of climate phenomena compiled and a review of historical and present day impacts (e.g., storms, floods, droughts, harmful algal blooms, etc.). By establishing a baseline that shows how climate change, associated hazards and other stressors it will be better to envision future effects and will also be well-positioned to monitor and respond to changes as they occur.

Assessment of Physical Characteristics:

It is about the planning area that might affect vulnerability to climate change -including location, elevation, the health of wetlands, or the number of buildings repetitively damaged by storm surge flooding. Awareness of the physical characteristics is vital to understanding how it may be affected by the impacts of extreme weather conditions. Physical Characteristics include features and processes of the natural environment such as topography, geomorphology, hydrography, hydrology, geology, soil characteristics, soil saturation, land cover and land use.

Assessment of Exposed Assets:

Exposureis an inventory of the “assets”—people, property, systems, and functions—that could be lost, injured, or damaged due to an impact of extreme weather conditions.

Assets include:

  • Population
  • Buildings
  • Infrastructure

Adaptive Capacity:

Adaptive Capacityis the ability of a system to adjust to extreme weather conditions (including variability and extremes), to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.

Assessment of Adaptive Capacity:

By understanding the vulnerability and value of systems, we should be prepared to make decisions about where to focus protection and adaptation efforts. In general, areas or systems with higher adaptive capacities will be better able to react and accommodate changes associated with climate change. The vulnerability of areas to extreme weather conditions will depend not only on the physical stressors to the environment, but also on the ability of the affected areas to adapt to those changes. Therefore, another key factor in assessing vulnerability is adaptive capacity.

Methods to Improve Infrastructure Resiliency:

Sustainable Land Use Planning:

Sustainable Land Use Planning is an instrument for promoting sustainable development that creates a balance between the social, environmental, economic needs and concerns of a community. It involves:

•         Social Issues – Housing, Education, Recreation/Leisure

•         Environmental Issues – Land, Oceans, Rivers, Groundwater, Wild life, Air 

•         Economic – Industry, Commerce and Infrastructure

The objectives of Sustainable Land Use Planning:

  • To create the prerequisites required to achieve a sustainable type of land use arrangement.
  • To set in motion social processes of decision making.
  • To promote consensus building regarding the use and protection of private, community or public areas.

Land use planning is orientated to local conditions in terms of both method, content and solutions. It considers cultural viewpoints and builds up on local environmental knowledge. Sustainable Land use planning emphasizes the participatory planning approach for identifying goals and solving community problems and conflicts. It focuses on understanding the community’s development context. It is a dialogue, creating the prerequisites for the successful negotiation and co-operation among stakeholders. It is a process leading to an improvement in the capacity of the participants to plan and take actions. Land use planning requires transparency. Recognition of different stakeholders and genders are core principles in land use planning. Land use planning is based on interdisciplinary cooperation and is an iterative process. It is implementation-orientated.

Outcomes of Sustainable Land Use Planning:

  • Social justice
  • Long-term sustainability of natural resources
  • Acceptance and social compatibility/responsibility
  • Economic efficiency
  • Sustainability of the community

Scenario Development:

Scenarios should be developed that illustrate potential projected impacts and consequences of climate change. Scenario planning is a tool for developing a science based decision-making framework in an environment of uncertainty. The goal is to develop a range of plausible climate change outcomes (impacts and consequences) based on multiple points of time and on multiple emissions levels that can provide the basis for further analysis and decision making.

Mapping and Visualization:

  • The use of mapping (both simple and interactive) and other visualization techniques to illustrate the potential impacts of climate change will greatly ease and increase the effectiveness of the planning process.
  • •By using GIS, the data collected throughout this assessment and the outputs from the scenarios or other modeling efforts, the planning team will be able to map projected future conditions.

Existing and Emerging Developments Issues – Impacts on Transportation Infrastructure

  • High water levels, which are observed during storms have multiple impacts on transportation networks.
  • Reduces access to resident’s property, impact evacuation network, deteriorate roadway structures and substructures and damage vehicles that pass through saltwater
  • Over the long term, sea level rise could cause high average groundwater levels, reduce drainage capacity and increased inundation

Existing and Emerging Development Issues – Infrastructure

  • Hurricane Irma impacted on Florida and damaged on the infrastructure
  • 80% of the accounts lost the power supply, and 815,650 outages were reported (Pounds & Davis, 2017, September 11)
  • 38,780 customers -4% of all residents Irma passed, and those customers were low income. (Gomes, 2017, September 18)

Existing and Emerging Development Issues – Impacts on Electric Supply

  • Nearly 4.5 million of Florida Power & Light’s 4.9 million customers had their power fail including 92% accounts in Miami Dade County
  • Even after 12 days from Irma 1780 customers in Miami-Dade and Broward had no power.
  • Around 2000 utility poles went down.

Solutions to Improve the Resiliency of the Transportation Network

Maintenance and Rehabilitation of Existing Facilities in High Risk Areas

  • Keep drainage structures debris free and maintained to handle flow
  • Consider new design and standards to minimize potential disruption due to extreme weather conditions
  • Redesign drainage system to handle larger flows
  • Harden the embarkments against additional extreme weather related stresses


  • Incorporate early warning indicators for potential weather related risks into maintenance management systems.
  • Identify pre-planned detour routes around critical facilities to avoid network disruption

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) to mitigate adverse weather effects on road mobility:


Impacts on Transportation

ITS Application



Reduce roadway capacity, reduce pavement friction, reduce visibility, increase crash risk, cause flooding

non-intrusive sensor, variable message signs, automatic warning systems, embedded sensor

Embedded sensors can measure pavement wetness, non-intrusive sensors detect presence of snow or rain, pavement temperature

High water and Flooding

Submerge highways due to frequent flooding, increase trip distance, increase crash risk and reduce travel speed

Intelligent measurement pipe or mounted device, surveillance camera, automated warning system, variable message signs

Selection of wireless communication services, interoperability between different system components


Heavy one directional traffic during evacuation, highway obstruction reduce access to disaster areas

Traffic sensors, variable message signs, advisory radio, combination of wind and high water sensors, surveillance system

Availability of wireless communication during emergency, limited permanent and mobile ITS infrastructure for evacuation routing

High winds and Tornados

Highway obstruction, reduce access to disaster areas, increase trip distance

Wind sensor, visibility sensor, changeable message signs, roadside weather station, surveillance camera, internet

Limited range of wind sensor, false alarm rates


Reduce pavement friction, reduce travel speed, reduce roadway capacity, increase crash risk, increase vehicle control difficulty

Pavement temperature sensor, roadside weather station, automatic anti-icing, variable speed limit signs, message and warning system

Reliability of weather prediction and timing to initiate anti-icing treatment, selection of treatment for different types of snow – typical snow, sleet, freezing rain, frost events and blowing snow

Table 1 ITS Technologies for different Road Weather Conditions

Highlights and Recommendations:

  • Identifying climate change and public need based prioritization criteria in the planning process.
  • Due to ever increasing population, alternate methods to generate power such as solar energy should be considered.
  • Mayor of respective cities should take the lead, as they play an influential role, to bring utility providers, City Council, Stakeholders and public representatives altogether to a table and involve them when agendas and implementation plans are been discussed.
    • Include community into the decision making plan so that they feel included and have a sense of ownership of their potential ideas
  • Deadlines should be set to complete the projects on time.
  • Proper monitoring efforts should be carried out and thorough inspection of utility poles and electric substations should be done so as to be prepared for extreme weather conditions.
  • Educate and engage the community about the potential threats in order to provide the right mitigation and adaptation efforts
  • Low-income communities have insufficient resilience due to the late recovery of electricity after hurricane Irma.
  • Need the system to help and improve the low-income area due to the lack of people, finance and technology.
  • Miami-Dade county needs to research the equity of public services.
  • Better integrate planning and prioritize investments
  • Support existing communities and value neighborhoods


We see communities and cities come to a halt during disasters and extreme weather conditions. This is because of lack of preparedness and sometimes underestimating the intensity of the impending weather conditions. During these situations, the transportation network which is a critical infrastructure must be resilient to help in organizing the protective measures taken during disasters. If the transportation network fails, it is impossible for the community to regulate within itself and to receive aide outside the community. It is important that critical infrastructure such as hospitals, police stations, fire stations are well connected during disasters for the smooth functioning of the community without it coming to a standstill.


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