Recent climate research has documented observed global climate change during the 20th century and has predicted either continued or accelerated change for the 21st century and possibly beyond. Continued or accelerated sea level rise is occurring largely as a result of increased volume due to the melting of Greenland, Antarctica, and other land-based ice masses, and continued thermal expansion of ocean waters.
Warmer ocean surface temperatures and rising sea levels are the powerhouses behind big weather events, making it more likely for extreme weather events to form, strengthen, and inflict greater damage. Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma and wildfires and other weather disasters cost the United States a record $306 billion in 2017, the third-warmest year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Coastal flooding from sea level rise could have the biggest socioeconomic impact in the 21st century. Communities globally are preparing for the changing environment into the future.
The Need to Engineer Resilience
To help prepare communities for these increasing risks, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others have published guidance to help engineers and planners build infrastructure that is more resilient to changes in climate. USACE (2013) describes resilience as “the ability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and adapt to changing conditions and to withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions with minimal damage.” At Integral, our goal is to help our clients manage risk, and as such, we have actively incorporated resilience into our work, particularly through designs for coastal protection and environmental cleanup (resilient remediation).
Although predictions of sea level rise vary worldwide and include a degree of uncertainty, sea level rise is an important consideration for coastal infrastructure given increasing population densities in low lying coastal cities. Integral is familiar with the most recent predictions and routinely incorporates the available guidance into coastal infrastructure and shoreline protection designs. The Marine Sciences and Engineering practice at Integral provides environmental, oceanographic, and coastal science solutions for clients worldwide, in environments ranging from inland estuaries, harbors, surf zones, and coastal to deep oceans. With services spanning water quality assessment, oceanography, geohazard analysis, and numerical modeling, Integral has an array of innovative tools and approaches to support sea level rise and coastal hazard assessments in marine and coastal areas.
Climate change impacts—including sea level rise, increased storm intensity, and flooding—may threaten the effectiveness, permanence, and long-term cost of cleanup remedies. However, climate and coastal hazard assessments and adaptation can be incorporated during remediation design using existing tools and processes to offset these threats. Selecting optimal measures during the design phase can maximize a system’s resilience to climate change impacts throughout the project life and help avoid costly retrofits. Integral engineers use innovative tools, analysis, and modeling techniques to evaluate vulnerabilities and provide cost-effective, proactive engineering strategies to ensure future resilience.
Integral is a leader in making remediation strategies and designs more resilient to climate change impacts. Recent activities in this area include:
- Barry Kellems and Emily Guyer presented a poster in 2017 at the Battelle Ninth International Conference on Remediation of Contaminated Sediments that looked at the challenges of and opportunities for incorporating climate change adaptation measures into sediment remedies.
- Barry Kellems presented an advanced course in Seattle, Washington, on how to incorporate climate change adaptation into sediment remedies.
- Barry Kellems assisted the Washington State Department of Ecology in developing a manual for site managers and consultants to design cleanup remedies that are resilient to the effects of climate change in Washington (Ecology 2017). Mr. Kellems was one of the senior engineers interviewed to identify failure modes and resilient design approaches for sediment remedies.
In additional to the above services to help address climate change risk, Integral also provides carbon due diligence, strategic carbon footprint evaluation, and environmental impact assessment. Learn more about Integral’s climate change services.
Ecology. 2017. Adaptation strategies for resilient cleanup remedies. A guide for cleanup project managers to increase the resilience of toxic cleanup sites to the impacts from climate change. Pub. No. 17-09-052. Washington State Department of Ecology, Lacey, WA. https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/documents/1709052.pdf
NCA. 2014. Climate change impacts in the United States: The third national climate assessment. National Climate Assessment.
USACE. 2013. Coastal risk reduction and resilience. CWTS 2013-3. Washington, DC: Directorate of Civil Works, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.