Topic area 1: Climate change impacts and adaptation
Adapting transport and the transport infrastructure to climate change
and extreme weather events
How strongly, where and by which mechanisms will climate change and weather extremes affect the German federal transport infrastructure and its use? Which adaptation measures are available or can be developed? These questions are addressed within the topic area ‘Climate change impacts and adaptation’, which aims at increasing the climate resilience of the federal transport system. Researchers have combined knowledge of the involved authorities (DWD, BSH, BfG, BAW, DZFS/EBA, BAG and BASt), merging information on climate development with knowledge on the three transport modes: roads, railways and waterways. By using uniform data and methods, the impacts of climate change are explored in a cross-modal approach for the first time. The results are already being used by policymakers and transport system operators in the form of index maps, methodologies or case study reports, for instance.
Key topics and methods
During the network’s first research phase (2016-2019), specific climatic influences and impacts on the federal transport infrastructure were investigated. These activities resulted in a methodology to analyse impacts of climate change on transport infrastructure – the ‘climate impact analysis’. The steps of the climate impact analysis provide a structure for the activities within the current research phase, which started in 2020. Thus, the researchers are building a comprehensive understanding of the impacts of climate change and adaptation measures within the context of climate resilient transport infrastructure development.
The climate impact analysis and beyond
Following the steps of the climate impact analysis, the experts explore linkages between climate change, its impacts on the transport sector and potential adaptation measures:
- How and where do climate change and extreme weather events translate into increased risks/hazards for transport and transport infrastructure at a regional level?
- How do infrastructure-specific characteristics increase the sensitivity to climate impacts? Which adaptation strategies and options exist?
- How are traffic flows influenced by climate-induced functional impairments or outages? Which measures exist to minimise potential damages?
- How can the transport sector be designed to increase its climate resilience? How to integrate results from exposure, sensitivity and criticality analyses?
High spatial and temporal resolution datasets contribute to assessing the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events in particular. At present, the researchers are analysing the following climatic influences and impacts on the transport system:
|Climate Influence||Climate Impact|
Cooperation and networking with tangible results
Networking activities and exploiting synergies from the cooperation with infrastructure operators, federal/state-level authorities, research institutions and neighbouring countries are key to answering numerous research questions within this topic area. The outcomes contribute to the ongoing development of the DAS core service "climate and water", which was founded by the Federal Government within the German strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (DAS). The service makes the topic area’s research results permanently available for political and operational decision-making and planning processes. The findings can also be accessed via the federal and state governments’ Climate Preparedness Service, the German Climate Service or the BMDV’s mCloud.
The researchers have analysed current climatic conditions as well as expected future climate changes to determine the potential impacts on the federal transport routes. This has resulted in the following key outcomes:
- For the first time, the potential impacts of climate change were determined in a cross-modal approach for rails, roads and waterways by applying uniform concepts, methods and data. This included using harmonised assumptions on the future climate development and implementing the methodology of the climate impact analysis.
- Meteorological and hydrological changes affecting our transport infrastructure are already part of today’s reality. Future projections show increasing impairments caused by floods, landslides and low water levels.
- German-wide index maps were prepared illustrating potentials of high and low water levels, gravitational mass movements and storms, which can be used for climate impact analysis.
- Availability restrictions of the transport infrastructure resulting from climate changes and associated extreme weather events were investigated in a model case study focusing on a section of the important European “Rhine-Alpine” transport corridor.
- Adaptation options were conceptually prepared for the transport sector and specific adaptation measures were identified and assessed.
- Planning and implementation of adaptation measures are lengthy processes and many infrastructures are planned and constructed for a long service life. Therefore, the transfer of knowledge into action is not a task for the future, but needs to start today.