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Research projects look at transport and climate change

Two new EU-funded projects have set out to examine the effects of changing weather patterns on transport in Europe. 'EWENT' and 'WEATHER' will carry out in-depth analyses, assess the hazards and propose response strategies.

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Protecting vulnerable transport systems

"The risks of changing weather patterns may not be as dramatic as presented in some Hollywood movies," says European Commission Project Officer Karsten Krause, "but the damage caused by extreme weather events, like forest fires, heat waves and winter storms is increasing, and transport could be one of the worst affected sectors in Europe."

In its Political Guidelines issued in September 2009, the Commission highlighted the need to 'decarbonise' the transport sector and to begin the process of adapting to climate change. "What we want to know," says Krause, "is what are the consequences for transport? How can we plan for unavoidable climate change? What lessons have we learned from recent extreme weather events and how can we prepare for the next ones?"

To answer these and other questions, two recently launched small-scale (less than €1.5m) collaborative EU projects have brought together transport researchers and consultants, economists and meteorologists, emergency response agencies and representatives of the financial and insurance sectors. In addition, non-Europen experts and the UN's World Metereological Organisation will bringe a global perspective to the table.

WEATHER

The WEATHER project ('Weather Extremes: Assessment of impacts on Transport Systems and Hazards for European Regions'), coordinated by Germany's  Fraunhoferexternal link -ISI, will consider the impact of extreme weather events on the economy and society in general, and on European transport systems in particular. Partners will develop broad climate change scenarios and then break them down into specific regional models.

WEATHER will also analyse the effects on business and civil society and the interactions between transport and other sectors, with the help of economic growth models. Transport system vulnerabilities will be assessed mode-by-mode, including infrastructure, operations and intermodal systems.

A particular goal of the project will be to quantify expected damage, emergency and adaptation costs and the potential benefits of improved emergency management and adaptation. The WEATHER project will recommend new measures and identify policy options for their implementation. Importantly, it will also highlight the potential competitive advantage for an innovative European industry ready to lead the way in emergency management technologies.

Concrete deliverables will include a wide-ranging programme of information dissemination, featuring the publication of high-level interviews, cost accounting models and case studies, and the organisation of workshops.

EWENT

The EWENT project (Extreme Weather impacts on European Networks of Transport), coordinated by Finland's  VTTexternal link, will take a generic risk management approach, starting with the identification of hazardous extreme weather phenomena, and following up with impact assessments and recommended mitigation and risk control measures.

Specifically, EWENT will:

  • Develop scenarios identifying extreme weather-related hazards for EU transportation systems.
  • Estimate the probabilities associated with these harmful scenarios.
  • Estimate and monetise the consequences of extreme weather events on transport infrastructure, on operations and on supply chains and mobility.
  • Evaluate measures and options for negative impact reduction, control and monitoring, over the short and long terms.
  • Analyse different management and policy options and strategies.

Short-term assessments will focus on monitoring processes, and forecasting and warning/alarm services. A longer-term assessment, say EWENT partners, will provide a starting point for planning and standards setting.

Covering all the bases

"These two projects are really complementary," explains Krause. "The EWENT team, for example, is looking, more at the meteorological perspective while WEATHER is focusing more on economic models. One is looking at cost assessment while the other is studying emergency response scenarios, etc." Furthermore, he says, the projects are working in close co-operation with each other and with a third project, 'ECCONET', funded by the Commission's Transport Directorate-General and focussing on climate change and inland waterway transport.

"There is a growing awareness of the significant role of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions and the need to reduce them in the coming years," says Krause. "But the impact of climate change on transport is not really known and decisions so far have been based on a limited number of isolated and unconnected facts. A holistic picture is missing and that's what makes these new research initiatives, EWENT and WEATHER, along with ECCONET, so important."

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