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Weather Extremes: Assessment of Impacts on Transport Systems and Hazards for European Regions

State of the Art - Background

Records of reinsurance companies clearly highlight the rising damages caused by the consequences of climate change, particularly of natural catastrophes and extreme weather events. While many studies focus on CO2 mitigation in transport, research on the vulnerability of the sector on climate-driven effects, namely extreme weather events, has arisen only recently.

Little knowledge has been provided so far on the economic costs of climate and extreme weather-driven damages to transport, and even less evidence is available on the options, costs and benefits of adaptation measures. National adaptation programmes of EU Member States and the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provide only indicative measures and global fields of action. The evidence available on concrete impacts and measures is further reported from the USA. Thus there is a need for European studies which address local conditions.

The third pillar is the role of transport systems for crises management. In the transport literature, the term 'emergency operations' spans a number of topics including logistics, traffic planning and institutional issues. The major tasks under these topics are the transport of emergency vehicles and search-and-rescue teams, medical evacuation, and distribution of goods and local medical aid. In this field of research European evidence is available.


The WEATHER project approaches the topic of extreme events and their impacts on transport systems from an economic perspective. Its core objective is to determine the physical impacts and the economic costs of climate change on transport systems, and identify the costs and benefits of suitable adaptation and emergency management strategies.

This general objective is detailed by seven sub-goals:

- develop a dynamic model on the causal relations between the severity and frequency of extreme events, the functionality of critical sectors and social welfare;

- carry out a detailed assessment of the vulnerable elements and damage costs in transport systems;

- work out efficient and innovative mechanisms of managing disastrous events, focusing on maintaining the function of transport systems;

- identify appropriate and efficient adaptation strategies for transportation infrastructures and services to ease the impacts of extreme events in the future;

- clarify the role of governments, companies and industry associations;

- check the applicability of theoretical concepts of vulnerability assessment, crises prevention and adaptation strategies with practical experiences and local conditions;

- disseminate project findings to a wider audience to foster the debate on the costs and implications of more frequent and severe weather conditions on transport systems.

Description of Work

To achieve the wide range of objectives, WEATHER applies several methodological elements, each targeted to the specific tasks and goals. The project toolbox includes:

- literature screening;

- workshops with experts, stakeholders and policy-makers;

- contributions from an international panel of experts;

- statistical downscaling and regional climate weather-prediction models;

- dynamic model development and simulations;

- infrastructure-cost models and business-cost accounting;

- multi criteria and cost-benefit analyses.

The overall work plan of WEATHER follows the logic of the project objectives. It is broken down into two work packages (WP) for management dissemination and seven work packages on research:

WP1: Weather trends and economy-wide impacts;

WP2: Vulnerability of transport systems;

WP3: Crisis management and emergency strategies;

WP4: Adaptation options and strategies;

WP5: Governance, incentives and innovation;

WP6: Case studies;

WP7: Policy conclusions and final conference.

Results will be retrieved by combining literature research at global and national level with interviews, several workshops for practitioners, policy-makers and scientists, worldwide experience from the international panel and six case studies. Moreover, an international research network will be established.

Expected Results

Studies carried out so far have been rather vague on quantitative results. By combining vulnerability assessment, infrastructure cost-accounting and business-accounting frameworks, the project aims to make a decisive step forward in assessing the economic costs of climate change?s weather impacts on transport.

The main step beyond the current state of knowledge is, however, to link what happens in the transport sector to the entire economic and social environment. Impacts from other sectors on transport as well as impacts of transport on other sectors will be considered. By this approach the vulnerability of transport systems with their major inter-linkages to other sectors will be set in relation to the vulnerability of the economy and society as a whole. This new insight has not been delivered by previous work.

Eventually the development of advanced adaptation and emergency management strategies in Europe can be of real value for other, poorer, countries in the world, and could be of economic success for EU countries by establishing a lead market for such technologies and procedures, thus fostering the European innovation system. The project particularly addresses this last point, which could be a valuable argument for politics to invest in prevention and adaptation strategies.

Map of WEATHER case studies
Map of WEATHER case studies
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