In a full auditorium, several ENHANCE partners and invited speakers from all over the world have shown us practical applications and case-studies where critical infrastructure played an important role in the analysis of disaster risk. It happened in Copenhague at the occasion of the European Climate Change Adaptation Conference (ECCA).
Robin Nicolai, consultant from HKV Consultants (Netherlands) and partner in the ENHANCE project, presented his work on the societal disruption throughout Europe as a result of failure of port infrastructure in the Rotterdam area. In the Netherlands, societal disruption is assumed to occur when one or more of twelve vital infrastructures stops functioning. To assess this societal disruption, HKV set up a quantitative framework which integrates the total effects of both production losses and the economic effects as a result of societal disruption. Results show that in the current situation, the effects for the higher probability floods are still relatively low. However, in a future situation with changes in the climate, failure of the Port of Rotterdam can result in substantial losses.
Next, Jaroslav Mysiak, senior scientist from FEEM and partner of the ENHANCE project, presented a case-study in Northern Italy. Due to two earthquakes in the northern part of Italy in 2012, large parts of the water drainage system has been destroyed. Due to the damages drainage system, the risk of flooding potentially increased in the area. This was the starting point of looking into potential failure of drainage systems and the effects to flood risk. Results show that when failure of drainage systems, damages increases substantially. In addition, when drainage systems are not working, much more damage occurs to industrial area. An important conclusion of this presentation is that the failure of critical infrastructure into a modelling framework can change the outcome substantially. And, as such, should be incorporated into the modelling framework when possible.
From Northern Italy the topic moved towards Austria, where Patric Kellermann, PhD researcher from the University of Potsdam and partner of the ENHANCE project, presented his work on assessing future implications for railway transportation in Austria due to changes in critical meteorological conditions as a result of climate change. In climate change projections, models show a large variation in climate projections for Austria. There is some agreement for the spatial patterns of extreme precipitation, but for snow the uncertainty is very high. It is expected that heavy rainfall and intense precipitation increase substantially and heat waves are going to increase extremely. To test the numbers of extreme weather events in historical records, they are compared with database of damage to railway infrastructure. Results show that there is a large discrepancy between the two databases. This requires more research in the future. However, with the matching results, Patric was able to find some interesting results. For the railway transportation the decrease of snowfall will be positive. The decrease of frost days can be positive but also negative due to slope destabilizations. However, increase of heat waves can increase problems such as rail buckling, forest fires or overstressing of electronic devices. An important lesson we can learn from this work is that the collaboration with operating services, to obtain other sources of data can test and improve scientific models substantially.
From regional studies we went to a European study, conducted by Atte Harjanne and colleagues from the Finnish Meteorological Institute. Atte showed that the Airline sector is an interesting sector to focus on: the sector is both resilient and vulnerable at the same. Direct effects of climate change can either be due to weather events (affects the operations) or due to disruptions on the ground (failure of the infrastructure due to, for instance, a flood). Indirect effects of climate change can affect the transportation patterns (shifts in tourism travel). When looking at the statistics, we see that weather is an important reason for delays in Europe, the United States and Asia. Because it is an important factor it is interesting to see how more resilience can be built in the system: either by changes intermodal or by changes intramodal. Europe has a good train system; can it take over some cancelled flights? In a hypothetical example for Frankfurt, 24 – 72% of traffic can be moved to other smaller airports if Frankfurt would not be able to function due to an extreme weather event. For Schiphol this potential is close to 66%. There is a potential in realising this but many practical problems exist. Because of many delays and more expected delays in the future, there is a potential need for a more resilient system. A system-level, cross-modal approach on regulation is needed. In this approach, coordination and information sharing are key enablers.
The final presentation was by Emilio Ventura, from the Ministry of Public Works of El Salvador. In this presentation, Emilio showed that the climate is clearly changing in El Salvador. More extreme events have been observed in the last years and also much more events have occurred from the Pacific Ocean, in contrast to historical records where most storms originated from the Atlantic Ocean. In the same year, both flash floods and droughts can occur. In the large amount of natural hazards that occur in El Salvador, the transportation sector is often heavily affected. Especially earthquakes often have a devastating effect to the transportation sector. Similar to countries a-like, most policy in El Salvador is focused on the response and reaction after a disaster has occurred. Now, in the last years there is an increasing focus towards prevention, adaptation and mitigation. Emilio concludes that vulnerable countries need to move from reaction strategy to prevention strategy to make themselves more resilient for natural hazards. In addition, vulnerable groups should be included in any strategy or plan.
To conclude, we can define two important lessons learned from these presentations: considering critical infrastructure in risk assessments will result not only in different insights of the potential effects of natural hazards but also in very different total economic effects. The second important conclusion is that the collaboration between public and private partners, especially for data exchange, can substantially improve the models used in disaster risk research.
Note to readers:
By Elco Koks, of the Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam. Copenhague, 13 May 2015.