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Assessment of ENSO risks to support transportation resilience

Posted on Sept. 12, 2021

By Karl Kim, Rashed Chowdhurry, Pradip Pant, Eric Yamashita, and Jiwnath Ghimire

Following a description of ENSO (El Niño/La Niña Southern Oscillation) climate patterns and hazards (hurricane, rainfall, flooding, drought, wildfires, high winds, and storm surge), the implications for transportation systems (road, rail, transit, auto, pedestrian, and bicycle) are summarized. Based on data from strong El Niño years, the impacts on California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands are quite different, as are the requirements for emergency managers, transportation system operators, and planners concerned with mitigation and adaptation. While the focus of this study is on the Pacific, the implications for other regions are described. With climate change, ENSO effects are expected to increase along with the need to better understand and manage impacts on transportation and other systems. In addition to more research on ENSO and climate change connections, there is a need for additional training and education to support transportation system resilience. ENSO applications provide a middle-ground pathway for connecting discrete, localized weather events to more extensive, longer-term changes in climate and resilience capabilities.

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