Adapting to Climate Change

Climate Change Overview: FHWA Activities, Lessons Learned and Emerging Guidelines

  • Brian Beucler (FHWA)


Federal agencies are paying more attention to climate change resiliency in part as a result of recent extreme weather events and the President’s Climate Action Plan announced last summer, Executive Order 13653 (Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change) released last November and the 2015 federal budget proposal for a $1 billion climate resiliency fund. Many agencies are moving towards more specific actions and developing guidance/policy with respect to climate adaptation and resiliency. MAP-21 mentions funding of a national highway performance program for purposes of protection of bridges on the National Highway System against “extreme events.”

In an effort to develop well-reasoned and scientifically grounded guidance, FHWA has initiated multiple studies to examine how the climate may be changing, the potential for impacts to highway infrastructure (particularly drainage infrastructure) and how DOTs and MPOs can plan for and adapt their highway assets to projected changes. This presentation will provide an overview of these activities/studies including work with the National Weather Service on identifying precipitation trends in events of significance to hydraulics designers, strategies for assessing extreme events in the coastal highway environment (HEC-25), the post-Sandy vulnerability assessment and adaptation analysis, the 19 climate resilience pilots, and climate resilience engineering analysis case studies including those examined in FHWA’s Gulf Coast 2 study in Mobile, AL. Various State DOT hydraulic engineers have been involved in many of these projects. Recently developed, web-based climate data and vulnerability tools and the FHWA climate vulnerability assessment framework will also be described.

The emphasis of the presentation will be on lessons learned as engineers struggle with issues of scenario uncertainty, challenges to traditional hydraulic design practices and standards, interpreting limited and coarse climate projection data, and how best to communicate and approach adaptation strategies with an aim towards integration of climate adaptation into a risk-based asset management plan. FHWA’s overall strategy for climate resiliency will be discussed including future directions.

How to Cite:

Beucler, B., (2014) “Climate Change Overview: FHWA Activities, Lessons Learned and Emerging Guidelines”, National Hydraulic Engineering Conference 2014 1(2014).

Rights: Copyright © 2014 the presenters

Publisher Notes

  • Panel moderated by Matt O'Connor, ILDOT.
  • About the Presenters: Senior Hydraulics Engineer in the FHWA Headquarters Office of Bridge Technology since September 2010. Helps to interpret FHWA policy and guidance in the field of Hydrology and Hydraulics and represents the Office of Bridge Technology with respect to bridge design, culvert design, floodplain management, climate science and stormwater management issues. Prior to this appointment he spent about 27 years as both a roadway design team leader and hydraulics design team leader in FHWA’s Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division in Sterling, VA. This division functions much like a State DOT to design/construct highway projects on federally owned properties. Brian is registered as a professional engineer in Virginia and has a BS in Civil Engineering from University of Virginia and an MS in Civil/Environmental Engineering from George Washington University.



Published on
21 Aug 2014
Peer Reviewed