Adapting to Climate Change

Assessing Extreme Events and Climate Change in the Coastal Environment: New Technical Guidance from FHWA

  • Scott Douglass (South Coast Engineers)


In 2014, FHWA will be completing work on a new guidance document that provides methods for assessing the vulnerability of coastal transportation facilities to extreme events and climate change. This manual is a second volume to Hydraulic Engineering Circular (HEC): “Highways in the Coastal Environment,” HEC 25 (2nd ed., FHWA 2008). The focus of the new guidance is on quantifying exposure to sea level rise, storm surge, and waves considering climate change. It is anticipated that there will be multiple uses for this guidance including risk and vulnerability assessments, planning activities, and design procedure development.

This presentation will provide an overview of the new guidance which is intended to reduce the increasingly frequent damage experienced by our coastal roads and bridges. The critical coastal processes controlling the vulnerability of transportation assets to extreme events are identified by region along with available methods for modeling them and the likely impacts of climate change. Global sea level rise, including projections of future sea levels, is emphasized.

Tools for developing vulnerability assessments for coastal transportation infrastructure are described within the framework of engineering risk. Storm damage mechanisms, which will be major consequences of sea level rise and climate change, are described. Adaptation approaches for coastal transportation infrastructure are also described.

Specific approaches for assessing exposure of coastal infrastructure to extreme events and climate change are presented in three different “levels of effort” ranging from use of available data to original numerical modeling. The inclusion of trained coastal scientists and engineers in the analysis team is suggested at all levels of effort. Recommendations for future research are also developed as part of the project.

How to Cite:

Douglass, S., (2014) “Assessing Extreme Events and Climate Change in the Coastal Environment: New Technical Guidance from FHWA”, National Hydraulic Engineering Conference 2014 1(2014).

Rights: Copyright © 2014 the presenters

Publisher Notes

  • Panel moderated by Brian Beucler, FHWA.
  • About the Presenters: Professor Douglass earned civil engineering degrees from Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, and Drexel University. Dr. Douglass recently co-authored the 2nd edition of the FHWA Hydraulic Engineering Circular No 25 (HEC-25) manual entitled “Highways in the Coastal Environment.” He also co-developed and frequently teaches the related NHI short course (NHI Course #135082) by the same name “Highways in the Coastal Environment.” Dr. Douglass specializes in coastal engineering and coastal zone management applications research and wrote the book “Saving America’s Beaches: The Causes of and Solutions to Beach Erosion” as well as over 100 technical papers. He led the ASCE damage assessment team along the Mississippi coast after Hurricane Katrina. Douglass is professionally active in the Coastal, Ocean, Ports and Rivers Institute (ASCE’s COPRI) and is also a member of the board of directors of the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association.



Published on
21 Aug 2014
Peer Reviewed