Climate Change and its Impact of Highway Drainage Design: Sustainable Designs Under Uncertainty

Focus Area

Climate Change


Air Quality, Environmental Process






1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

The impact of climate change on highway drainage design and associated stormwater management systems and could be one of the important and critical challenges faced by future drainage engineers and transportation system designers.  Transportation infrastructure surrounding coastal areas is highly vulnerable to consequences of climate change, especially sea level rise and storm surge expected due to extreme hydrological events. Many design engineers and managers currently rely on historical hydrological data and not up-to-date design procedures without consideration of the impact of climate change on major inputs influencing the behavior of hydrologic systems and therefore influencing the drainage design. Methodologies incorporating all the uncertainties associated with climate change predictions are required for effective and sustainable management of transportation systems. Design changes include revision of intensity-duration-frequency curves that are routinely used for hydraulic and hydrologic drainage systems. Climate change sensitive designs incorporating climate change uncertainties based on downscaled multiple model predictions for different regions in the U.S., assessment and communication of uncertainties in the design process and also risk assessment of vulnerable transportation structures due to climate change.
 The proposed research will explore the revisions of highway drainage designs under climate change context with relevance to:1) incorporation of climate change uncertainties into drainage design methods, 2)compromise or sustainable designs based on climate change predictions and 3) evaluation and assessment of risk associated with extreme hydrological events (short duration intense storms: episodic events). The methods adopted will use soft computing approaches (e.g. fuzzy set theory, evolutionary optimization and emerging information theory methods) and will be applied for evaluation in four distinct climatic regions in the U.S. including the coastal areas of Florida vulnerable to sea level rise. The methods developed in the proposed study will allow decision-makers preferences towards magnitude and direction (increase or decrease) in a specific design variable associated with climate change.

Urgency and Payoff

The proposed research will provide benefits to state and federal transportation agencies in revising their highway drainage design procedures considering the uncertainties associated with climate change. Revisions to IDF (intensity-duration-frequency) curves and drainage design methods considering climate change uncertainties was not addressed before in any study. This study will provide insights into compromise and climate change sensitive sustainable highway drainage design. The intention is to provide definitive guidelines in adopting adaptive designs to the changing climate and uncertainties associated with predictions from multiple climate change models.

Suggested By

Dr. Ramesh Teegavarapu, Florida Atlantic University

[email protected]