Extreme weatherPreparing for extreme weather

By Jonathan O'Callaghan

Published 18 January 2019

From high winds and heavy rainfall to droughts and plummeting temperatures, people in Europe have already begun to feel the effects of extreme weather. As we get used to this new reality, scientists are investigating how it will affect how we get around and whether our infrastructure can cope.

Most scientists predict that climate change will lead to worsening weather. This could include more severe snow storms, heavier rainfall and wildfires. These can have disastrous effects on our transport network, causing critical tunnels or bridges to close and, in the worst circumstances, leading to injuries and fatalities. The cost of infrastructure collapse from weather is estimated at €29 billion a year.

‘The general idea is that these types of extreme weather events will get more and more (severe) in future,’ said Dr Angelos Amditis from the Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (ICCS) in Greece. ‘This will be a major issue for our society in the future, and this will really affect our daily lives and ways of moving, working or living.’

He is one of a number of researchers who are now studying how we might cope with these situations. They are hoping to develop technologies and methods that can help people and emergency services get real-time information on any serious events, and plan accordingly.

Dr Amditis runs a project called RESIST, whose goal is to ensure that critical parts of our transport network can cope with extreme events, both natural ones like weather to human-caused events like cyber-attacks.

To do this, the project, which began in September, will be focusing on two important transport routes – the T9 bridge in Greece, and the Saint Petronilla tunnel in Italy – both of which, if shut down, would cause huge problems. A pilot project to test extreme weather resilience will be carried out at the former in February 2021, and the latter in July 2021.

When it comes to extreme weather, these roadways are most at risk from heavy snowfall and rainfall, with flooding in particular being a serious concern. In such cases, bridges and roads can be closed for hours or even days, leaving many people stranded on either side as they are unable to travel.