Adapting transportation to climate change on federal lands in Washington State, U.S.A.

R. L. Strauch, C. L. Raymond, R. M. Rochefort, A. F. Hamlet, C. Lauver
Posted on: 5/31/2019 - Updated on: 5/31/2019

Posted by

Tera Johnson



Research scientists collaborated with federal land managers of two national parks and two national forests to conduct a climate change vulnerability assessment and to identify adaptation strategies for a transportation network covering 28,900 km of roads and trails in north-central Washington, U.S.A. The assessment employed observations of sensitivity and response to climatic variability, downscaled climate projections, literature reviews, current management policies and practices, expert knowledge, and stakeholder engagement. Primary pathways for climate impacts focused on projected increases in extreme high flows and flooding, elevated winter soil moisture and landslide hazards, and loss of snowpack. The biggest impacts to roads and trails are expected from temperature-induced changes in hydrologic regimes that enhance autumn flooding and reduce spring snowpack. Projected higher winter soil moisture caused by changes in seasonal precipitation and snow accumulation could reduce slope stability. Earlier snowmelt may lengthen the snow-free season for visitor use and agency operations. Infrastructure age, design, maintenance, location, use, and limited redundancy along with funding policies and management, influence the sensitivities of the transportation system. Vulnerabilities were identified based on when and where these sensitiv- ities to changes in climate may emerge. Adaptation strategies and tactics identified to address these vulnerabilities included: upgrading stream crossing and drainage design, changing use and mainte- nance, relocating or closing roads and trails, modifying funding policies, and expanding public engagement. Many adaptation options are Bno regrets^ approaches to changes in climate projected for the 2040s and 2080s that can be applied to other resource sectors and mountainous regions.