Trends in Cold Extremes and Winter Weather for the SPTC Region

Extreme weather poses multifaceted hazards to transportation. There is now increased awareness of the threats of climate variability and change on transportation safety and state of good repair. In particular, a non-stationary climate will potentially change the frequency and severity of extreme events beyond those currently accounted for in design standards. Understanding regionally-specific climatic hazards is the first step necessary to adequately adapt to these changes and reduce the potential social, economic, and environmental impacts on the transportation system. This project performed an extensive climate analysis examining historical trends and future climate scenarios for the South Central United States, focusing on transportation-relevant conditions that reflect extreme and impactful events which stress transportation infrastructure and affect safety. These include cold weather, winter precipitation, and freeze thaw cycles, but also heatwaves and heavy precipitation. Key metrics, thresholds, and preferred formats for data analysis and dissemination were identified and guided by expert input via a transportation stakeholder survey. In Year 1, the authors developed and validating a model and observation derived spatial 36-year dataset for freezing precipitation which can be used for winter hazard and vulnerability assessment. Additionally, the authors use very high-resolution data (~1km) to construct freeze-thaw cycle spatial maps, climatologies, and trends between 1948 and 2015. Year 2 mined future climate projections from a large data ensemble to develop future scenarios for each transportation-relevant variable. Value-added data and graphics are generated for the entire SPTC region, and specific examples are provided for Central Oklahoma in this report. The research demonstrated that current infrastructure is likely to be benefited over its lifetime by the reduction in winter weather and cold extremes, but will be adversely impacted by large projected increases in heat and extreme precipitation, particularly if climate change is not considered in planning and design. The authors provide links to expert recommendations and resources, including steps that various transportation agencies around the nation are taking to reduce their vulnerability, and incorporate climate projections into their long-term planning.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Maps; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 132p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01661071
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: SPTC14.1-50-F
  • Contract Numbers: DTRT13-G-UTC36
  • Created Date: Feb 1 2018 7:49AM