Designing for climate variability
Hurricanes, blizzards, and floods. The atmosphere has visited extreme weather in the United States over the last five years. Is this climate change or climatic variability? Is the distinction important in the context of infrastructure design and planning? To address these questions, the meaning and relevance of the notions of climate change and climate variability must be clearly established in the context of natural hazards, and infrastructure engineering. Multidecadal time scales (whether natural or anthropogenically induced) have been firmly identified in the climate record. Compelling evidence of this variability has been found in data sources as diverse as tree rings, and cores taken from coral reefs, sediments, and glaciers across the globe. It is therefore submitted that the criteria used in engineering design of lifeline infrastructures, land-use planning, and water resources management among others must incorporate this knowledge.
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