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Using Climate Change Projections to Increase the Resilience of Stormwater Infrastructure Designs Under Uncertainty

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posted on 18.10.2018, 00:00 by Lauren CookLauren Cook
Climate change is expected to increase the intensity of rainfall events, posing a major threat to stormwater infrastructure systems. To ensure that these systems
continue to be resilient and reliable under changing conditions, traditional engineering design methods must be updated to incorporate changing rainfall patterns. Climate models can be used to gain insight into these changes; however, the path from climate projections to design decisions of future stormwater structures is unclear. The objective of this research was to determine how to use
climate change projections during the stormwater design process to increase the resilience of stormwater infrastructure under uncertain, future conditions.
To advance this objective, a general framework was developed for the use of climate model data in engineering analyses. The framework consists of five main
steps: define historical data requirements, select the appropriate climate model data source, bound uncertainty, convert model output to the format for the engineering
analysis, and interpret results for an engineering audience. The framework was applied to updating intensity duration frequency (IDF) curves, an important aspect of the stormwater design process. Findings from the updating of IDF curves suggest that the range of potential
increases in extreme precipitation are large and different modeling choices can alter the size and level of protection of infrastructure designs. As a result, the second recommended revision to the design process is to assess performance of infrastructure over time as the climate changes. Continuous simulation can be used
as a tool to test the performance of designs once they have been conceptualized or built. Findings suggest that annual measures of rainfall could also be used to anticipate performance degradation and necessary adaptation actions.




Degree Type



Civil and Environmental Engineering

Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Costa Samaras Jeanne VanBriesen