Interacting Infrastructure Disruptions Due to Environmental Events and Long-Term Climate Change

Michelle A. Hummel, Alain Tcheukam Siwe, Aaron Chow, Mark T. Stacey, Samer M. Madanat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate change places additional stress on critical infrastructure systems as demand for resources (e.g., water and electricity) increases and environmental disruptions (e.g., flooding and wildfires) become more frequent and severe. Interconnected infrastructure systems may be particularly vulnerable, as disruptions in one system can cascade to other systems and increase the severity of impacts. To ensure continued functionality, infrastructure systems must be designed or adapted to account for changing environmental conditions, with consideration for the interactions between systems. For this study, we examine the dependencies between shoreline protective infrastructure and transportation infrastructure in the context of sea level rise in the San Francisco Bay Area. Shoreline modifications implemented in one location can cause hydrodynamic feedbacks that exacerbate flooding and associated disruptions elsewhere. On the other hand, the decision not to implement shoreline protection can cause local flooding of roadways that leads to traffic feedbacks and system-wide travel delays. We compare the magnitude of these feedbacks, in terms of vehicle hours traveled (VHT), across a range of county-level shoreline scenarios to characterize the effects of one county's shoreline adaptation decisions on its neighbors. Our results show that VHT increases by as much as 7.2% due to hydrodynamic feedbacks and 10.7% due to traffic feedbacks. Comparing these effects for each scenario allows for targeted decision-making about adaptation approaches that account for both the local effects of flood disruptions and the regional network effects driven by infrastructure interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020EF001652
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • infrastructure dependencies
  • sea level rise
  • shoreline adaptation
  • transportation infrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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