DoD Study Identifies Models and Data Required to Support Climate Vulnerability and Impact Assessments

A new report issued by SERDP reviews models and data needed to support climate change vulnerability and impact assessments of infrastructure assets located at military installations. The SERDP report  Infrastructure Damage/Fragility Models and Data Quality Issues Associated with Department of Defense Climate Vulnerability and Impact Assessment assesses the availability, quality, and usefulness of two types of information to support assessments: (1) damage and fragility information, and (2) topographic, bathymetric, and infrastructure asset data.

Lands vulnerable to 1 m sea level rise using four different digital elevation data sets showing increasing accuracy of the topographic information (A to D).  The background is a true color orthoimage. The darker blue shows potential inundation zones, and the lighter blue represents the area of uncertainty associated with the delineations (from Gesch 2009)

Lands vulnerable to 1 m sea level rise using four different digital elevation data sets showing increasing accuracy of the topographic information (A to D).  The background is a true color orthoimage. The darker blue shows potential inundation zones, and the lighter blue represents the area of uncertainty associated with the delineations (from Gesch 2009)

Damage and fragility information can provide DoD planners with valuable insight into the “response” of infrastructure to different hazard loads, such as from wind and flooding. This information is typically integrated into impact models in the form of functions or curves to assess economic loss and/or physical damages to assets for different magnitudes of hazard loads.  Impact and vulnerability assessments that inform decisions at any level of analysis, from screening to detailed assessment, often use topographic, bathymetric, and asset data, where asset data includes real property, such as buildings, linear structures, and land. For these analyses to be reliable and defensible, the data must be of appropriate quality and accessible to DoD.

The SERDP review explored the following questions:

  1. What models and tools are available?
  2. What driving forces do they address relative to climate change (e.g., wind, storm surge, flooding)?
  3. What categories of infrastructure do the models and tools address?
  4. How do these categories of infrastructure relate to DoD infrastructure, what are the gaps, and how might they be addressed?
  5. What is the match or mismatch between the application of the available models and tools and DoD’s real property database?
  6. What data are needed to conduct assessments affecting both built and natural infrastructure with an initial focus on coastal military settings?
  7. What minimum standards need to be set with respect to topographical, bathymetric, and infrastructure spatial data for conducting assessments, and what temporal periodicity aspects of collecting such data are important to consider?
  8. What is the general status of such data across military installations globally?

Major conclusions highlighted in the report include:

  • With regard to damage and fragility information, the inputs required to inform the functional relationship between asset response and hazard loads are only available for some types of assets.  As a result, our knowledge gaps could be a limiting factor for the application of these models.
  • With regard to data quality, (1) topographic data of high quality that follows international standards of metadata exist for the installations sampled in the continental United States, (2) for locations outside the coterminous United States, readily available data tend to be of lower spatial resolution and may not support required analyses, and (3) bathymetric data differ in quality for the installations surveyed. For decisions that have a low tolerance for uncertainty collection of new topographic, bathymetric, and infrastructure spatial data may be needed.

The report makes a number of recommendations specific to both the damage and fragility information and the data quality, as well as general recommendations regarding the alignment of decisions with data quality, information availability, and uncertainty.

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