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Extreme Weather impacts on European Networks of Transport

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Extreme weather effects on EU transport systems

Extreme weather used to be a one-off event but is now seen as the 'new normal' by scientists. Its impact is far-reaching, affecting not only the environment but also the economy.

Climate Change and Environment

But one project has also considered another area in which extreme weather has made its mark – the EU transport system. The EU-funded 'Extreme weather impacts on European networks of transport' (EWENT) project has looked at ways to reduce the cost of weather impacts. Their methodological approach was based on a generic risk management framework to identify extreme weather, and then assessing the impact and risk control measures. They also predicted the expected economic losses as a direct result of this phenomenon and how this affects the European transport system. The present and future quality of weather forecasting and warning services within Europe was also addressed, as well as the consequences and impacts from three different angles: infrastructure, operations and indirect impacts to third parties. An analysis looked at relevant adverse and extreme weather: strong winds, heavy snowfall, blizzards, heavy precipitation, cold spells and heat waves. Project partners also took into account the ranking and threshold values defined from different transport models. Visibility conditions were analysed, such as fog and dust, as well as small-scale phenomena - lightning, large hailstones and tornadoes. Calculations of extreme weather frequencies were used for six regional climate models (RCMs).The project results also summarised the cost analysis findings for the present and provided forecasts for 30-50 years ahead. What appeared evident from their findings was that road sector costs are a major area of concern as most means of transport are via roads. The final risk assessment was based on the vulnerability of transport systems to extreme weather events across different countries, with calculations being made on adverse weather and events, which could damage the transport network in different climate regions. Finally, the project defined the extreme weather risk as an area of probability of negative consequences and vulnerability assessment. Exposure susceptibility together with coping capacity were also factored into the equation. By using this analytical approach, the risk factors for each mode of transport and country have been produced. However, the techniques used in these calculations for determining the risk element cannot be seen as a complete projection. It should be seen primarily as a robust ranking system.

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