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Climate change & extreme weather vulnerability assessment framework.
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  • Alternative Title:
    The Federal Highway Administration's Climate change & extreme weather vulnerability assessment framework.
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  • Abstract:
    The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability

    Assessment Framework is a guide for transportation agencies interested in assessing their vulnerability

    to climate change and extreme weather events. It gives an overview of key steps in conducting

    vulnerability assessments and uses in-practice examples to demonstrate a variety of ways to gather and

    process information. The framework is comprised of three key steps: defining study objectives and

    scope; assessing vulnerability; and incorporating results into decision making.

    Defining the objectives and scope of the study at the beginning of the process is important because it

    creates boundaries for the analysis and can limit extraneous data collection efforts. To define study

    scope, agencies should first consider their overall goals and objectives. Objectives for a vulnerability

    assessment may include siting new assets in areas less vulnerable to climate change, educating staff

    regarding overall climate risks to the agency’s transportation system, or informing the development of

    adaptation strategies. Based on these objectives, an agency can then select and characterize relevant

    assets and identify climate variables for study. The initial objectives and scope may be altered by the

    other steps in the process as new information is gathered or limitations are better understood.

    Climate change and extreme weather vulnerability in the transportation context are a function of a

    transportation asset or system’s sensitivity to climate effects, exposure to climate effects, and adaptive

    capacity. Tasks in the vulnerability assessment include: gathering and integrating data and information

    on asset location, characteristics, and climate sensitivities; gathering and obtaining information on

    historical weather events and projected climate; combining the asset and climate information to identify

    vulnerabilities; and potentially, assigning a level of risk of the climate impacts on the assets. The

    vulnerability assessment work is an iterative process; information gathered on assets may inform

    climate information needs and vice versa.

    Incorporating the results of the vulnerability assessment into the agency’s decision-making process

    ensures that the study results are used in practice. An agency may be able to use the results of the

    assessment in its asset management programs, hazard mitigation plans, transportation planning project

    selection criteria, or other programs and processes. In addition, a transportation agency might be

    interested in using the results of the analysis to inform the development of specific adaptation

    strategies for assets identified as highly vulnerable to climate change.

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