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Dalhousie researchers host workshop on climate change risks to coastal transportation infrastructure

Posted by Engineering Communications on January 6, 2020 in News

The need for action to prevent the effects of climate change is recognized globally.

In Atlantic Canada, hurricanes have become a common occurrence in recent years. In fact, researchers now say damaging hurricanes are three times more frequent than they were 100 years ago.

In early September, Hurricane Dorian pummelled the Atlantic Provinces causing more than $100 million dollars in damages.

Its effect reminded many that the impact of hurricanes are common in Atlantic Canada, and that appropriate preparedness and response is critical.

To better educate the community on the effects of climate change, Dr. Ronald Pelot and Dr. Floris Goerlandt from Dalhousie’s Department of Industrial Engineering hosted a workshop to focus on climate risk and resilience of coastal transportation infrastructure. Their aim was to build a shared understanding among local community and regional stakeholders about hurricane risks to coastal infrastructure, transportation networks, and communities.

The workshop, co-organized with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and supported by the Marine Prediction, Observation and Response Network (MEOPAR), was attended by over 80 participants from academia, government, industry, and non-governmental organizations.

Dr. Floris and Dr. Pelot, who also work with marine transportation related risks, invited a number of guests to speak with attendees on the need for adequate preparedness and emergency response strategies.

Bob Robichaud who works as the Warning Preparedness Meteorologist from Environment and Climate Change Canada, highlighted that many factors influence the hurricane force and its impacts. He also cautioned that under a combination of unfavorable conditions, the impacts could be quite severe.

Robichaud stressed that if a hurricane comparable to the Saxby Gale, which hit Atlantic Canada in 1869, were to occur today, it could lead to an extreme storm causing flooding of the Tantramar Marsh areas, and cutting off Nova Scotia from mainland logistics routes.

Erica Fleck, Assistant Chief of Community Risk Reduction at the Halifax Regional Municipality, highlighted municipal efforts to raise awareness of disaster preparedness among all citizens, and the need for looking out for the most vulnerable.
John Trickett, Manager Corporate Security & Emergency Preparedness at Marine Atlantic, provided insight into how marine shipping operators prepare for hurricane impacts.

“Better knowledge and cross-sector collaboration are key aspects in minimizing the impacts of hurricanes to coastal communities,” says Goerlandt, who is the Canada Research Chair in Risk Management and Resource Optimization for Marine Industries.

“In our research, we build knowledge about, and model the effects of natural hazard disruptions to marine and multi-modal transportation. This helps us understand vulnerabilities of transportation networks and communities, which can inform mitigation strategies.”

Goerlandt says the workshop was an instrumental tool in understanding current practices, uncertainties, and questions significant in his research.

“It was really great to have such a great turnout for our event,” adds Pelot, MEOPAR Associate Scientific Director. “It was also very useful for our participating graduate students to better understand the context of their research, and to affirm the importance of interdisciplinary thinking. Climate change is a major concern among the younger generation and we’re very committed to getting them involved in working on preparedness and mitigation efforts.”