Environmental Science Division (EVS)a Division of Argonne National Laboratory
Predictive environmental understanding

Argonne is helping communities avoid the climate crosshairs

September 16, 2021

Natural disasters and other severe weather events can take a heavy toll on America's infrastructure systems, when such disasters occur. These energy, water and wastewater, transportation, and communications systems include not only buildings but roadways, pipelines, ports, and energy storage, as well as vehicles and vessels. Such lifeline infrastructure systems were originally planned and constructed based on historic hazards data. But today, they are not necessarily equipped to operate in the evolving context of the greater risks from climate change.

As part of an effort to meet the challenges that U.S. communities will face from the natural disasters and weather events precipitated by climate change, Argonne is drawing on its extensive capabilities and long history in pursuing new approaches in several disciplines that are mainstays in climate science.

One of these linchpin areas is climate modeling. Also known as earth systems models or ESMs, climate models “integrate the interactions of atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, and biosphere to estimate the state of regional and global climate under a wide variety of conditions.”

Another discipline gaining importance in climate studies is the evaluation of infrastructure resilience. This involves assessing numerous aspects of an infrastructure system's strengths and vulnerabilities, its redundancies or backup supplies (e.g., in the event that food or fuel supply chains are disrupted during an event), and interdependencies with other infrastructure systems. An interdependency would be an electric grid powering a communication system needed to provide up-to-date information during a hazard event; if the power fails, that information sharing may be disrupted in whole or in part.

Researchers in Argonne's Environmental Science (EVS) and Decision and Infrastructure Sciences (DIS) divisions are working together to utilize climate modeling for evaluation of infrastructure resilience. For example, EVS personnel such as Rao Kotamarthi, chief scientist and head of the Climate & Earth System Science Department, create the actual predictive climate models. DIS staff then adapt those models to understand climate patterns around each city or town — or even around specific buildings.

Read the full article by Jared Sagoff, Carolyn Steele, and Andrea Manning.

[Source: Argonne National Laboratory]
portrait of V. Rao Kotamarthi