Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Flood-Induced Travel Disruptions: A Case Study of Portland, Oregon, USA

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Annals of the Association of American Geographers

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Climatic changes, Environmental management, City planning -- Environmental aspects, Flood damage prevention


This study investigated potential impacts of climate change on travel disruption resulting from road closures in two urban watersheds in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area. We used ensemble climate change scenarios, a hydrologic model, a stream channel survey, a hydraulic model, and a travel forecast model to develop an integrated impact assessment method. High-resolution climate change scenarios are based on the combinations of two emission scenarios and eight general circulation models. The Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System was calibrated and validated for the historical period of 1988 and 2006 and simulated for determining the probability of floods for 2020 through 2049. We surveyed stream cross-sections at five road crossings for stream channel geometry and determined flood water surface elevations using the Hydrologic Engineering Centers River Analysis System (HEC-RAS) model. Four of the surveyed bridges and roadways were lower in elevation than the current 100-year flood water surface elevation, leading to relatively frequent nuisance flooding. These roadway flooding events will become more frequent under some climate change scenarios in the future, but climate change impacts will depend on local geomorphic conditions. Whereas vehicle miles traveled was not significantly affected by road closure, vehicle hours delay demonstrated a greater impact from road closures, increasing by 10 percent in the Fanno Creek area. Our research demonstrated the usefulness of the integration of top-down and bottom-up approaches in climate change impact assessment and the need for spatially explicit modeling and participatory planning in flood management and transportation planning under increasing climate uncertainty.


Copyright © 2010 by Association of American Geographers

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