High-level climate change vulnerability analysis for Irish critical infrastructure

18:00 Tuesday 28 May




Lara Hawchar (Ireland) 1; Paraic Ryan (Ireland) 1; Owen Naughton (Ireland) 2; Paul Nolan (Ireland) 3

1 - Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University College Cork, Ireland; 2 - Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland; 3 - Irish Centre for High-End Computing, National University of Ireland,


In modern societies, infrastructure systems (i.e. transport, energy, water, waste and communication) are essential for day-to-day life and business. The reliance on these infrastructures is expected to increase in future, increasing the societal vulnerability to any loss of functionality in these services. In general, infrastructure assets are designed for long service lives and are directly impacted by their surrounding environment. Climate conditions will likely change, giving rise to risks that were not considered at the design stage. This may result in more weather-related failures of infrastructure systems. Therefore, it is important to enhance our understanding of infrastructure vulnerability to climate change, in order to develop effective climate adaptation strategies. General national assessments of critical infrastructure vulnerability to climate change typically consider major and minor impacts on a high-level. Yet, it is noted that there is high spatial variability of climate and of individual asset vulnerability within sectors. It is thus necessary to consider impacts and possible adaptation on a regional scale through a regionally-specific assessment.


The high-level approach involves a review of national and international reports on climate change risk assessment in order to identify the main threat areas for the different critical assets. The sectoral regionally-specific analysis utilises GIS information for each infrastructure sector and geo-spatial mapped information of the climate projections. Other available geo-spatial data sets are also utilised (e.g. flood maps and coastal erosion maps). This analysis is performed in ArcGIS software and provides valuable insight into the regionally-specific climate change vulnerability of critical infrastructure assets.

The proposed framework also provides cross-sectoral density maps that allow evaluation of the vulnerability of a geographical zone to a particular weather event. These densities are calculated by introducing weighted coefficients that facilitate consideration of the geographical intersections between assets of different sectors, having different criticality levels and different vulnerabilities to a given climate threat.


The outputs of the approach are: 1) sectoral information matrices that highlight the key relationships between infrastructure assets and climate threats, 2) mapped information on possible changes in asset vulnerability due to future climate, and 3) multi-sector density maps for the various climate threats reflecting the density in vulnerable infrastructure assets.


This analysis provides valuable information on climate change risks across four Irish critical infrastructure sectors, on a regionally-specific level. The high-level approach used facilitates a useful holistic assessment, which will help to identify climate risk hotspots, which require more detailed assessment.