Climate change risk assessment for large infrastructure

Aim: To illustrate our risk assessment framework, which is used to assess and quantify the risks of climate change impacts. This is a flexible system incorporating our expert climate knowledge, detailed understanding of the industry concerned and UKCP09's probabilistic projections.

Stage 1: Weather and climate sensitivity table

Weather and climate sensitivity matrices help identify hazardous events which can be caused or exacerbated by climate change. For example, in the table below, events that are hazardous to rail infrastructure include flooding and extreme heat. These are affected by rainfall and temperature respectively.

Table showing how hazardous events may be affected by changes in our climate

 TemperatureRainfallSnowfallSoil moistureStorm surgeSea level
Flooding***
Extreme heat*
Storminess**
Subsidence**
Ice/snow**

The result

Stage 2: Hazard maps

Hazard maps show the likelihood of a hazardous event occurring. Below are example hazard maps (created using UKCP09 data) showing changes in temperature to the warmest day in summer for the 2080s using low, medium and high emission scenarios. These maps illustrate that warmest day temperature is likely to increase from 2 to 8 °C, depending on the emissions scenario. We would compare these maps with current temperatures in order to quantify how rail infrastructure could be affected in the 2080s (e.g. increased number of rails buckling). Overlaying the rail network (in black) identifies areas of vulnerability; in this case South East England which has both higher temperatures and greater infrastructure.

Temperature difference for the warmest day summer in the 2080s (low emissions) Temperature difference for the warmest day summer in the 2080s (low emissions) Temperature difference for the warmest day summer in the 2080s (medium emissions) Temperature difference for the warmest day summer in the 2080s (medium emissions)
Temperature difference for the warmest day summer in the 2080s (high emissions) Temperature difference for the warmest day summer in the 2080s (high emissions)

Hazard maps can be customised further to give a more complete view of the risks. Additional information could include overlaying the likelihood of other hazardous events, or identifying those areas of highest exposure by highlighting the most frequent services. A combination of all this information can provide an index of total and priority risk.

Stage 3: Asset management/risk control

Stages 1 and 2 identify which assets are at risk. The final stage is to investigate how different adaptation options will affect the risk to determine the best adaptation strategy for the industry. At every stage of the risk assessment the Met Office will work in close collaboration with the industry to ensure their needs are met.

Last updated: 11 May 2011