How Cadmus helped the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Institute for Water Resources plan for climate change
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (the Corps’) Institute for Water Resources provides forward-looking analysis and research to aid the Civil Works program across its key management areas, including flood risk reduction, navigation, and ecosystem restoration. Understanding the potential impacts of climate change on both natural and engineered systems is critical to the Corps as it plans for the future sustainability of its operations in these management areas.
Challenge: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had an urgent need to assess the vulnerability of its projects and programs to the effects of climate change, given the potential impact on the its diverse activities. The Corps needed this assessment in order to prioritize adaptation measures as well as develop policy. A well-assembled team of qualified, experienced scientists was essential to address the complexity of the problem and process the vast quantity of relevant data.
Solution: The Corps engaged Cadmus, through prime contractor the Louis Berger Group, to assess project and program vulnerability to climate change across the Corps’ key management areas at scales relevant to its projects. Cadmus brought together our hydrologists, decision-support scientists, spatial analysts, and programmers to design the solution.
The decision-support system our team developed gives Corps decision-makers instant access to information on the anticipated impacts of various climate change scenarios on multiple management areas. Cadmus’ system development incorporated the economic, environmental, and public-safety aspects of Corps projects and programs at multiple scales to identify hydrologic, water quality, ecological, and socioeconomic metrics and associated data that are useful in assessing vulnerability. Vulnerability assessment inputs include the relative importance or relevance of each data set, risk-taking versus risk-averse analysis assumptions, number and type of vulnerability indicators, and scale of analysis. In addition, our experts built the system with user-friendly features to allow for quick changes to a variety of input parameters.
Results: Cadmus’ decision-support-system for vulnerability assessment has passed rigorous quality testing and is being used to assist in prioritization of projects and programs for short-term and long-term adaptation planning nationwide. Cadmus has also developed new vulnerability indicators and employed sophisticated statistical methods (for example, weighted ordered weighted average) and data visualization techniques to best meet the Corps’ needs.
Our approach to this robust decision-support system has been summarized in three analyses submitted to peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Cadmus continues to provide updated input data that incorporate the latest output from general circulation models and other sources of projected data for indicators of vulnerability to climate change. We also support the Corps in ongoing application of the decision-support system at new scales and new locations using different indicators and data sets, as the needs of decision-makers require.