The Reality of Planning for Climate Change: A Modeler's Take

Caroline Kersey, EIT, Water Resources Engineer, GKY & Associates, Inc.

As municipalities confront the escalating challenges posed by climate change, strategic planning emerges as a crucial tool for fostering adaptation and resilience. In the past decade, reputable sources have projected variations in rainfall, sea level rise, and other anticipated climate change impacts. Local planners are now eager to incorporate these projections into local models to simulate future conditions, informing action plans and regulations. While conceptually straightforward, this task is complex, requiring various assumptions and time-consuming data manipulation to navigate uncertainties. This presentation will use the industry of stormwater management planning to illustrate that—despite the availability of climate projections—currently available tools and processes may not be adequate to properly analyze future scenarios.

Numerous challenges arise during attempts to analyze future conditions, most stemming from unclear decision processes, inadequate data, or limited resources. Examples of these challenges range from regulations based on outdated assumptions, to the inevitable inability to predict future land and development conditions. This presentation will explore some of these many challenges, identify options using existing tools to overcome them, and evaluate how each option may influence interpretation of the analysis. The discourse also expands to explore measures that planners may take to mitigate uncertainty, fostering more straightforward climate change modeling.

This presentation is not intended to answer questions, or provide guidance, only to open a discussion around the current limitations faced when planning for climate change. The goal is to inform and empower stormwater planners and engineers working to develop strategic adaptation and resiliency plans for their communities.

Author Bio

Caroline is a Water Resources Engineer serving as one of GKY’s advanced hydraulic modelers. She has in-depth experience with integrated 1-2D stormwater modeling, model calibration, data management, and hydrology and hydraulics. Her most recent modeling experiences have leveraged these skills to inform climate change planning efforts.