Climate Change Adaptation for Infrastructure


Infrastructure is critical to society, lasts a long time, and is expensive. Using high-resolution climate information and systems models, our group assesses out how to make what we're building and what we've already got resilient under climate change.

Long-lived infrastructure must perform under future climate conditions and climate-influenced usage that deviates from the historical data and heuristics now used for the majority of infrastructure designs. Climate change impacts, such as sea-level rise, storm surges, extreme precipitation, hotter temperatures, and other impacts are potential vectors of infrastructure failure and should be taken into consideration in the planning, design, construction, and operation of infrastructure. We take a systems approach that includes includes built, natural, and human responses to mitigating risks, minimizing costs and environmental burdens, and maximizing life cycle performance of infrastructure under climate change.

At Carnegie Mellon, we created the interdisciplinary Center for Engineering and Resilience for Climate Adaptation to inform stakeholders on resilient infrastructure. In 2014, Prof. Samaras developed the course “Climate Change Adaptation for Infrastructure”, which is one of the first civil and environmental engineering courses in the world that teaches climate change adaptation to engineers. This led to the creation of a graduate concentration in Climate Change Adaptation in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Carnegie Mellon University.

Below are some of our selected research outputs. See our Center's full list of publications here.


Selected Relevant Research Outputs

  • Op-Ed: Wagner, G., Samaras, C. (2019). Do We Really Have Only 12 Years to Avoid Climate Disaster? The New York Times, September 19, 2019.

  • 4th U.S. National Climate Assessment: Technical Contributor to Chapter 28: Reducing Risks Through Adaptation Actions. (2018).

  • Scholarly Book: American Society of Civil Engineers, Committee on Adaptation to a Changing Climate, Ayyub, B.M. (Editor). (2018). Climate-Resilient Infrastructure: Adaptive Design and Risk Management. ISBN: 978-0-7844-1519-1. [Purchase].

  • Op-Ed: Lopez-Cantu, T., Samaras, C. Engineering Standards Are Not Keeping Up with Climate Change. July 6, 2018.

  • Journal Paper: Lopez-Cantu, T., Samaras, C. (2018). Temporal and spatial evaluation of stormwater engineering standards reveals risks and priorities across the United States, Environmental Research Letters. 13 074006 [Open Access Version]

  • Journal Paper: Cook L.M., Anderson, C.J., Samaras, C. (2017). Framework for Incorporating Downscaled Climate Output into Existing Engineering Methods: Application to Precipitation Frequency Curves. Journal of Infrastructure Systems. 23(4), 04017027. [Journal Version][Open Access Pre-Print]

  • Journal Paper: Kolb, C., Pozzi, M., Samaras, C., VanBriesen, J. (2017). Climate change impacts on bromide, trihalomethane formation, and health risks at coastal groundwater utilities. ASCE-ASME Journal of Risk and Uncertainty in Engineering Systems. [Open Access Version]

  • Scholarly Book: Olsen, J.R., Ayyub, B.M., Barros, A., Lei, W., Lombardo, F., Medina, M., Samaras, C., Smith, O.P. Stakhiv, E.Z., Tan, J., Vinson, T.S., Walker, D., Wright, R., Beucler, B., Harding, B., Heller, M., Krakauer, N.Y., Lund, J.R., Smith, J. (2015). Adapting Infrastructure and Civil Engineering Practice to a Changing Climate. American Society of Civil Engineers, Committee on Adaptation to a Changing Climate, ISBN 978-0-7844-7919-3. [Free Download]

  • Conference Presentation: Lopez, T., Samaras, C. "Incorporating flexibility into stormwater infrastructure design under climate change," ASCE Congress on Technical Advancement, Duluth, MN, September 10-13, 2017.

  • Conference Presentation: Samaras, C., "Adapting Electricity Infrastructure for a Changing Climate: Assessment and Solutions from the Power Plant to the Customer," ASCE Congress on Technical Advancement, Duluth, MN, September 10-13, 2017.

  • Governmental Briefing: Samaras, C. "A Framework For Climate-Resilient Designs: Translating Extreme Precipitation Data From Climate Change Projections Into Engineering Applications," U.S. Interagency Forum on Climate Adaptation, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C., (Governmental Forum), July 27, 2017.

  • Conference Presentation: Cook, L.M., Samaras, C., VanBriesen, J. "Planning for wastewater systems in a future unlike that of the past: declining water use, changing climate, and erratic population growth," AEESP 2017, Ann Arbor, Michigan, June 21, 2017.

  • Conference Presentation: Lopez, T., Samaras, C. "Variability of Stormwater Design Return Period across the US: Implications for Climate Risk," Poster presented at 5th NSF ICNet Workshop, New Castle, NH, April 6-7, 2017.

  • Conference Presentation: Cook, L., Samaras, C. "A Framework for Updating Existing Engineering Applications with Climate Model Output. Society for Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty," The World Bank, Washington, D.C., November 15-17, 2016.

  • Governmental Briefing: Samaras, C. "Designing Resilient Infrastructure for Resilient Communities," White House Frontiers Conference, October 13, 2016.

  • Governmental Briefing: Samaras, C. "Educational Initiatives for Climate Smart Communities," White House Frontiers Conference, October 13, 2016.

  • Workshop Presentation: Samaras, C., Cook, L. "How much climate model resolution is necessary for designing infrastructure under uncertainty?" Workshop on Impact Relevance and Usability of High Resolution Climate Modeling and Datasets. Aspen Global Change Institute, Aspen, CO. Aug 2-7, 2015.

  • Conference Presentation: Samaras, C. "Incorporating Robust Decisionmaking into Civil Engineering Designs for Climate Change Adaptation," Decisionmaking Under Uncertainty Annual Workshop, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, November 18, 2014.