Climate Change in the Midwest: Impacts, Risks, Vulnerability, and Adaptation

By S. C. Pryor | Go to book overview

16.
Vulnerability of the Energy System
to Extreme Wind Speeds and Icing

S. C. PRYOR AND R. J. BARTHELMIE


introduction

EXTREME WIND SPEEDS AND
ICING AS SOURCES OF RISK
AND VULNERABILITY

The economies and ecosystems of North America tend to be much more sensitive to extremes than to average conditions. However, “incomplete understanding of the relationship between changes in the average climate and extremes . . . limits our ability to connect future conditions with future impacts and the options for adaptation” (Field et al. 2007). Here we examine two climate extreme events that are of particular importance to the energy, infrastructure, transportation, forestry, and insurance industries in the Midwestern United States: extreme wind speeds and icing. Below we briefly introduce the metrics used, provide examples of risks posed by these phenomena, and indicate the availability of adaptation strategies to reduce current—and possible future— vulnerability. In the following sections we evaluate the current vulnerability within the Midwest using a range of climate simulations and possible changes in the risk under a range of climate change projections.

“Extreme wind speeds” describe the right tail of the probability distribution of sustained wind speeds, typically averaged over time periods of 10 minutes to one hour. “Wind gusts” are by definition transient phenomena and are typically averaged over a 3-second period. Both parameters are used in design standards in the context of ensuring structural integrity under extreme loading cases (Pryor and Barthelmie 2012), and extreme values of these parameters have been linked to failures in the electricity distribution network (Reed 2008, Yu et al. 2009, Banik et al. 2010). Table 16.1 summarizes recent economic losses across the continental United States associated with extreme wind events not attributable to thunderstormderived downbursts or tornadoes. Despite their importance to regional fatalities and economic losses (Black & Ashley 2010), we explicitly exclude events associated with deep convection (thunderstorms) because the resolution and characteristics of the Regional Climate Model (RCM)

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