Climate Change Can Affect Transportation Systems in a Number of Ways

For example, increases in the number or intensity of heat waves could affect thermal expansion on bridge joints and paved surfaces, deform rail tracks, and reduce the load limits of airplanes (because warmer air provides less aerodynamic lift). Increases in Arctic temperatures are associated with thawing of permafrost and accompanying subsidence of roads, railbeds, runway foundations, and pipelines. On the other hand, higher Arctic temperatures could provide longer ocean transportation seasons and possibly make a northwest sea route available. Rising sea levels could increase flooding and erosion of transportation infrastructure in coastal areas, and changes in storm patterns could lead to disruptions in transportation services and infrastructure designed for historical climate conditions.

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