Black Sky Hazards
Hurricanes and Other Severe Weather Events
The Edison Electric Institute’s report, “Before and After the Storm,” documents the nationwide array of investments and emerging best practices that investor-owned utilities are making in response to lessons learned from Sandy, and in anticipation of more severe events in the future. In some cases, public utility commissions and state and local leaders are also undertaking a range of initiatives to help them assess requirements and review proposals for such investments, both in the states immediately affected by Sandy and far beyond.
There is compelling evidence that the increase in severe weather patterns in recent decades signifies a general increasing severity in these hazards, either due to periodic, heuristic factors, or to the climate change effects induced by modern society.
Department of Energy and other government-sponsored reports highlight the risk that climate change will produce increasingly extreme weather events and other challenges to grid resilience. DOE found in 2013 that “increasing temperatures, decreasing water availability, more intense storm events and sea level rise will each independently, and in some cases in combination, affect the ability of the United States to produce and transmit electricity….”
The 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment noted that “extreme storm surge events at high tides are expected to increase, raising the risk of inundating energy facilities such as power plants, refineries, pipelines, and transmission and distribution networks.”
These risk factors, along with the risk of infrequent “mega-events” falling outside the range of projected extreme storm events, suggest that future weather-event damage will not remain within the limits of recent experience, or within the bounds of straightforward scaling from such experience.
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More on Hurricanes and Other Severe Weather Events
- FEMA Post-Hurricane Sandy Infrastructure Fact Sheets
- Superstorm Sandy effects on Water and Wastewater Utilities
- DOE Study Comparing the Impacts of Northeast Hurricanes on Energy Infrastructure
- USGAO Report on Actions Needed to Enhance Critical Infrastructure Protection
- FEMA Modeling Task Force Hurricane Sandy Impact Analysis
- Hurricane Sandy Impact Infographic