Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Climate Change in Road Construction

While many think of climate change as a worry for the future, where I live in Pennsylvania it is already having an impact on road construction work. Projects that in years past would have been mothballed in early December to resume in March are carrying on through the winter. This is a calculated risk that makes sense only because the chances of a major snow or ice event or prolonged freeze are less than we planned on in winters in the 1990s.

It is a strategy that has worked well so far this winter. November-like weather in December has been followed by a relatively dry January. Snow has been light. The longest freeze was about two days. And now, the forecast says there is a chance of a week-long thaw. In short, it is the kind of winter you would expect in Maryland, the next state to the south.

All this means there are more days for construction crews to work, and the costs are lower as the work does not drag on as long. It is a financially measurable effect of climate change, and it is not just a possible future contingency. It is here already.