Flooding brings back memories of Science Cafe talk about culverts (culverts?)
Posted by David Brooks | Monday, June 4, 2012
(Our caption software is wonky - it's an upgrade (argh!) - so let me note here that the above illustration is from the Corvallis Resarch Forestry Community, which shows how complicated culverts can be. Check out the Horton-Einstein equation.)
When Science Cafe New Hampshire started a year ago, the first conversation was about climate change. One of the three expert panelists was Rhett Lamb, planning director for Keene - which struck me as an odd choice. Turned out, he was excellent, because he talked about the day-to-day realities of dealing with climate change at the local level.
In particular, he talked about culverts, those metal tubes that carry small waterways under roads - basically they're very small bridges. Climate change is resulting in more extreme weather events in some locations, and for southwestn N.H. that means more extreme precipitation; more dry spells, more big downpours. Culverts are sized to handle the highest flow that can reasonably be expected, as reflected in the historic record. But what if the historic record doesn't really apply any more?
Lamb talked about how he'd like to enlarge most culverts in Keene to reduce damage from extreme events. But that costs money, and spending money on a "maybe" issue when times are tight is tough. When culverts need to be replaced, they are sometimes making them larger, but that's about it.
I bring this up because Keene is again experiencing flooding this week. Not as bad as 2005, but still - plenty of culverts were filled, causing water to pour over the road and damage it. This, as much as melting Greenland, is the sort of problem that climate change wil make us face.