Program Director of Atmospheric Sciences
Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor
Department of Geography
Franklin College of Arts & Sciences
What do you get when you combine increasing global temperatures, urban sprawl and rising sea levels?
A recipe for a weather disaster.
Changing climates create an environment for more intense storms. Those storms drop more rain for longer durations than most storms in decades past, flooding crowded cities because there’s nowhere for the rain to seep into the ground or runoff. Combine the massive rain events with rising sea levels and you get coastal communities that are quite literally being washed away one storm at a time.
The University of Georgia’s Marshall Shepherd says we don’t have the kind of infrastructure that can weather these storms. “You think about a rubber band—a rubber band has resiliency. It snaps back,” said Shepherd, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Georgia. “In this new era of new rainstorms and more intense hurricanes, we need to be thinking about more climate-resilient systems.”
Determining what those systems should look like and even how they should operate is a tall challenge. Shepherd, a former NASA scientist, partners with experts in a variety of subjects across campus as part of the Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems (IRIS), an interdisciplinary group advancing the integration of natural and conventional infrastructure systems to strengthen long-term resilience to flooding, sea level rise, drought and more.
One such project is looking at flooding along I-85 from Atlanta to Charlotte, North Carolina. The area, dubbed Charlanta, is rapidly becoming more urbanized, with new buildings, housing, and paved roads popping up and down the interstate. But the infrastructure meant to deal with rain isn’t keeping up.