A Washington State University Tri-Cities faculty member will use a nearly $1 million federal contract to study how climate change could affect U.S. defense facilities.
Yonas Demissie, an assistant civil and environmental engineering professor, will partner with graduate students at the Richland campus and a team from Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago on the four-year project.
The university announced the contract with the U.S. Department of Defense late Wednesday.
Risks from severe storms and flooding are the primary focus of the study. Researchers will look at 13 defense facilities throughout the country, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma.
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“The overall goal is to improve military installation readiness in the face of anticipated impacts of climate change and uncertainties,” Demissie said in a press release.
While some people debate the existence of climate change or its potential causes, military leaders have considered the implications of it on the readiness of U.S. military units and how it could affect operations at military installations.
The 2014 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan issued by the Department of Defense earlier this year cites how increased global instability, a more accessible Arctic Ocean, increasing sea levels and storm surge could affect national security.
“We are actively integrating climate considerations across the full spectrum of our activities to ensure a ready and resilient force,” wrote Frank Kendall, the department’s sustainability officer and Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
Demissie’s study, titled “Linked Rainfall and Runoff Intensity-Duration-Frequency in the Face of Climate Change and Uncertainty,” will assess how significant the risks are for the selected facilities.
Not all the money for the project will go to university faculty and researchers. About 5 percent of the contract will go toward web and graphic design firm Versatile Design Studios and Turner & Co. Inc.
“These companies will help us gather climate and hydrologic data, design the project website and coordinate the outreach effort,” Demissie said.