Impacts of climate change on built structures (offshore)
Jon Side, Rob Harris, David Woolf, Mike Bell and Anthony Brooks
Side, J., Harris, R., Woolf, D., Bell, M. and Brooks, A. (2013) Impacts of climate change on built structures (offshore). MCCIP Science Review 2013, 295-301, doi:10.14465/2013.arc31.295-301
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It is clear that all industry sectors deploying, operating and maintaining offshore structures (and their insurers) are aware of the possible impacts of climate change. However, at the present time, particularly given the range of uncertainties inherent in future prediction and the range of variability apparent in historical data, it tends to be more of a watching brief rather than a call for specific actions, and changes in operational practices, to be adopted.
For significant wave height and storminess it is possible that the coming decades may see increasing trends in mean and extreme values. These short term trends, are observable in historical datasets and in future may be a result of changing climate, but equally may be explained by the natural variability that is so apparent within the historical data. The safeguard to ensure the adequate protection of offshore structures is the awareness of the variability and the short term fluctuations (pseudo-trends) that can be found in time series data for these parameters.
Protection for offshore structures is also provided by designs to meet extreme criteria (e.g. the 100 year wave in combination with associated wind and current criteria). In the absence of evidence to the contrary it would seem inappropriate at this time to insist on more stringent thresholds given the variability in data and uncertainty in predictions. Once they are operational, additional protection to offshore structures is afforded not only by remote condition monitoring systems but also by regular inspection and maintenance. In this regard any short term trends in the frequency and severity of storms and associated wave heights (whether the result of climate change or not) may have implications for the weather windows in which such marine operations can be safely conducted. This in turn may result in delays before any necessary remedial measures can be undertaken.