ASCE has entered into an agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration where NOAA will provide key science and product data that will be applied to building and civil engineering codes, standards, and best practice manuals developed by ASCE.

The memorandum of understanding was a highlight of the ASCE-NOAA Leadership Summit on Climate-Ready Infrastructure, held two weeks ago at ASCE headquarters, which also included leaders of the University of Maryland Center for Technology and Systems Management. 2023 President Maria Lehman and NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad led the event.

The collaboration began in November 2021, but the urgency of the work was underscored this year when NOAA calculated that 2022 was the third most costly year on record for weather and climate-related disasters, with 18 events costing over $165 billion in total damages. Disasters are also happening more often, with the number of days between billion-dollar disasters dropping from 82 days in 1980 to just 18 days in 2022.

“Addressing current and long-term challenges facing communities across the nation and globe from extreme weather events requires close collaboration among the science and engineering communities,” said Tom Smith, executive director of ASCE. “We are delighted and honored to work in partnership with NOAA to combat these challenges with solutions that will ensure our critical infrastructure networks are safe, efficient, sustainable, and reliable for everyone.”

UMD will facilitate the partnership and new MOU between NOAA and ASCE with a goal to create a stronger, more resilient future for a key sector of the U.S. economy. The nation invests over $1.5 trillion annually in the design, construction, and maintenance of homes, businesses, transportation systems, industrial centers, and other components of the built environment, according to a 2023 U.S. Census Bureau report. This sector enables millions of jobs, including more than seven million jobs in construction alone.

The partnership and MOU will also focus on inequities in climate resilience. NOAA research shows how low-income communities suffer more damage and are at greater risk from extreme events. Additionally, the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations are frequently compounded by exacerbating other risks, such as inland flooding, urban heat islands, and poor air quality. To address these inequities, NOAA and ASCE will work together to identify needs for climate-resilient infrastructure in urban, rural, and low-income communities, for example.

“These statistics, while daunting, present an opportunity for us to take stock, and use this data to help prepare for the impacts of climate change,” said Rick Spinrad, Ph.D., NOAA administrator. “Sustained partnerships like this one are key to this effort and will help foster a climate-ready nation where individuals, businesses, and industries have the knowledge and tools to take action to mitigate risk and support economic growth."

Information from the summit will inform future exchanges and conversations, including a pair of conferences next fall focused on “future-ready” infrastructure: ASCE’s 2023 Convention in Chicago in October and the ASCE Inspire conference in December.