Vulnerability Assessment of Jamaica's Transport Sector

Submitted by Julia Barrott | published 16th Apr 2018 | last updated 13th May 2019
Figure 17. Biophysical factors considered when determining landslide risk

[Click to enlarge] Figure 17 from page 48 of the full text: Biophysical factors considered when determining landslide risk. Source: Hydro-geology, soils and landslide locations – data originally from Geology and Mines but received from the World Bank; Slope – authors’ calculation based on 90-meter resolution shuttle topo radar mission (STRM) data from NASA.

Introduction

Jamaica’s transportation system is already affected by weather extremes. Damage to roads, bridges and supporting infrastructure such as drains and culverts is commonplace, both as a result of extreme events as well as outdated design and inadequate maintenance.

To provide Jamaica’s Ministry of Transport and Mines with actionable recommendations on how to address these issues, the USAID Climate Change Adaptation, Thought Leadership and Assessments (ATLAS) project, in close coordination with Jamaica’s Ministry of Transport and Mines, undertook this assessment that examines the vulnerability of the transport sector’s assets to weather, climate variability and climate change, and identifies locations within the system that currently experience and are likely to experience future negative impacts.

The assessment* sheds light on priority regions and specific vulnerabilities, analyzes the institutional structure of the transport sector, and offers guidance on how to climate-proof future and current investments in light of a changing and more variable climate. 

As well as this report, ATLAS produced an infographic that highlights the findings of the study.

*Download the full assessment from the right-hand column. The key findings and recommendations are provided below - see the full report for much more detail.

Key Findings

  • Temperatures will continue to rise. When compared with the 1986–2005 time period, Jamaica is expected to experience a significant rise in temperatures across all seasons of about 0.85–1.8°C by mid-century, and up to 4°C by the end of the century. By themselves, increases in temperature can have a significant impact on critical transport sector functions.
  • Extreme weather events could increase. Extreme events have had a significant impact on Jamaica’s economy, environment and people. Five major storm events between 2004 and 2008 reportedly caused USD1.2 billion in losses and damage (Neufville/IPS 2012). More intense tropical storms are a likely result of climate variability and change. With respect to the transport sector, four extremes are relevant: hurricanes, precipitation, wind and storm surges.
  • Sea levels will continue to rise. Port infrastructure, including facilities such as the Montego Bay and Ocho Rios cruise terminals, as well as Port Antonio are important transport assets with long design lives. They are sensitive to sea level rise, with decking and wharves more frequently exposed to larger wave forces, resulting in increased scour of foundations of marine structures. They are also vulnerable to increased risk of overtopping during storm surges. Many airports are located near the coast and vulnerable to rising seas, including Norman Manley International Airport, which sits at an average elevation of 3 meters (m) above sea level and is also vulnerable to flooding. Projections suggest a minimum of 2–3 millimeters (mm) rise in sea levels per year during the first half of the century. At a minimum, these impacts are likely to result in more weather delays and periodic interruptions.

Recommendations

  • Conduct additional assessment(s) on scope of financing needs. Navigation and port facilities, roads and drainage infrastructure, and other transport assets have a design lifetime, after which they may need to be reconstructed to meet the climate and demand realities of the day.
  • Increase capacity for the Ministry of Transport and Mining (MTM) to coordinate and convene the relevant expertise to build climate resilience and disaster risk reduction (DRR) approaches into plans and operations.
  • Establish a task force for NTP revisions and a Transport Sector Thematic Working Group (TWG) under Vision 2030. 
  • Increase capacity of other transport sector stakeholders to understand and address climate risks within the context of the expected lifespan of investments. 
  • Invest in climate and weather data for decision making 
  • Include tailored climate change adaptation clauses on all new concession agreements, and review and amend existing concession agreements where possible.
  • Conduct analyses to inform revisions to design criteria for all assets, taking into account a changing climate. For example, bridges and culverts are currently designed using standards and river flow models developed prior to 1960. 
  • Develop more detailed hazard assessments for specific assets at finer spatial scales.

Further resources