A few years ago, AT&T began to consider the long-term risks of climate change to its equipment. For example, the company has flood-prone base stations across the country. Elsewhere, services depend on copper wires on the ground that may be blown down in a storm, and may be more safely buried underground as weather patterns change. "We have just delved into what our long-term plan is and how does it relate to climate change?" Shannon Carroll, Director of Environmental Sustainability at AT&T, told The Verge.
So they turned to scientists at Argonne National Laboratory, such as Rao Kotamarthi., the agency's chief climate scientist in the Department of Environmental Science. He and his colleagues spent millions of hours analyzing how wind and flood risks change in the future. But in order for the data to be useful, they must use a much smaller scale than usual. "basically, you have to model the scale of the infrastructure," Kotamarthi told The Verge.. "the most interesting questions people ask are the sizes."
Most climate models work on a scale of 100 km (62 miles). The Argonne team managed to reduce their regional climate model to 12 km (7.5 miles) for more detailed flood data, with a minimum of 200 meters (656 feet). This is the key to the kind of planning that AT&T wants to use this information. "it all depends on the solution-how close you can get to the point of view," said AT&T 's Carroll.
It takes a lot of time and computing power to analyze climate data on such a small scale, which makes it expensive. Kotamarthi said: "We are trying to reach these scales as much as possible, but there is still some useful information. How far you can go is a good question. " Overall, he estimates that it takes about 80 million hours to process numbers on parallel processors at Argonne National Laboratory's supercomputer.
Argonne scientists narrowed down the information and handed it to AT&T, which mixes the data with its own mapping tools that showcase critical infrastructure such as base stations and optical cables. "you can see that the potential effects of climate change are visually superimposed," Carroll said. Now, the company starts on a small scale, with maps covering only the southeastern United States. "over the past few years, they have been badly hit by extremely severe weather events and we have important infrastructure there," Carroll said.
Carroll says the company's ultimate goal is to manage the company's risks in the future. "We are a company that has been in existence for more than 100 years and we plan to operate for at least another 100 years," for example, knowing where to place base stations to avoid flooding or extreme storms could mean spending less money on repairs in the future. "We believe that this will bring long-term economic benefits."