Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study suggests buried Internet infrastructure at risk as sea levels rise

18.07.2018

Thousands of miles of buried fiber optic cable in densely populated coastal regions of the United States may soon be inundated by rising seas, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Oregon.

The study, presented here today (July 16, 2018) at a meeting of internet network researchers, portrays critical communications infrastructure that could be submerged by rising seas in as soon as 15 years, according to the study's senior author, Paul Barford, a UW-Madison professor of computer science.


Seawater inundation projected for New York City by 2033 and its effect on internet infrastructure. Undersea cables, long haul fiber cables and metro fiber cables are shown in the red/green/black lines respectively. Anything in the blue shaded areas is estimated to be underwater in 15 years due to climate change induced sea level rise as projected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Credit: Paul Barford/University of Wisconsin-Madison

"Most of the damage that's going to be done in the next 100 years will be done sooner than later," says Barford, an authority on the "physical internet" -- the buried fiber optic cables, data centers, traffic exchanges and termination points that are the nerve centers, arteries and hubs of the vast global information network. "That surprised us. The expectation was that we'd have 50 years to plan for it. We don't have 50 years."

The study, conducted with Barford's former student Ramakrishnan Durairajan, now of the University of Oregon, and Carol Barford, who directs UW-Madison's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, is the first assessment of risk of climate change to the internet.

It suggests that by the year 2033 more than 4,000 miles of buried fiber optic conduit will be underwater and more than 1,100 traffic hubs will be surrounded by water. The most susceptible U.S. cities, according to the report, are New York, Miami and Seattle, but the effects would not be confined to those areas and would ripple across the internet, says Barford, potentially disrupting global communications.

The peer-reviewed study combined data from the Internet Atlas, a comprehensive global map of the internet's physical structure, and projections of sea level incursion from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The study, which only evaluated risk to infrastructure in the United States, was shared today with academic and industry researchers at the Applied Networking Research Workshop, a meeting of the Association for Computing Machinery, the Internet Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Much of this infrastructure is buried and follows long-established rights of way, typically paralleling highways and coastlines, says Barford. "When it was built 20-25 years ago, no thought was given to climate change."

Many of the conduits at risk are already close to sea level and only a slight rise in ocean levels due to melting polar ice and thermal expansion as climate warms will be needed to expose buried fiber optic cables to sea water. Hints of the problems to come, says Barford, can be seen in the catastrophic storm surges and flooding that accompanied hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.

Buried fiber optic cables are designed to be water-resistant, but unlike the marine cables that ferry data from continent to continent under the ocean, they are not waterproof.

Risk to the physical internet, says Barford, is coupled to the large population centers that exist on the coasts, which also tend to be the same places where the transoceanic marine cables that underpin global communication networks come ashore. "The landing points are all going to be underwater in a short period of time," he notes.

Moreover, much of the data that transits the internet tends to converge on a small number of fiber optic strands that lead to large population centers like New York, one of the more vulnerable cities identified in the study.

The impact of mitigation such as sea walls, according to the study, are difficult to predict. "The first instinct will be to harden the infrastructure," Barford says. "But keeping the sea at bay is hard. We can probably buy a little time, but in the long run it's just not going to be effective."

In addition to looking at the risk to local and long-haul infrastructure in the nation's coastal areas, the study examined the risk to the buried assets of individual internet service providers. It found the networks of CenturyLink, Inteliquent and AT&T to be at highest risk.

The findings of the study, argues the Wisconsin computer scientist, serve notice to industry and government. "This is a wake-up call. We need to be thinking about how to address this issue."

###

--Terry Devitt (608) 262-8282, trdevitt@wisc.edu

CONTACT: Paul Barford, (608) 262-6609, pb@cs.wisc.edu

DOWNLOAD IMAGES: https://uwmadison.box.com/v/internet-sea-level

Media Contact

Paul Barford
pb@cs.wisc.edu
608-262-6609

 @UWMadScience

http://www.wisc.edu 

Paul Barford | EurekAlert!

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht CubeSats prove their worth for scientific missions
17.04.2019 | American Physical Society

nachricht Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications
12.04.2019 | University of California - Berkeley

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

Im Focus: Researchers 3D print metamaterials with novel optical properties

Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna

A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>