Wednesday, 18 July 2018 11:35

Buried US Internet infrastructure faces risk from rising seas

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Rising seas may inundate thousands of kilometres of buried fibre optic cable in densely populated coastal regions of the US in as little as 15 years due to climate change, a study has warned.

Presented at a meeting of Internet network researchers on Monday, the study, which only considered risk to infrastructure in the US, looked at critical communications infrastructure that could be submerged by rising seas, the website phys.org said.

The senior author of the study, Paul Barford, a professor of computer science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said: "Most of the damage that's going to be done in the next 100 years will be done sooner than later.

"That surprised us. The expectation was that we'd have 50 years to plan for it. We don't have 50 years."

Barford carried out the study along with his former student, Ramakrishnan Durairajan, who is now at the University of Oregon, and Carol Barford, who directs University of Wisconsin-Madison's Centre for Sustainability and the Global Environment.

The study suggests that by the year 2033, about 2500 kms of buried fibre optic conduit will be underwater and over 1100 traffic hubs will be surrounded by water.

At most risk are New York, Miami and Seattle, Barford warned, adding that the effects would not be limited to these cities and the inundation had the potential to disrupt global communications.

Barford is considered an authority on the physical Internet - the buried fibre optic cables, data centres, traffic exchanges and termination points that are the nerve centres, arteries and hubs of the Internet.

Most of this infrastructure is buried and often runs parallel to highways and coastlines.

Barford said: ""The first instinct will be to harden the infrastructure. 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."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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