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We present a new approach to the virtual-topology reconfiguration problem for a wavelength-division-multiplexing- based optical wide-area mesh network under dynamic traffic demand. By utilizing the measured Internet backbone traffic characteristics, we propose an adaptation mechanism to follow the changes in traffic without a priori knowledge of the future traffic pattern. Our work differs from most previous studies on this subject which redesign the virtual topology according to an expected (or known) traffic pattern, and then modify the connectivity to reach the target topology. The key idea of our approach is to adapt the underlying optical connectivity by measuring the actual traffic load on lightpaths continuously (periodically based on a measurement period) and reacting promptly to the load imbalances caused by fluctuations on the traffic, by either adding or deleting one or more lightpath at a time. When a load imbalance is encountered, it is corrected either by tearing down a lightpath that is lightly loaded or by setting up a new lightpath when congestion occurs. We introduce high and low watermark parameters on lightpath loads to detect any over- or underutilized lightpath, and to trigger an adaptation step. We formulate an optimization problem which determines whether or not to add or delete lightpaths at the end of a measurement period, one lightpath at a time, as well as which lightpath to add or delete. This optimization problem turns out to be a mixed-integer linear program. Simulation experiments employing the adaptation algorithm on realistic network scenarios reveal interesting effects of the various system parameters (high and low watermarks, length of the measurement period, etc.). Specifically, we find that this method adapts very well to the changes in the offered traffic.