Impact of climate change on pavement structural performance in the United States

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This study uses climate projections from multiple models and for different climate regions to investigate how climate change may impact the transportation infrastructure in the United States. Climate data from both an ensemble of 19 different climate models at both RCP8.5 and RCP4.5 as well as three individual prediction models at the same Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) levels is used. These models are integrated into the AASHTOWare Pavement ME software to predict the pavement performance. Comparisons are made between the predicted performance with respect to typical pavement distresses using both historical climate data as well as climate projection data. Though there is substantial variation for different prediction models in terms of the magnitude of the impact, the consistency in results suggest that projected climate changes are highly likely to result in greater distresses and/or earlier failure of the pavement. This finding is consistent across all the climate zones studied, but varies in magnitude of 2–9% for fatigue cracking and 9–40% for AC rutting at the end of 20 years depending on the climate region of the pavement section and prediction model used. This study also compares the impacts incorporating temperature only projections with temperature and precipitation projections. In this respect, the sections considered in this study do not show any substantial difference in the pavement performance when the precipitation data from the climate predictions are also considered in the climate inputs into AASHTOWare Pavement ME software.




Gudipudi, P. P., Underwood, B. S., & Zalghout, A. (2017). Impact of climate change on pavement structural performance in the United States. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 57, 172–184.

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