Researchers at the University of New Hampshire suggest that the asphalt's thickness in roadways should increase due to current and future climate conditions. The consequences of climate change include significant temperature differences between summer and winter, a fact that causes severe cracking on pavements. Moreover, intense weather phenomena that lead to flooding also deteriorate the integrity of road surfaces.
According to future prediction models, the situation will not ameliorate and therefore, asphalt surfaces will begin to be defective before they reach their expected life cycle. Consequently, even if the initial cost is higher, scientists suggest that it is more cost-effective to implement thicker layers of pavements as future savings will be around 40% to 50%.
The study focuses on long-terms effects of climate change on road conditions showing that the damage will be higher and evenly distributed throughout the year (currently it is mostly observed in spring and summer periods). Scientists suggest that this fact should be taken into consideration in transportation industry. “For agencies and towns, it is a balancing act to repair roads so we’re trying to find some reasonable action that can be taken now to help manage their infrastructure. If global warming continues then we know temperatures will rise and pavement doesn’t respond well to increased temperatures. The hope is to find some answers now so cities and towns can plan for the future,” Jo Sias, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of New Hampshire, stated.
The findings were based on temperature and flooding incidents data from the coastal area of New Hampshire. However, researchers suggest that their approach should be implemented in most roadways across the U.S. and even in a large part of the road network worldwide. The trend remains the same as temperature rise and climate change effects are a global issue. The extend of those effects in every region should be considered differently to deduce the road thickness increase that is required.