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Potential climate change impacts on our roads

July 10, 2019; 3:07 PM

Pavements such as asphalt, which make up a majority of our roads, parking lots and driveways, become increasingly vulnerable to breaking down when there is flooding and temperatures rise to extreme levels.

As the climate continues to warm, we are likely to experience more extreme temperatures and flooding events due to heavy rainfall and coastal flooding. This may further accelerate the breaking-down process of pavements, which will clearly have serious impacts to transportation.

Researchers from the University of New Hampshire have found a way to extend the life cycle of pavements, while also keeping the future costs down.

The research team determined that increasing the thickness of asphalt on certain roads is one way to do this, according to the UNH Newsroom report.

"Just like a regular oil change can help extend the life of a car, our research shows regular maintenance, like increasing the asphalt-layer thickness of some roads, can help protect them from further damage related to climate change," said Jo Sias, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UNH.

The study concluded the following.......

1. Winter pavement season may end as early as mid-century, while being replaced by a longer autumn season.

2. Spring and summer pavement damage projected to be more distributed throughout the entire year.

3. The best way to maintain the service ability of some roads is to increase the asphalt-layer thickness by 7 to 32 percent.

It is true that increasing the thickness of asphalt will likely add additional short-term coasts, but doing now rather than later can lead to increased savings of 40 to 50 percent in the long term.

"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," said Sias.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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