Understanding the Consequences and Costs of Climate Change on Texas Pavements

Megha Sharma, University of Texas at El Paso


Over the several centuries, the global temperatures have been rising, and the rate of rising in temperature has increased significantly in the last century. The increase in temperature and precipitation can substantially influence performance life of pavements because of their continuous exposure to climate. The climate parameters like temperature and precipitation are considered in the pavement design to reflect the influence of climate factors on the performance of the pavements. Currently, designers use the historical weather patterns while designing pavements. Since the climate is changing, the estimated service life of the pavement will be reduced significantly if the historical data is used in designs. The primary purpose of this study was to identify the influence of climate change on the service life of pavements and identify the levels of loss in service life in the event of climate change. To understand how the climate change will affect the pavement performance, a thorough review of information was conducted to identify the current state of practice and research gaps. Based on the review, the impact of climate change on the performance of pavements was performed using future climate models and Pavement ME design software. The study used twelve future climate prediction models from NARCCAP databases to develop an understanding of climatic factors like on the performance of the pavement structures. The pavement structure evaluation was performed (using Pavement Mechanistic-Empirical (ME) Design software and future climate model predictions) to evaluate the influence of climate on the performance of different pavement structures, mix types, and regional variations, among others. The results of the impact were incorporated in SD Model for decision makers. Various approaches were evaluated to mitigate the influence of climate change like changing the thickness of the AC layer, using the high-quality material, etc. An economic analysis approach was also developed to help decision-makers in selecting pavement designs that can withstand and resist climate change. All the selected twelve climate model simulations showed different climate prediction, and variations in performance of the pavement section and these projections vary geographically. The distresses in the pavement sections increases for the future climate as compared to the historical weather data (Pavement ME Climate) indicating premature failure of the pavement structure. This changing climate adversely impacts the pavements functionality by reducing the service life of pavements. The performance of the pavement section is influenced more by the combined effects of climate change and extreme events than the individual event. The Pavement ME analysis was also compared with FPS software design. The comparison evaluation suggested that the Pavement ME Design method predicts less service life in comparison to FPS 21. However, the FPS 21 doesn’t take into consideration change in climate, and the pavement designed using FPS 21 may require maintenance earlier than anticipated. To withstand changing climate adaptation methods were adopted. Either pavement needs to use high-performance materials or enhance layer thicknesses or consider both during pavement design. These adaptation strategies improve the performance of the pavement sections, thus, mitigating the impacts of the changing climate. Finally, the cost and emission analysis show that early consideration of future weather changes into design yields long-term benefits regarding savings in user costs and emissions.

Subject Area

Civil engineering

Recommended Citation

Sharma, Megha, "Understanding the Consequences and Costs of Climate Change on Texas Pavements" (2018). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10930020.