ROADS: Research suggests asphalt roads cannot handle 21st century climate

Sept. 20, 2017

Asphalt materials are not, it seems, keeping up with shifts in climate change

A study published recently in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests that the materials being used to build asphalt roads is not up to the test when it comes to withstanding the extremes in climate change that have presently being experienced and are expected to be experienced as the century progresses.

The authors estimate that the mismatch between roads and temperatures in 2010 alone has already added up to between $13 and $14 billion in unnecessary expenses.

Different grades of asphalt have tolerances that are separated by 6° Celsius. The authors estimate that being off by a single grade would take a road meant to last 20 years and reduce its lifespan to 16 to 17 years, while a two-grade dissonance would shorten it to 14 to 16 years. These shortened lifetimes mean that expensive repaving processes come along much sooner than they would otherwise need to.

An analysis of the study can be found here, and the study itself can be accessed here.

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