Method for Evaluating Implications of Climate Change for Design and Performance of Flexible Pavements


A method to assess the impacts of forecasted climate change on pavement deterioration is presented. Traditional methods of pavement design use historic climate data and assume that climate is stationary with time. Climate change challenges this assumption of stationarity (i.e., natural driving forces of engineering have a variability described by a time-invariant probability density function). Therefore, the use of historic climate data is insufficient for the prediction of climate conditions. The focus is on the preparation and the use of climate model data sets as inputs to the Mechanistic–Empirical Pavement Design Guide (MEPDG) model to simulate flexible pavement performance and deterioration over time. The method is illustrated with a case study that uses future climate model temperature data from three North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program scenarios at four sites across New England. Pavement distress predicted with future temperature scenarios is compared with that from MEPDG temperature data. Application of the method demonstrates the importance of matching the overlapping periods before using climate forecast output in the MEPDG. Although the simulated impact of future temperature changes on pavement performance was negligible for alligator cracking at the four study sites, asphalt concrete rutting differences were great enough to warrant additional consideration and to suggest that climate change and variability in future climate scenarios could affect pavement design and evaluation. The proposed method can be used to evaluate the impact of other climate variables alone or in combination. The method also can readily use new climate model output and be adapted for new downscaling methods.


Earth Systems Research Center

Publication Date


Journal Title

Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type