What is it about?

The drastic change in global climate has resulted in an increase in extreme weather events. This is putting human-made infrastructure at risk. In Canada, more than half of the road structures are built on permafrost, a layer of ice that does not melt from year to year. The most prevalent type of pavement in the country are flexible pavements made of asphalt concrete. But, they are crumbling due to high temperatures. Increasing temperatures are also making the permafrost melt, causing the ground underneath roads and buildings to slump. Moreover, ground water is increasing due to heavy rainfall and rising sea levels, adding to the collapse of road infrastructure. The authors of this study review the existing literature to assess the effect of climate change on the structure and performance of flexible pavements in Canada. They define the key aspects of flexible pavement design and suggest possible ways to mitigate the effects of climate change.

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Why is it important?

In northern Canada, permafrost-degradation is causing damage to roads. On the other hand, in southern Canada, the effects of heat are causing irreversible rutting, fatigue, and cracking of pavements. Moreover, rainfall is stripping the land, decreasing the bonding of pavement materials and affecting soil strength capacity. Seasonal freeze-thaw cycles are also altering the characteristics and load bearing capacity of the permafrost layer, thereby damaging pavements. Climate change poses an imminent threat to the safety and functionality of roads and pavements, but current road-design practices do not integrate tactics to support the construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation of these structures. KEY TAKEAWAY: There is an urgent need to implement permafrost mitigation techniques in the design and construction of pavements. Road and pavement design should take into consideration local climate and the impact of these conditions on structural materials and construction quality.

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This page is a summary of: Climate Change Challenges for Flexible Pavement in Canada: An Overview, Journal of Cold Regions Engineering, December 2021, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), DOI: 10.1061/(asce)cr.1943-5495.0000262.
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