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Graduate Defense: Md Shahjalal Chowdhury

July 3 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm MDT

Thesis Information

Title: Quantifying the Effects of Climate Change on Pavement Performance Prediction using AASHTOWare Pavement ME Design

Program: Master of Science in Civil Engineering

Advisor: Dr. Debakanta Mishra, Civil Engineering

Committee: Dr. Mojtaba Sadegh, Civil Engineering, Dr. Bhaskar Chittoori, Civil Engineering, and Dr. Eshan V. Dave, Civil Engineering


Climate change is one of the most concerning global issues and has the potential to influence every aspect of human life. Like different components of the society, it can impose significant adverse impacts on the pavement infrastructure. Although several research efforts have focused on studying the effects of climate change on natural and built systems, its impact on pavement performance has not been studied as extensively. The primary objective of this thesis research was to quantify the effect of climate change on flexible pavement response and performance prediction using the Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design approach implemented through AASHTOWare Pavement ME Design (PMED).

Temperature was considered in this research as the primary climatic input affecting pavement performance predictions. Historical climatic data available through the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) database was used as the control case for the comparative analyses. Predicted data considered to simulate the temperature changes were obtained from two different approaches: (1) manually altering the historical data to represent scenarios with increased mean and standard deviation for the temperature distribution; and (2) using Global Climate Models (GCM’s) projected data. Simulations results showed an increase in Asphalt Concrete (AC) rutting as well as Total Pavement rutting with increasing air temperatures. In contrast, the projected temperature had no or very little effect on AC thermal cracking, terminal IRI, and bottom-up fatigue cracking for the chosen study locations and pavement sections.

Moreover, it was found that the effect of changed air temperatures can be different for pavements constructed in different parts of the country. The analysis also confirmed that Local Calibration Factors (LCFs) established for Idaho, could not successfully capture the effects of temperature change on pavement performance. LCFs for several other states performed better in capturing the effects of temperature change. Findings from this study will help identify challenges faced by pavement engineers due to changing climatic patterns. Also, the findings will help the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) identify limitations with the current LCF values.