Grant Awarded to Study Roads and Flooding
Researchers from the University of New Hampshire have recently received a $1.8 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to study how coastal flooding impacts road pavement.
“We’re trying to better understand the causal links of not only the extreme events but also the gradual changes in sea level rise that can increase the rate of damage to pavement and trigger failures that require major road reconstruction,” said Jo Sias, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNH and lead for the project. “We’re looking at storm surges and wave action but also factors like the amount of time the pavement is under water.”
Partnering with the University of South Alabama and the Rockingham Planning Comission, UNH researchers will utilize hydrodynamic, groundwater and pavement models, along with an adaption impact assessment, to understand the link between coastal hazards and pavement damage. They will also look at adapting natural or nature-based feature alternatives to prevent pavement damage and deterioration.
The study will focus on two different coastal regions in the United States, located in New Hampshire and Alabama, respectively. According to UHN, the project's goal is to create a positive economic, environment and social impact, which the team will then use to provide information to state and town officials to help implement alternatives and protect infrastructure.
“It’s important to prioritize and share this information so we can create important decision-making tools, identify institutional barriers and develop policies needed to update state transportation agency coastal resilience practices,” Sias said. “Improving coastal roads to withstand the increasing water hazards is important not only for transportation and the people who live there but also for the overall economy and ecosystems in the area.”
The project is a part of the NOAA’s Effects of Sea Level Rise Program, based in the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. The NCCOS anticipates the research project will be completed in August 2025.
Details regarding the full research project can be read here.
Recent Flooding Studies
At the beginning of the year, researchers from Stanford University found that the United States has spent nearly $199 billion in flood damages over the last three decades.
However, researchers went a step further than just comprising a spending report and further indicated that the flooding experienced from 1988 to 2017 as a result of intensifying precipitation—consistent with predictions of global warming—was responsible for one-third ($75 billion) of the total financial costs.
The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was reported to have helped resolve a long-standing debate about the role of climate change in the rising costs of flooding and provided new insight into the financial costs of global warming overall.
Several states, including Florida, Texas and Massachusetts, have outlined spending plans and funding proposals for flooding and rising sea levels this year.
In October, nonprofit flood research and communications group, First Street Foundation, reported that one in four units of critical infrastructure in the United States—such as police stations, airports and hospitals—are at risk of being rendered inoperable due to flooding.
In addition to critical infrastructure, the report highlighted at-risk residential properties, roads, commercial properties and social infrastructure and how that risk is expected to worsen over the next 30 years with respect to climate change.
According to FSF, the risks are quantified by an area’s unique level of flooding for each infrastructure type relative to operational thresholds, as established by the federal government and other authoritative bodies.
Over the next 30 years, the report’s analysis found that risk is expected to increase by the following:
While these risks are concentrated along coastal areas in the Southeastern U.S., they are also present in the Appalachian Mountain region. Among counties, Washington County, North Carolina has the most significant county level increase in flood risk; with a 100% increase in critical infrastructure flooding, a 50.8% increase in the flooding of residential properties, a 51.7% increase in the risk of flooding of commercial properties and a 32.3% increase in the flooding of roads over up to the year 2051.
In terms of community risk, the highest concentrations are reportedly witnessed in Louisiana, Florida, Kentucky and West Virginia.