UNH receives $ 1.8 million grant to study road and flood resilience

DURHAM – After a hot summer, steadily rising sea levels and devastating hurricanes like Hurricane Ida, which produced record amounts of precipitation causing devastating and deadly flooding in the northeast and coast of Gulf, coastal roads continued to be severely battered, resulting in endless wear and tear.

Because these roads have become increasingly vulnerable, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded a $ 1.8 million grant to researchers at the University of New Hampshire to study how and why coastal hazards as excessive flooding causes roads to crack and collapse and find ways to protect them.

A car attempts to cross a frequently flooded road in Hampton, New Hampshire during another flood caused by an incoming tide.

“We are trying to better understand the causal links not only between extreme events, but also the gradual changes in sea level rise that can increase the rate of pavement damage and trigger failures requiring major reconstruction. of the road “, said Jo Sias, professor. civil and environmental engineering. “We’re looking at storm surges and wave action, but also factors like how long the pavement is underwater. “

The aim of the project is to understand the combined risks of overflow and subterranean moisture – flooding from above and below the road. Researchers at UNH – and their partners at the University of Southern Alabama and the Rockingham Planning Commission – will develop a number of hydrodynamic models capable of analyzing fluids in motion. They will use new data collected in the field as well as historical information to create high-resolution models to study groundwater and pavements, as well as to conduct an adaptation impact assessment to develop a toolbox. tools to help assess the vulnerability of roads to flood risks. The researchers say that although engineers have studied these impacts independently, an approach is needed that combines the different effects to better assess options for alternative coatings. This information will be invaluable for state and city authorities to assess the impact of sea level rise on the longevity of coastal roads and help implement practical alternatives for communities to protect infrastructure. .

“It is important to prioritize and share this information so that we can create important decision-making tools, identify institutional barriers and develop the policies needed to update coastal resilience practices of state transport agencies. ”Sias said. “Improving coastal roads to withstand increasing water risks is important not only for transport and the people who live there, but also for the overall economy and ecosystems of the region.

Drone photo of a section of Hampton, New Hampshire that experiences excessive flooding that continually submerges coastal roads.

Taking into account factors such as climate change and changing weather conditions, the study will focus on two geographically and geologically diverse coastal regions: the northeast coast of New Hampshire and the southeast coast of Alabama. . The research team will work with key end users to determine adaptation approaches and new management policies and practices for transport agencies that have a positive impact on surrounding communities.

The grant is part of NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Effects program which is based at the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Sciences. The ESLR provides a suite of scientific products to educate coastal managers about local coastal vulnerability and solutions to mitigate flood risks.

Street sign and letterbox along a road in Hampton, NH emerging from flood waters during a rising tide.

NCCOS provides ecosystem science solutions for the National Ocean Service of NOAA and its partners, bringing research, scientific information, and tools to help balance the nation’s ecological, social, and economic goals.

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