Impacts of desiccation cracking and climate change on highway cutting hydrology

2014-06-12T08:17:45Z (GMT) by Andrew Booth
Climate change is predicted to have a global effect on temperatures and precipitation rates throughout the world. The UK Climate projections expect that in the United Kingdom this will lead to warmer, drier summers and wetter winters, where events of extreme rainfall are more common. These changes are expected to impact on slope hydrology, and concurrently slope stability. In the United Kingdom this impact is expected to be negative, whereas in other countries, such as Italy and France it could lead to slopes being more stable. Infrastructure slopes in the UK range in age and construction quality, they are susceptible to serviceability problems, characterised by heterogeneous material properties and can fail unexpectedly due to progressive reduction in soil shear strength. In this thesis the effects of climate change on a highway cutting in the south of England are modelled, using numerical methods. A finite element model is created and developed in the software package GeoStudio VADOSE/W. The model has been validated against observed pore water pressure trends and magnitudes and is shown to be able to accurately replicate the behaviour. By incorporating the effects of desiccation cracking on the soil s material properties, by the means of bimodal soil water characteristic curve and hydraulic conductivity function, the replication of these trends is improved even further. A series of future climate series were created using the UKCP09 Weather Generator 2.0. These series were implemented with the VADOSE/W model as climate boundary conditions and models were run, and the results compared to control, current climate results. The results were investigated by the means of statistical analyses which revealed that climate change will have some significant effects on the slope s hydrology, increasing magnitudes of evapotranspiration greatly which can have further significant effects on the magnitude of suctions developing in the slope throughout the summer. It is thought that the results suggest that climate change will not have significant negative effects on slope stability. However it is important to remember that the results only apply with certainty to the specific slope and climate change scenario investigated here. The methods used and developed within this thesis can be extended to other locations, in the UK and internationally, analysing the effects of different climate change scenarios.