Precipitation and Temperature Impacts on Rock and Soil Slope Stability: Interstate I-77 in Carroll County, Virginia

This is one of nine engineering case studies conducted under the Transportation Engineering Approaches to Climate Resiliency (TEACR) Project. This case study focused on the impacts of future changes in precipitation and temperature on rock and soil slope stability. Changes in climate affect factors that lead to rockfalls and landslides. For example, freeze-thaw and wet-dry cycles cause weathering that destabilize rock and can lead to rockfalls; precipitation levels affect soil moisture, which is a factor in the effective stress on slopes that can contribute to landslides. The purpose of this study is to determine if future climate changes could appreciably influence these relationships and, where appropriate, to suggest strategies for monitoring and adapting to changes in the frequency or extent of rockfalls and landslides along highway side slopes. Key gaps exist in understanding the linkages between changes in climate (in this study precipitation and temperature) and secondary impacts on infrastructure, such as rockfalls and landslides. This assessment aims to inform the relationship between climate changes (e.g., precipitation) and slope stability and to support the consideration of engineering solutions for responding to secondary impacts. In many ways, damage incurred by transportation assets that is associated with secondary events may be far greater than damage associated with the original precipitation event. In order for highways to perform under future conditions, secondary impacts and options for addressing them must be better understood. This assessment helps bridge gaps in the understanding of secondary impacts, focusing on the stability of a soil slope and rock slopes adjacent to I-77 crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwest Virginia. The key findings are that projected increases in precipitation due to climate change will not have a significant impact to the stability of the existing soil slope. At this site, freeze-thaw event frequency under future climate scenarios is projected to decrease, so no analysis of changes in rock slope stability was required. A key lesson is that detailed climate change projections are not necessary to conduct a screening level assessment of the impact of changes in precipitation on soil slope stability.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; Maps; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 45p
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01663170
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: FHWA-HEP-17-021
  • Files: TRIS, ATRI, USDOT
  • Created Date: Feb 9 2018 8:01AM