Thursday October 4, 2012

DURHAM, N.H. (AP) -- A $750,000 National Science Foundation grant will help University of New Hampshire researchers examine how climate affects road and bridge construction.

Road and bridge engineers look to climate data when designing and constructing projects, but researchers say data representing the changing nature of climate has largely eluded them, in part because of its complexity.

"The climate change community and the infrastructure engineers are not yet talking," said Jennifer Jacobs, principal researcher. "They’re not at the same meetings, they’re not in the same departments at universities."

Jo Daniel, a researcher and associate professor of civil engineering at UNH, said if climate is changing, using weather data from 20 years ago is not going to represent what the road will experience in the next 20 years.

The four-year grant will fund the creation of the Infrastructure and Climate Network, or ICNet, to support the integration of climate science and engineering research. Representatives from state departments of transportation and practicing engineers will also be involved.

The goal is create workshops using an "Anytown Northeast" case study on the relationship of climate change to building roads and bridges.

"Linking knowledge to action is not automatic, but it’s critical," said Jack Kartez, a researcher and professor of community planning and development at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service.

The researchers hope that their New England-based collaborative could be expanded elsewhere.