The Weird Reason More Bridges Are About to Fail | Summary and Q&A

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September 4, 2023
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The Weird Reason More Bridges Are About to Fail

TL;DR

Climate change poses a significant threat to bridges, as rising temperatures, increased rainfall, and corrosion from carbonation can compromise their structural integrity.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why are many bridges vulnerable to climate change?

Most bridges were built before the effects of climate change were understood, and their designs did not account for the current and future impacts of climate crises.

Q: How does thermal stress affect bridge integrity?

When materials are exposed to heat, they expand, potentially causing structural components to no longer fit together properly. Expansion joints help accommodate these changes, but they can become clogged and fail on hotter days.

Q: What is scour, and why does it pose a threat to bridges?

Scour is the erosion of bridge foundations caused by water turbulence. With increased rainfall and flooding due to climate change, scour can occur at a faster rate than predicted, weakening the foundation.

Q: How does carbonation lead to corrosion in bridges?

Carbon dioxide in the air infiltrates concrete, reducing its alkalinity and compromising the protective layer on steel rebar. As a result, the steel rusts much faster, accelerating deterioration.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Many bridges are aging and were not designed to withstand the effects of climate change.

  • Thermal stress, caused by expanding materials in changing temperatures, can lead to bridge failures, especially if expansion joints are blocked.

  • Scour, the erosion of bridge foundations due to intensified rainfall and flooding, is a growing concern.

  • Corrosion of steel rebar in concrete bridges escalates due to carbonation resulting from increased CO2 levels.

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