EGU22-13409, updated on 09 Jan 2024
EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Climate-driven deterioration of long-life, long-linear geotechnical infrastructure

Helen Brooks1, Ross Stirling1, Anthony Blake2, Jessica Holmes1, Zelong Yu3, Arnaud Watlet4, James Whiteley4, Kevin Briggs5, Alister Smith6, Paul Hughes7, Joe Smethurst2, Jonathan Chambers4, and Neil Dixon6
Helen Brooks et al.
  • 1Newcastle University, United Kingdom
  • 2University of Southampton, United Kingdom
  • 3Liverpool John Moores University, United Kingdom
  • 4British Geological Survey, United Kingdom
  • 5University of Bath, United Kingdom
  • 6Loughborough University, United Kingdom
  • 7Durham University, United Kingdom

Long-life, long linear geotechnical assets such as road, rail and flood embankments provide vital transport and flood defence infrastructure. Slope failures can close transport networks and cause delays, or can reduce the protection provided against flood hazards. This creates huge economic cost and can cause a risk to life for those using affected transport networks or resident on the floodplain. Where emergency repair is needed, the estimated cost of this is 10 times that of scheduled maintenance making effective asset management an industry priority (Glendinning et al., 2009).

However, projected climatic changes pose a threat to the stability of these assets. The most recent IPCC report highlighted projected future changes to temperatures and rainfall. These climatic changes alter the natural cycles of wetting and drying experienced by assets, which results in deterioration of asset performance. Deterioration can occur due to a variety of processes, including crack formation and propagation, downslope plastic strain accumulation and geochemical or mineralogical changes. These ultimately influence the strength, stiffness, permeability and water retention of the soil, which can often mean the construction standard of the asset is not maintained (Stirling et al., 2021).

The ACHILLES project aims to improve understanding of how these processes occur and how they may be affected by projected climatic change. Here, we introduce three large-scale field monitoring sites, including a purpose-built trial embankment, flood embankment and highway cutting. These assets are heavily instrumented to measure soil deformation, soil hydrology and local weather conditions, amongst others. Data from these sites are analysed to further understand deterioration processes and inform future design, construction, monitoring and management of these earthworks. We will discuss key insights from this project, including implications for stakeholders.


Glendinning S, Hall J, Manning L (2009) Asset-management strategies for infrastructure embankments. Proc Inst Civ Eng Eng Sustain 162:111–120

Stirling RA, Toll DG, Glendinning S, Helm PR, Yildiz A, Hughes PN, Asquith JD. Weather-driven deterioration processes affecting the performance of embankment slopes. Géotechnique 2021, 71(11), 957-969.

How to cite: Brooks, H., Stirling, R., Blake, A., Holmes, J., Yu, Z., Watlet, A., Whiteley, J., Briggs, K., Smith, A., Hughes, P., Smethurst, J., Chambers, J., and Dixon, N.: Climate-driven deterioration of long-life, long-linear geotechnical infrastructure, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-13409,, 2022.


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