The accuracy of the finite element model (FEM) for concrete closed girder cross-sections is significantly influenced by thermal boundary conditions. The internal thermal boundary conditions can be simulated by inputting the convection heat transfer coefficient and the temperatures inside the cavities or by establishing air elements in the FEM. In order to analyze the influence of different simulation methods for the internal thermal boundary conditions on temperature distributions for concrete closed girder cross-sections, the temperature distributions on the cross-sections of a box girder, small box girders, and adjacent box girders were monitored, and the corresponding FEMs were implemented. By comparing the temperature data obtained from the field test and FEMs, the numerical hourly temperature curves calculated by using the measured temperatures inside the cavities provide the closest agreement with the measured results; however, the measurements of the temperatures on site are cost- and time-prohibitive. When there is a lack of measured temperatures inside the cavities, the numerical hourly temperature curves calculated by establishing air elements in the FEM provide the closest agreement. The influences of different simulation methods for the internal thermal boundary conditions on the highest hourly average effective temperatures and the trends of the vertical temperature gradients for concrete closed girder cross-sections were small. The FEM with air elements can be adopted to analyze the temperature distributions on concrete closed girder cross-sections under historically extreme temperature conditions. It can be predicted that the longitudinal thermal movement of concrete closed girders would be underestimated by considering variations in the one-year measured average effective temperature of the cross-sections or the Chinese-code-specified design effective temperature for the highway bridge structures, which are thus unconservative for engineering applications. The Chinese-code-specified design vertical temperature gradients are conservative for the bridge deck surface and unconservative for the bottom flange.
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