Abstract The complex structural behavior of shallow arches can be remarkably affected by many parameters. In this paper, the structural responses of a half-sine pin-ended shallow arch under sinusoidal and step loadings are accurately calculated. Additionally, the effects of environmental temperature changes are considered. Three types of sinusoidal loadings are separately investigated. Displacements, load-bearing capacity, the magnitude of the axial force and the locus of critical points (including limit and bifurcation points) are directly obtained without tracing the corresponding equilibrium path. Furthermore, the boundaries identifying the number of critical points are investigated. All mentioned structural responses are formulized based on the rise of the arch and the environmental temperature change, which are introduced in a dimensionless form. The proposed formulation is also developed for generalized sinusoidal loadings. Additionally, the structural behavior of the shallow arch under two types of step loadings is investigated. Finally, the accuracy of the suggested approach is examined by a non-linear finite element method.