Climate change threatens to disrupt transportation in northern Canada

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Climate change threatens to disrupt transportation in northern Canada

Climate change in the Arctic is making ice conditions less predictable.

While ice travel is entrenched in Inuit culture, the effects of climate change in the Arctic are #x27;Arctic make conditions increasingly unpredictable.

Andrew Arreak says traveling over the ice, the main highway in the Canadian Arctic, provides access to land and food, connects communities and is part of Inuit identity. Climate change, however, is making travel on the ice less predictable.

I notice that the ice is forming a little later each year and breaking off a little earlier each year, pointed out Mr. Arreak of Pond Inlet, Nunavut.

Mr. Arreak is one of many northern Aboriginal people looking for ways to adapt. He works with SmartICE, an organization that integrates traditional Inuit knowledge with modern technology to better inform ice travel decisions in several northern communities.

When; he's on the ice, pulling a smart qamutiik, an Inuit sled with a sensor that measures the thickness of the ice. A smart buoy embedded in the ice measures air, snow, ice and water temperatures.

SmartICE technology makes it possible to measure ice thickness using, among other things, an Inuit sled fitted with a sensor.

SmartICE has also begun examining satellite imagery to produce hazardous ice maps as part of a pilot project launched last winter in the communities of Pond Inlet and Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. and in Nain, the northernmost permanent settlement in Newfoundland and Labrador.

People here in the community have been really excited about it and asked when the next card will be available, Arreak pointed out.

Across the North, the already underdeveloped transportation networks necessary for access to resources, medical care and travel face increasing threats due to global warming taking hold there near three times faster than the global average.

Many northern communities and mining companies depend on winter roads for their annual supply of fuel, materials construction and other goods too expensive to fly. Climate change is reducing the length of time these roads can remain open.

A report released by the Canadian Climate Change Institute in June indicates that more than half of northern winter roads could become unstable over the next 30 years. It predicts that the cost of road damage caused by climate change could exceed $70 million per year in the Yukon and $50 million in the Northwest Territories if adaptation measures are not taken.


Canada's north has long had a significant infrastructure deficit compared to the country's south. Permafrost degradation, landslides, floods and wildfires, among other impacts of climate change, only exacerbate the problem.

The Infrastructure in the North has been severely underfunded for decades, said the report's lead author, Dylan Clark. It is this kind of gap that, in part, makes communities in Canada's North much more vulnerable.

The report examines adaptation measures, including strengthening the base layers of roads and tracks, cooling embankments, excavating permafrost, relocating roads and building gravel instead of tracks paved.

Mr. Clark reiterated that there are huge cost savings associated with climate mitigation and adaptation measures.

“More resources and funding are clearly needed here. We're talking about a big upfront investment, but it's actually the most cost-effective approach here than doing nothing.

— Dylan Clark, Climate Change Adaptation Expert

The Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road is one of the longest heavy haul ice roads in the world, stretching approximately 400 kilometers and serving three diamond mines in the Northern Territories- West.

If there was no winter road, there would be no diamond mines, said Barry Henkel, director of the winter road.

The ice must be at least 73 centimeters thick before it can open and 99 centimeters for a full load capacity.

A 2021 study by the American Meteorological Society indicates that global warming of 2 degrees Celsius could require costly adaptation measures. This would require replacing river crossings with structural bridges, constructing road segments in problem areas, moving segments on the ice to land, improving ice monitoring, and sprinkling ice to increase ice cover. thickness.

The alert system set up at kilometer 1456 of the Alaska Highway collects information on humidity, temperature, and other factors.

Climate change can also affect all-weather roads, with serious consequences for northern communities that don&#x27 ;have only one entry and exit route.

Whitehorse Mayor Laura Cabbott said a heavy snowpack caused major landslides this year, which led to road closures. The City had to increase its snow removal budget by $450,000.

We must make our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also be able to adapt and to be resilient, she argued.

Fabrice Calmels, Research Chair in Permafrost and Geosciences at Yukon University, has been involved in several projects monitoring sections of the Alaska and Dempster Highways vulnerable to climate change. Thermosyphons, which are gas-filled tubes that allow heat to escape from the ground and keep the permafrost cold, have been installed on a section of the highway from Alaska to Alaska. exterior of Beaver Creek.

These are all kinds of issues, which we call geohazards that impact the highway, and there is no single solution, he said.

The Alaska Highway is damaged by melting permafrost.

Permafrost thaw and extreme weather conditions also deform and crack runways. Many northern communities rely heavily on air transportation, and in some cases it is the only mode of transportation year-round.

The Northwest Territories and the federal government are spending $22 million to protect the Inuvik airport from climate change and reduce ground settlement caused by thawing permafrost. This includes widening the runway, repairing the surface and improving drainage.

Like many buildings in the Nunavut capital, the Iqaluit airport is equipped with a system of thermosyphons, i.e. pipes that cool the basement.

A new $300 million airport opened in Iqaluit in August 2017, with upgrades including major repairs due to thawing permafrost.

Nunavut is also developing proposals to repair severe cracks in the runway at Rankin Inlet Airport, Assistant Deputy Minister of Transportation John Hawkins said.

A Transport Canada spokesperson said the department recognizes the critical role that northern transportation corridors play and is working to improve understanding of the risks posed by climate change.

< source srcset=",w_600/v1/ici-info/perso/grand-nord-banniere.jpg" media="(min-width: 0px) and (max- width: 640px)"/>With information from La Presse canadienne

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