A warming climate is changing the way Canada builds ice roads
The new tech that could help preserve Canada’s remaining ice roads
When the 190-kilometre Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk ice road in the Northwest Territories was replaced by a $300-million permanent highway on Nov. 15, 2017, it signalled the end of an era. Unpredictable ice and weather patterns in a warming climate had shortened the seasonal lifespan of the Arctic’s most famous ice road and made its surface unpredictable. These issues threaten the ice roads that continue to operate across Canada’s North, remnants of a crucial mode of transportation in the Arctic since the 1930s. At that time, the region had just started to open up to development and engineers saw a need for goods and people to be efficiently transported by motor vehicle across the frozen terrain safely and more cost-effectively than maintaining year-round roads on the tundra. They enlisted the help of local guides to determine road locations and identify the times of year when ice would be thick enough to support multiple vehicles. For nearly a century, these ice-road guidelines adopted by northern governments didn’t change, but now in the face of a warming climate, they have to. These changes have forced ice-road builders to use new technology to preserve the last of Canada’s ice roads. Here are some of the innovations they use to keep these roads active and safe.
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