A warm­ing cli­mate is chang­ing the way Canada builds ice roads

Canadian Geographic - - CONTENTS - By Ray Hy­land

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.

Teach­ers! Bring this and other in­fo­graph­ics into your class­room by vis­it­ing can­geoe­d­u­ca­­sources.

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