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TitleClimate change the long-term viability of the World's busiest heavy haul ice road
AuthorMullan, D J; Swindles, G T; Patterson, R T; Galloway, J M; Macumber, A L; Falck, H; Crossley, L H; Chen, J; Pisaric, M
SourceTheoretical and Applied Climatology vol. 129, issue 3-4, 2017 p. 1089-1108,
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20150353
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf
ProvinceNorthwest Territories; Nunavut
AreaYellowknife; Lupin
SubjectsNature and Environment; Science and Technology; Health and Safety; modelling; climate, arctic; climate; transportation; ice thicknesses; ice thickness; models; Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road (TCWR); ice roads; transportation corridor
Illustrationslocation maps; tables; graphs; plots
ProgramTools for environmental impacts and adaptation for metal mining, Environmental Geoscience
AbstractClimate models project that the northern high latitudes will warm at a rate in excess of the global mean. This will pose severe problems for Arctic and sub-Arctic infrastructure dependent on maintaining low temperatures for structural integrity. This is the case for the economically important Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road (TCWR) - the world's busiest heavy haul ice road, spanning 400 km across mostly frozen lakes within the Northwest Territories of Canada. In this study, future climate scenarios are developed for the region using statistical downscaling methods. In addition, changes in lake ice thickness are projected based on historical relationships between measured ice thickness and air temperatures. These projections are used to infer the theoretical operational dates of the TCWR based on weight limits for trucks on the ice. Results across three climate models driven by four RCPs reveal a considerable warming trend over the coming decades. Projected changes in ice thickness reveal a trend towards thinner lake ice and a reduced time window when lake ice is at sufficient thickness to support trucks on the ice road, driven by increasing future temperatures. Given the uncertainties inherent in climate modelling and the resultant projections, caution should be exercised in interpreting the magnitude of these scenarios. More certain is the direction of change, with a clear trend towards winter warming that will reduce the operation time window of the TCWR. This illustrates the need for planners and policymakers to consider future changes in climate when planning annual haulage along the TCWR.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
Climate models project that northern latitudes will warm at a rate in excess of the global mean. This has large implications for the continued success of the northern mineral industry that is dependent on winter ice roads for transportation of goods and services. The Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road (TCWR) is the World's longest and busiest ice road, spanning ~400 km mostly over frozen lakes within the Northwest Territories of Canada. We developed future climate scenarios using statistical downscaling methods and project changes in ice thickness and operational dates for the TCWR. Based on these models we project that considerable warming will occur over coming decades and that trends in ice thickness toward thinner lake ice will reduce the time window when lake ice is sufficiently thick to support trucks on the road.