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TitleExamining the viability of the world's busiest winter road to climate change using a process-based lake model
AuthorMullan, D J; Barr, I D; Galloway, J MORCID logo; Newton, A M; Swindles, G T
SourceBulletin of the American Meteorological Society 2021 p. 1-37, Open Access logo Open Access
Alt SeriesNatural Resources Canada, Contribution Series 20200321
PublisherGeophysical Research Letters
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf
ProvinceNorthwest Territories
NTS75K; 75L; 75M; 75N; 76C; 76D; 76E; 76F; 85I; 85J; 85O; 85P; 86A; 86B; 86G; 86H
AreaTibbitt Lake; Lac de Gras
Lat/Long WENS-115.0000 -108.0000 65.0000 62.5000
SubjectsNature and Environment; Science and Technology; Economics and Industry; Transport; climate effects; lakes; ice thicknesses; models; temperature; Climate change; Infrastructures; Road networks; Mining industry
Illustrationstables; location maps; bar graphs; geoscientific sketch maps; time series; plots
ProgramEnvironmental Geoscience Mackenzie River
Released2021 04 08
AbstractWinter roads play a vital role in linking communities and building economies in the northern high latitudes. With these regions warming two to three times faster than the global average, climate change threatens the long-term resilience of these important seasonal transport routes. We examine how climate change will impact the world's busiest heavy-haul winter road - the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road (TCWR) in northern Canada. The FLake freshwater lake model is used to project ice thickness for a lake at the start of the TCWR - first using observational climate data, and second using modelled climate scenarios corresponding to varying rates of warming ranging from 1.5°C to 4°C above preindustrial temperatures. Our results suggest that 2°C warming could be a tipping point for the TCWR, leading to at best costly adaptation and at worst the need for alternative forms of transportation. Containing warming to the more ambitious temperature target of 1.5°C pledged at the 2016 Paris Agreement may be the only way to keep the TCWR operational - albeit for a reduced window of time. More widely, we show that higher regional winter warming across much of the rest of Arctic North America threatens the long-term resilience of winter roads at a continental scale. This underlines the importance of continued global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions to avoid many long-term and irreversible impacts of climate change.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
Warming of 2°C may be a tipping point for the world's busiest winter road, while enhanced winter warming threatens the resilience of winter roads across Arctic North America.

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