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Permafrost data helps city in Northwest Territories plan road repairs

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

Permafrost data collected by Natural Resources Canada could help the city of Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories  plan for road repair.

Warming air temperatures mean the permafrost under parts of Yellowknife are slowly melting. Federal agencies such as The Geological Survey of Canada started monitoring conditions in 2010 using satellite radar.

The City of Yellowknife says it would love to get its hands on that information for its own planning purposes.

“That would be great information to have,” the city’s administrator, Dennis Kefalas says. “Then we can include it in our mapping and tracking system in the City and allow us to try and coordinate where these problem areas are.”

Ground sinking

As it stands, about 30 percent of Yellowknife is built on permafrost, but parts are definitely melting. The old abandoned highway outside town dips by as much as a metre in some spots, and most of that has come in the past decade permafrost scientist Steve Kokelj says.

Even in the city proper, in parts of Old town, Kam Lake and the airport, the ground has sunk between one and six centimetres.

Kefalas says the city has resorted to using cellular concrete to help offer more thermal protection to problem roads.

He says the data could help the city decide how much money needs to be allocated for those repairs.

“It allows us not to have to go back to council to ask for more money,” Kefalas says. “We can do this as part of our budget process and make sure the funding is in place.”

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.