Permafrost data helps Yellowknife plan road repairs

Data on permafrost levels collected by the federal Department of Natural Resources could help the city of Yellowknife to better plan its road repairs this winter.
Thawing over the years is causing serious damage to roads in Yellowknife 1:57

Permafrost data collected by Natural Resources Canada could help the City of Yellowknife plan for road repair.

Warming air temperatures mean the permafrost under parts of the City is slowly thawing. 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 per cent of Yellowknife is built on permafrost, but parts are definitely thawing. 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."


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