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Author Topic: Ice Roads in Canada  (Read 824 times)

cpzilliacus

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Ice Roads in Canada
« on: April 20, 2017, 07:47:19 PM »

New York Times: Ice Roads Ease Isolation in Canada’s North, but They’re Melting Too Soon

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Northwest Territories — In Canada’s northern latitudes, the frigid winter means freedom.

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That is when lakes and rivers freeze into pavements of marbled blue ice. For a few months, trucks can haul fuel or lumber or diamonds or a moose carcass to the region’s remote communities and mines that are cut off by water and wilderness, reachable for most of the year only by barge or by air.

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But Canada’s ice roads — more than 3,300 miles of them — have been freezing later and melting earlier, drastically reducing the precious window of time that isolated residents rely on to restock a year’s worth of vital supplies, or to simply take a road trip.

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Even in the depths of winter, increasingly frequent storms and thawing have made the roads more dangerous and sometimes too weak to use safely, prompting the authorities to close them for days at a time.

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“It’s taking longer for everything to freeze up, and the ice isn’t as thick,” said Wally Schumann, the minister of infrastructure for the Northwest Territories. “Ice roads are the lifeline of our communities, and now they’re at risk.”
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Chris

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Re: Ice Roads in Canada
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2017, 08:51:40 AM »

This seems particularly problematic in Manitoba and Ontario, where the ice roads are on a latitude that is fairly far south. At such latitudes, the sun stays above the horizon for up to 10 hours during the ice road season, accelerating the melting process if the temperatures are higher than usual.

Manitoba wants to construct a network of all-weather roads on the east side of Lake Winnipeg to replace the winter road system. It's just too far south to be reliable.

cpzilliacus

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Re: Ice Roads in Canada
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2017, 09:21:08 AM »

This seems particularly problematic in Manitoba and Ontario, where the ice roads are on a latitude that is fairly far south. At such latitudes, the sun stays above the horizon for up to 10 hours during the ice road season, accelerating the melting process if the temperatures are higher than usual.

Manitoba wants to construct a network of all-weather roads on the east side of Lake Winnipeg to replace the winter road system. It's just too far south to be reliable.

Finland is having the same problem with its ice roads, especially one that runs out across the brackish Gulf of Botnia to the island of Hailuoto.  The ice road (officially part of Highway 816) used to be open for quite a few winter months, now not more than a few weeks (the government runs ferry service when the ice road is not passable for Highway 816 drivers).
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oscar

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Re: Ice Roads in Canada
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2017, 05:56:45 PM »

One point of confusion here is that many of the so-called "ice roads" are built on frozen ground, rather than frozen lakes or other waterways. Northwest Territories calls them all "winter roads", even the now-permanently-closed winter road to Tuktoyaktuk which was almost all on ice.

The operating season for water crossings is shorter than on overland winter roads, though even the latter depends on the ground being frozen enough to support heavy loads. In NWT, not only are the overland winter roads closed in the summer, it is an "indictable offence" to try to drive them when they're not open. The mostly-overland winter road between Wrigley and Norman Wells has permanent bridges over waterways, so it can open when the waterways aren't frozen, but it's still closed most of the year. Conversion of that road to all-season, using most of the existing bridges, might be next on the winter road conversion agenda, once the new all-season road to Tuktoyaktuk is completed.

BTW, the president of Polar Industries, quoted in the NYT article, in recent years was one of the stars of "Ice Road Truckers". That TV show did its best to stretch the definition of "ice road", even including Alaska's Dalton Highway which is not only all-season but also partially paved (a fact IRT worked hard to hide from its viewers).
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cpzilliacus

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Re: Ice Roads in Canada
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2017, 06:08:10 PM »

One point of confusion here is that many of the so-called "ice roads" are built on frozen ground, rather than frozen lakes or other waterways. Northwest Territories calls them all "winter roads", even the now-permanently-closed winter road to Tuktoyaktuk which was almost all on ice.

An excellent point.  A road that is "frozen hard" can handle a much heavier vehicle or vehicle combination than other roads.

The operating season for water crossings is shorter than on overland winter roads, though even the latter depends on the ground being frozen enough to support heavy loads. In NWT, not only are the overland winter roads closed in the summer, it is an "indictable offence" to try to drive them when they're not open. The mostly-overland winter road between Wrigley and Norman Wells has permanent bridges over waterways, so it can open when the waterways aren't frozen, but it's still closed most of the year. Conversion of that road to all-season, using most of the existing bridges, might be next on the winter road conversion agenda, once the new all-season road to Tuktoyaktuk is completed.

As I understand it, those roads cannot support most rubber-tire vehicles when they  are not frozen, and driving on them does significant damage to the environment.

BTW, the president of Polar Industries, quoted in the NYT article, in recent years was one of the stars of "Ice Road Truckers". That TV show did its best to stretch the definition of "ice road", even including Alaska's Dalton Highway which is not only all-season but also partially paved (a fact IRT worked hard to hide from its viewers).

I was not all that interested in Ice Road Truckers, which was apparently more about the challenges of operating heavy commercial vehicles over long distances in the (mostly dark) conditions to be found in the winter along those roads. 

This was not a show I watched often, but I do remember an interesting segment on the Dalton Highway corridor where the load had to be driven out onto the frozen Arctic Ocean to a drilling site - over an ice road.
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Chris

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Re: Ice Roads in Canada
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2017, 06:20:49 AM »

The later seasons of Ice Road Truckers (the show ended last year) focused mostly on Manitoba and Ontario, where there are numerous ice crossings but most of the distance is traveled on winter roads, snow-covered all-weather roads and even paved roads. There are paved roads up to Thompson which is 8 hours north of Winnipeg, which was home base for the show. From Thompson there are all-weather roads going to more remote communities like Norway House, Gillam and Lynn Lake. The real winter roads only start from there.

One time they went to Fort Severn and Peawanuck, which is along the Hudson Bay in Ontario, but only accessible via Northern Manitoba. That is a genuine long trip on winter roads.

I guess 'ice road' sounds more catchy / appealing than 'winter road'.

 


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