This is Chapter 16 of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.
Lead Author: Arne Instanes; Contributing Authors: Oleg Anisimov, Lawson Brigham, Douglas Goering, Lev N. Khrustalev, Branko Ladanyi, Jan Otto Larsen; Consulting Authors: Orson Smith, Amy Stevermer, Betsy Weatherhead, Gunter Weller
This chapter discusses the potential impacts of climate change on arctic infrastructure. Particular concerns are associated with permafrost warming and degradation, coastal erosion, the stability and maintenance of transportation routes, and industrial development. Adaptation, mitigation, and monitoring techniques will be necessary to minimize the potentially serious detrimental impacts.
Infrastructure is defined as facilities with permanent foundations or the essential elements of a community. It includes schools; hospitals; various types of buildings and structures; and facilities such as roads, railways, airports, harbors, power stations, and power, water, and sewage lines. Infrastructure forms the basis for regional and national economic growth.
Climate change is likely to have significant impacts on existing arctic infrastructure and on all future development in the region. In most cases, engineering solutions are available to address climate change impacts, thus the issue is more economic than technological. It is possible that the uncertainty associated with projections of future climate change will increase the cost of new projects in the Arctic.
Permafrost engineers must address the problem of preserving infrastructure under projected future climate conditions. One solution is to construct new buildings as existing ones are damaged and abandoned. It is possible that this method will be inadequate, since the required rate of new construction rises exponentially using the climate projections presented in this assessment.
In areas of warm, discontinuous permafrost, it is very difficult to find economic solutions to address the impacts of climate change on foundations or structures. These areas, together with the coastal zone where the combined problems of increased wave action, sea-level rise, and thermal erosion have no simple engineering solutions, present the greatest challenges in a changing climate.
Projected increases in temperature, precipitation, and storm magnitude and frequency are very likely to increase the frequency of avalanches and landslides. In some areas, the probability of severe impacts on settlements, roads, and railways from these events is very likely to increase. Structures located on sites prone to slope failure are very likely to be more exposed to slide activity as groundwater amounts and pore water pressures increase.
An increasing probability of slides coupled with increasing traffic and population concentrations is very likely to require expensive mitigation measures to maintain a defined risk level. The best way to address these problems is to incorporate the potential for increasing risk in the planning process for new settlements and transportation routes.
Chapter 16: Infrastructure: Buildings, Support Systems, and Industrial Facilities
16.2. Physical environment and processes related to infrastructure
16.2.1. Observed changes in air temperature
16.2.3. Natural hazards
16.2.4. Coastal environment
16.2.5. Arctic Ocean
16.3. Infrastructure in the Arctic
16.4. Engineering design for a changing climate
16.5. Gaps in knowledge and research needs