Climate Change and Arctic Infrastructure

Arne Instanes and Oleg Anisimov

Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Permafrost (NICOP), Fairbanks, Alaska, USA, June 29-July 3, 2008, pp. 779-784.



Several authors report that impacts of climate change on infrastructure in the Arctic are already evident. Damage to infrastructure and engineering structures in permafrost regions are often linked to observed increase in air temperature over the last 10 to 20 years. However, these reports do not show in detail how the change in air temperature may affect the active layer thickness and permafrost temperature at specific sites and for specific structures in the Arctic.

This paper presents the results of a study of the impact of climate change on Arctic infrastructure based on historical meteorological records. The temperature data are used together with a numerical model to evaluate the possible warming of permafrost at depth, and theoretical impacts on pile foundation capacity at specific sites in the Arctic. Results from permafrost model forced by several GCM-based climatic projections are used to construct the predictive map indicating threats to infrastructure due to potential weakening of the frozen ground.