Understanding and Assessing Impacts
The Inuvik Mike Zubko Airport is located on continuous permafrost and has already experienced structural issues due to sudden subsidence, sloughing, and poor drainage. To assess the vulnerability of the Inuvik Airport to the impacts of climate change, the Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee (PIEVC) protocol of Engineers Canada was used. Thirty-two (32) climate parameters were identified under the following categories: air temperature, rainfall, snowfall, ground thawing and freezing, wind, storms, wildfires, cloud coverage, and fog. Historical climate data (1958-2014) for temperature and precipitation were obtained from a meteorological station in Inuvik. Future projections for temperature, precipitation, and climate extremes were obtained from several global climate models and the IDF-CC tool for the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 and RCP 8.5 for 2045. Subsurface and permafrost data was obtained from several sources, including site-specific surveys. Inuvik will experience an increase in temperature of about 3°C by 2045, as well as a decrease in freeze/thaw cycles and an increase in mean precipitation, despite historical data showing a decrease in rain and snow in the last decade.
To assess the vulnerability of the infrastructure and operations, relevant components of the physical airport infrastructure, supporting systems, and others were identified and assessed against the 32 climate parameters. A risk classification was assigned to each interaction based on the probability of an infrastructure component losing functionality or being adversely affected if exposed to a certain climate parameter and the severity of the consequences of loss in performance or functionality of a component. In total, 465 climate-infrastructure interactions were assessed, with no interactions identified as high risk and 65 identified as medium/medium-high risk. The components most vulnerable to climate change were the drainage system and winter/summer flight operations. The main climate hazards predicted to pose safety challenges to the airport in the future were frost on runways, taxiways, and aprons and poor visibility.