To address knowledge gaps at the Iqaluit International Airport, scientists conducted geoscientific research of the airport’s permafrost conditions, its sensitivity to thaw settlement and the physical processes involved in the permafrost’s degradation. Scientists used a range of geoscience data to assess the conditions. This included ecological and surficial sediment mapping. Remote sensing of ground settlement was also used to identify potential hazards. These initiatives were supported by field validations, geophysical surveys and permafrost measurements. The hazard, direct costs, and indirect cost factors were determined from available site data, project documents (plans, earned value reports, project agreement), and stakeholder interviews. The hazard analysis used Monte Carlo simulation and standard permafrost engineering calculations to determine thaw settlements using a stochastic analysis. Human and societal impact factors were determined from rubrics and conversations with stakeholders. The results of the research translated into engineering decisions made by the Government of Nunavut and its partners, that will help prolong the life of a critical piece of northern infrastructure.
In 2017, researchers from Laval University conducted a quantitative risk analysis of the sensitivity of Iqaluit International Airport (YFB) to thaw settlement and permafrost degradation. Located in the city of Iqaluit in the territory of Nunavut, Iqaluit Airport is a hub for air transportation in the eastern Canadian Arctic. YFB has a 2,750-m runway and associated aprons and taxiways servicing the community of Iqaluit, Nunavut and outer lying Nunavut communities for which Iqaluit is the transit hub. It was built during the 1940’s, expanded with additional apron area and taxiways in the late 1950’s, 1970’s and 2010’s, and resurfaced and repaired repeatedly throughout the life of the infrastructure. As with most infrastructure in the Canadian Arctic, permafrost conditions were not investigated before construction. The uppermost layer of permafrost, known as the active layer, melts in summer with the depth of thaw dependent on the warmth of the summer. When the depth of thaw extends into ice-rich permafrost, the runway’s surface settles or cracks, requiring expensive repairs. Increasingly warm seasonal temperatures are causing the active layer to deepen thawing more subsurface ice, which brings more headaches for airport managers. To address knowledge gaps at the Iqaluit International Airport, scientists conducted geoscientific research of the airport’s permafrost conditions, its sensitivity to thaw settlement and the physical processes involved in the permafrost’s degradation. The research produced a quantitative risk analysis methodology utilizing geostatistics and reliability analysis methods and cost information to analyze the thaw settlement and soil bridge formation dangers within the embankment.