CLIMATE CHANGE THREATENS ICE ROADS. SATELLITES COULD HELP – by Nick Stockton (Wired Magazine – April 18, 2019)

FOR A FEW months each winter, Canada’s Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road is the world’s longest ice highway, a 300-plus-mile network of frozen lakes that connects lucrative diamond mines in Canada’s Northwest Territories to supplies from the nation’s not-quite-so-far north.

But warmer winters and earlier springs have shortened the road’s open season by up to two weeks over the past decade. The loss of the road for even such a short time is very expensive, because the only other way to reach these mines is by air.

Salvation may come from space. A Canadian researcher has demonstrated that radar emitted from satellites can peer through the ice, determining not just its thickness but also its quality. (Does it have a lot of bubbles?

That means it’s getting weaker and needs repair.) The satellite imagery is so detailed that researchers could even see waves in the unfrozen water beneath the surface, created when 18-wheelers pass over the ice layer.

That makes for cool imagery, but even cooler data—the waves weaken the ice’s tensile strength, so if the road managers can monitor the strength and intensity of the waves, they can better maintain the ice highway and even reroute traffic so the convoy can keep moving.

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