Winter roads in the North threatened by climate change
Each year, temporary roads or winter roads are created in the north of most Canadian provinces to connect the most isolated communities. Ice Road Photo: Government of Manitoba
A text by Rémi Authier
Every winter, since the 1950s, thousands of kilometers of roads have been created in the north of the country. The roads of northern Manitoba and Ontario together are an end-to-end road system long enough to connect Montreal and Vancouver.
Manitoba has approximately 2100 km of winter roads that connect more than 20 communities, including the Barren Lands First Nation, located more than 900 km from Winnipeg. Photo: Radio-Canada
Often referred to as ice roads, these roads are normally created from mid-January and cross lakes, rivers and wetlands. They become impassable again with the arrival of hot weather at the end of March.
By putting end-to-end winter roads created each year in Manitoba and Ontario, we get a route long enough to connect Montreal and Vancouver. Photo: Radio-Canada
They are vital arteries for northern communities. During the other 10 months of the year, they only have access to air transport. Without these roads, the cost of delivering fuel, food and building materials would explode, as air travel is two to three times more expensive than road transport.
The ice road season is decreasing. According to a study, in 2020, its duration will be shortened by 5 days compared to traditional averages. It will be 14 days shorter in 2080. Another study predicts that the season will be shortened by 8 and 21 days respectively in 2020 and 2080.
Traditionally, roads were open for 50 to 55 days a year on average. We have already seen a tendency to reduce the opening period. For example, during the winter of 1999-2000, they were usable only 20 days.