Permafrost subsidence is a big problem for northern roads. It can reduce their stability, cause cracks to appear, and if left unchecked may even render the roads inoperable.
Snow is an excellent insulator. Like a thick down jacket, it traps air in the pockets between the accumulated snowflakes, protecting the ground from cold air temperatures. When snow becomes compacted — by piling it up beside a road, for example — the air is squeezed out and the properties of the snow change to allow heat through more easily, like a thin windbreaker.
The goal of Patrick Jardine’s research is to improve the longevity and sustainability of infrastructure in permafrost regions by developing active snow management techniques for the purpose of reducing thaw subsidence along highways.
Earlier this year Pat took Science Borealis‘ Pitch and Polish blog writing course and you can now read his full blog post – Crushing snowbanks could help to preserve permafrost and keep northern communities connected on the Science Borealis blog.
Pat is a Master’s student studying physical geography at Carleton University under the supervision of Professor Chris Burn.