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Challenge of Permafrost Degradation Impact on Airport and Road Pavements


A large part of northern Canada is in the discontinuous or scattered and discontinuous permafrost zone. It has been observed at airports and on roads, that due to disintegrating permafrost the pavements in the above zones exhibit rapidly progressing degradation.
This paper describes cases where pavement failures due to melting or melted permafrost were investigated. Large settlements or slippage of airport pavements were observed. The pavements became very rough, posing a safety hazard to moving aircraft, particularly on runways. Similar settlement may occur on aprons and taxiways. In some cases airport buildings, including terminal buildings, may differentially settle/heave and require urgent expensive repairs. Relocation of buildings and airside groundside facilities may be necessary.
Three cases are described in this paper where airport and road pavements exhibited serious problems due to permafrost degradation. It presents the method of investigation of permafrost presence and condition including visual condition inspection, geotechnical investigation and laboratory testing, temperature monitoring using thermistors and extent of permafrost using OhmMapping. The considered methods of addressing the issue of pavement failures included identifying the location and severity of the problem, addressing the drainage issues, emergency pavement repairs, soil replacements and pavement insulation, structural repairs using geosynthetics, and reconstruction including soil improvement or replacement, and relocation.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Innovation in Geotechnical and Materials Engineering
Uzarowski, L.
Musial, M.
Rizvi, R.