Addressing Environmental Conditions in the Design of Roadways Built on Permafrost

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    This is one of nine engineering assessments conducted under the Transportation Engineering Approaches to Climate Resiliency (TEACR) Project. This assessment is different from all the others in that it is not a case study focused on exploring climate impacts to a particular asset. Instead, this report is focused on providing general background on the topic of climate change and permafrost thaw, the implications for roadways, how future thawing can be projected, and what can be done to adapt to the impacts. This report begins by examining some of the key characteristics of permafrost and the implications of its thaw on roadways. Following this, various techniques for projecting future permafrost conditions at specific asset locations will be presented. Finally, recommendations are offered on how climate change can be incorporated into the design of roadways built on permafrost. These recommendations include an overarching analysis framework (the Adaptation Decision-Making Assessment Process (ADAP)), techniques for incorporating climate projections into thermal modeling (the most robust technique for projecting future permafrost conditions at a site), and potential adaptation options for mitigating or adjusting to permafrost thaw.
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