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Planning for Winter Road Maintenance in the Context of Climate Change

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  • 1 Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • | 2 Physical Sciences Division, Quest University Canada, Squamish, British Columbia, Canada
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Abstract

Winter weather creates mobility challenges for most northern jurisdictions, leading to significant expenditures on winter road maintenance (WRM) activities. While the science and practice of snow and ice control is continually evolving, climate change presents particular challenges for the strategic planning of WRM. The purpose of this study is 1) to develop a winter severity index (WSI) to better understand how winter weather translates into interannual variations in WRM activities and 2) to apply the WSI to future climate change projections to assist a northern community in preparing for climate change. A new method for creating a WSI model is explored, using readily available data from maintenance records and meteorological stations. The WSI is created by optimizing values for three levels of snowfall as well as potential icing events and is shown to have high predictive accuracy for WRM (coefficient of determination R2 of 0.93). The WSI is then applied to historic and future climate data in a municipality located in central British Columbia, Canada. Findings reveal that much of the variability in WRM can be attributed to weather. The results of the climate change analysis show that winter precipitation in the region is expected to increase by 5.2%–12.3%, and winter average temperatures are projected to increase by 1.5°–2.8°C in the 2050s, compared to the 1976–2000 baseline based on 65 GCMs. Based on the midrange (25th to 75th percentiles) of the 65 GCM projections, annual demand for WRM activities is estimated to decrease by 13.0%–22.0%.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Lindsay Matthews, lindsay.matthews@uwaterloo.ca

Abstract

Winter weather creates mobility challenges for most northern jurisdictions, leading to significant expenditures on winter road maintenance (WRM) activities. While the science and practice of snow and ice control is continually evolving, climate change presents particular challenges for the strategic planning of WRM. The purpose of this study is 1) to develop a winter severity index (WSI) to better understand how winter weather translates into interannual variations in WRM activities and 2) to apply the WSI to future climate change projections to assist a northern community in preparing for climate change. A new method for creating a WSI model is explored, using readily available data from maintenance records and meteorological stations. The WSI is created by optimizing values for three levels of snowfall as well as potential icing events and is shown to have high predictive accuracy for WRM (coefficient of determination R2 of 0.93). The WSI is then applied to historic and future climate data in a municipality located in central British Columbia, Canada. Findings reveal that much of the variability in WRM can be attributed to weather. The results of the climate change analysis show that winter precipitation in the region is expected to increase by 5.2%–12.3%, and winter average temperatures are projected to increase by 1.5°–2.8°C in the 2050s, compared to the 1976–2000 baseline based on 65 GCMs. Based on the midrange (25th to 75th percentiles) of the 65 GCM projections, annual demand for WRM activities is estimated to decrease by 13.0%–22.0%.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Lindsay Matthews, lindsay.matthews@uwaterloo.ca
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