Risk assessment of infrastructure impacted by permafrost degradation in Ross River

Northern communities are on the forefront of climate change, and permafrost is one of the major resulting issues they face. Infrastructure in Ross River, Yukon, is particularly vulnerable to the effects of thawing permafrost. To address this vulnerability, the Northern Climate ExChange undertook an assessment of Yukon Government maintained buildings affected by permafrost degradation, in partnership with Yukon Government’s Property Management Division (PMD), Yukon Geological Survey, and Natural Resources Canada.

Project Overview

Researchers gathered existing knowledge collected by various contractors and government actors in Ross River, identified gaps in data and understanding, and assessed potential and existing permafrost-related issues impacting infrastructure in Ross River.  The project was able to 1) identify critical Yukon Government-owned infrastructure affected by permafrost degradation; 2) develop customized best practices for maintaining and operating buildings on degrading permafrost; and 3) provide vital information to the community and other northern builders on how to effectively manage and maintain infrastructure built on permafrost.  This project was also used as a pilot of the Canadian Standard Association guide entitled “CAN/CSA-S501-14: Moderating the effects of permafrost degradation on existing buildings foundations”.  This guide provided the framework for the final report, and the assessment of the infrastructure in Ross River was a practical test of the guide.

This project has informed PMD’s maintenance and engineering staff and increased their understanding of permafrost under their buildings. The final report provides 11 actions that, if implemented, will help prevent permafrost thaw.

Project Team

Project Coordinator, Brian Horton, Manager, Northern Climate ExChange, Yukon Research Centre, School of Science

Dr. Fabrice Calmels, Research Associate, Yukon Research Centre

Louis-Philippe Roy, Permafrost Researcher, Northern Climate ExChange, Yukon Research Centre


Property Management Division, Highways and Public Works, Yukon Government


Natural Resources Canada

Property Management Division, Highways and Public Works, Yukon Government

Yukon Geological Survey