Arctic Economics

Arctic Economics: Environment and Seasonality


This internationally- and environmentally- focused course will examine how changes in seasonality affect economic activity in the Arctic. We will primarily focus on how these changes affect transportation, particularly the ice roads that are an integral part of the Arctic economy. A particular area of interest and research will be the ice roads that help supply diamond mines and other areas north of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, which will serve as the base. Some of these ice roads were featured on Season One of “Ice Road Truckers” on The History Channel.

This course will focus on both the economics and science related to the Arctic. In the science and math fields, the course will focus on the geology of earth science and diamond mining; meteorology; snow science, particularly as it relates to ice roads; the environment; global warming issues; and the mathematical, statistical, and computer modeling necessary to predict when ice roads might open and close. In economics, the course will focus on the economy of the Arctic and Yellowknife; the ice roads as a for-profit business; small business entrepreneurship; the value of goods transported by the ice road; the multiplier effect of, and economic impact of, the expenditures on the ice roads and the expenditures on the goods and services provided; and the cost to businesses in terms of working capital and inventory and capital costs associated with the uncertainty and variability of ice road opening and closing.

A willingness to engage in research and be comfortable with uncertainty is a must. The course will combine lectures with real and important research assignments while on campus. Students in this course will be actively engaged in ongoing, actual research, and will be part of an active research team, hence students must be interested in being involved with the actual research process and are willing, able, and committed to traveling to the Arctic during Spring Break.  Coursework associated with this course will include a flexible, evening-based class time.  Scientists from Alaska will fly in to teach specific scientific topics; other Babson faculty will also teach related topics. While in the Arctic, students will be expected to demonstrate initiative, be self-motivated but listen to direction, and gather data on their own from a variety of governmental, corporate, and small-business groups/associations/organizations.

See Babson Course Description for more details


  1. Barren Lands: An Epic Search for Diamonds in the North American Arctic, by Kevin Krajick.

  2. Finding the Arctic, by Matthew Sturm.  (This will be distributed by me via e-mail.)


    • Monday, January 25:
      • First Class — Introductions, paper assignments, etc.
    • Wednesday, February 3:
        • Compute the Freezing degree day (FDD) from the data using EXCEL.  The FFD can be used to compute the ice thickness with and without snow, and how much easier it is to build ice at Contwoyto Lake than Yellowknife.
          • You might need to get data not just for Yellowknife, but for some farther north weather reporting station.
            • Look at a map and find weather reporting station north of Yellowknife and perhaps near Contwoyto lake (near the Lupin Mine)
            • Maybe you have to interpolate the temperature at Contwoyto Lake (near the Lupin Mine) based on the place you found and its temperature and the temperature at Yellowknife?
        • Calculate the dates when you could first take a 12,500kg truck  or a 36,000 kg truck across the ice for each year for the past 20 years for the JV road and for the GNWT road (but see below for more, like on a SUPER B truck)
          • Use the formula (Weight in Kg) = 4 * (ice thickness in cm)2   for the GNWT road
          • Use the formula (Weight in Kg) = 6 * (ice thickness in cm)2   for the  JV road
        • Now go to the Tibbett to Contwoyto road 100+ page report (or surf the web, for example).
        • How many loads went each year?  What is the average weight of a load? 
        • Assuming a SUPER B load, and just using NATURAL ice thickness (which you have been estimating), when could you take a SUPER B load each year?  When would you have to stop?
        • Now, assume that you could take four trucks across the road in an hour, and you could run either 12, 18, or 24 hour shifts
          • How many loads could you cover based on the natural ice thickness?
          • How does this number compare with how many loads ACTUALLY went?
          • When does the natural ice thickness cause you to shut a road?
          • How many loads does HUMAN ACTIVITY actively changing a road change
  • Wednesday, February 10
    • Third Class — Dr. Matthew Sturm from CRREL.  Ice thickness homework due.  Bring all GEAR to show Dr. Sturm.

  • Wednesday, February 17
    • Fourth Class — Associate Dean Richard Mandel.  Meteorology and Ice Road Law.

  • TUESDAY, February 23
    • Fifth Class — Dr. Henry Huntington from Huntington Consulting and Mr. David Baron, Health and Science Editor for PRI/BBC’s The World,
      • We will meet in Olin Hall, Room 120 at 5:30 pm. We will also be fortunate to have David Baron, health and science editor for the PRI/BBC program The World, and the former environmental reporter for NPR, and author of “Beast in the Garden” (a very good book, by the way).  Check out David at and  and his book at .    Mr. Baron also has visited Antarctica, and frequently reports on the interaction between the environment and people.
      • Dr. Huntington will be joining us.  Please read his papers and search for him on the web (and tell me what you find)!  He is mentioned in Dr. Sturm’s book (Finding the Arctic) in the first few pages.  Dr. Huntington lived in Antarctica for six months before going to college.

  • Thursday, March 11
    • Leave for Yellowknife !!!!