Permafrost Investigations and Climate Change, Western Arctic Canada

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: physical sciences, climatology, ground temperature, permafrost, climate change, glaciology

Principal Investigator: Burn, Chris R (31)
Licence Number: 14220
Organization: Carleton University
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998
Issued: Jul 31, 2007
Project Team: Dr J. Ross Mackay (UBC), Douglas Esagok (Assistant, Inuvik), Pascale Roy-Léveillée (Graduate Student, Carleton University), Margot Downey (Undergraduate Assistant, Carleton University), Les Kutny (Logistics Assistant, Inuvik)

Objective(s): The principal objective of most of the work is to determine how permafrost conditions in the western Arctic will respond to climate change. This affects how the ground will be able to support development projects in the future. The researchers are collecting data on ground temperatures in the region and finding out how they have changed over the last 35 years.

Project Description: The principal objective of most of the work is to determine how permafrost conditions in the western Arctic will respond to climate change. This affects how the ground will be able to support development projects in the future. The researchers are collecting data on ground temperatures in the region and finding out how they have changed over the last 35 years.

The researchers will travel to Illisarvik and Garry Island by snow machine and helicopter, and to Herschel Island by Twin Otter. They will travel to Paulatuk by charter of Aklak Air. At each site they conduct surveys with levelling equipment and measure ground temperatures with data loggers and on thermistor cables. At the moment they are particularly interested in how snow depths change ground temperatures, and in how deep ground temperatures have been warmed by climate change. This is important because it is expected that climate change will include snowier winters. The deeper snow may lead to ground warming that is just as great as the effects of warmer air temperatures. In the winter the researchers measure snow depths by probing, and lake-ice thickness by drilling a hole. They determine if ice-wedges have cracked by recording circuits of breaking cables. Their camps are of two to four people, and they are self-contained.

In Paulatuk they would like to replace a ground temperature cable which was installed last year. They also wish to continue monitoring of vegetation change around several fixed rocks, because they think the change in vegetation indicates an effect of climate change. Both at Paulatuk and at Herschel Island the researchers have erected several rock pillars to determine how quickly they may be eroded by blowing sand or snow.
In Inuvik they expect to continue to collect data on ground temperatures at a site along the Dempster Highway near Inuvik Airport, and to measure deformation of the ground at the site.

The researchers have made several posters that have been distributed to agencies throughout the western Arctic, and are on display in the Aurora Research Institute, at Parks Canada offices in Inuvik and Paulatuk, and at the Herschel Island Territorial Park. They are also quite willing to give talks in schools or the college and to boards and other bodies.
Fieldwork will be conducted from July 31 to August 27 and November 05 to 21, 2007 at and near Paulatuk, Garry Island, Illisarvik (Richards Island) and Inuvik.