RADARSAT Observations of River Ice and Flood Patterns in the Mackenzie River Delta

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: physical sciences, hydrology, remote sensing, satellite imagery

Principal Investigator: van der Sanden, Josephus J (4)
Licence Number: 14478
Organization: Natural Resources Canada / Canada Centre for Remote Sensing
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2012 2010 2009
Issued: Feb 27, 2009
Project Team: Mr. Hugo Drouin (Reserach assistant, Natural Resources Canada, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing), Mr. Charles Talbot (Research assistant, Environment Canada, National Water Research Institute), Dr. Spyros Beltaos (Co-investigator, Environment Canada, National Water Research Institute), Dr. Faye Hicks (Co-investigator, University of Alberta), Dr. Torsten Geldsetzer (Research assistant, Natural Resoruces Canada, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing), Dr. Lance Lesack (Co-investigator, Simon Fraser University)

Objective(s): The objective of this research is to investigate the potential of Canada's RADARSAT satellites as a tool for the collection of information on (change in) river ice conditions and, during spring breakup, flood conditions in the Mackenzie River Delta.

Project Description: The objective of this research is to investigate the potential of Canada’s RADARSAT satellites as a tool for the collection of information on (change in) river ice conditions and, during spring breakup, flood conditions in the Mackenzie River Delta.

Canada’s RADARSAT satellites will be tasked to acquire a time series of images over the Mackenzie Delta from October 2008 to July 2009. To facilitate the interpretation of the images acquired, fieldwork will be carried out to collect validation data in March 2009 and May-June 2009. The focus will be on the Middle Channel, approximately from Point Separation to Oniak Island. Fieldwork in March will involve the characterization of the river ice cover through the measurement of ice thickness and the collection of ice cores at up to 20 pre-selected sample sites (3 people). Selection of the sample sites will be based on preliminary analysis of available RADARSAT images. The sample sites will be accessed by means of a rotary wing aircraft that will be chartered in Inuvik. Prolonged adverse weather for flying may force the team to switch mode of transportation from helicopter to truck and/or skidoo. Naturally, this will limit the number and the location of sample sites that can be accessed. The ice cores collected will be transported to the Inuvik Research Centre for analysis (description of ice layers). The use of a ground penetrating radar (GPR) system is being considered for March to collect ice thickness information along river transects. Fieldwork at the time of spring breakup, i.e. May-June 2009, will consist of aerial over-flights with a fixed wing aircraft, to be chartered in Inuvik, for visual observation / photography of river ice breakup and associated flood conditions (3 people). The over flights will be carried out near-coincident with RADARSAT image acquisitions.

The project proposed is part of a larger IPY project “Arctic Freshwater Systems: Hydrology and Ecology”. Through this larger project funds have been provided to the Water Survey of Canada to hire a local person to work as a full-technician in Inuvik under supervision of George Lennie. The larger IPY project also includes a well-developed program for community outreach that is being led by Chris Spence and Rob Kent of Environment Canada. Furthermore, the team of this specific radar remote sensing project will be happy to explore opportunities for local students to participate in the research. The team will also be available to meet with or give presentations to interested community members when in Inuvik. Social benefits of this research: during winter, the life of people living in the Mackenzie River basin is affected by river ice. River ice offers benefits in the sense that it can provide road access to remote communities (e.g. Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk) and hunting/fishing grounds. At the same time, river ice represents a threat to infrastructure and communities at the time of spring breakup, in particular. The results of the proposed study will create awareness among territorial authorities and local communities about the potential of radar remote sensing data to map river ice and as such support decisions about their daily life and security in an environment affected by river ice.


The results of this work will be published in journals that are subscribed by the library at the Aurora Research Institute. The project team will prepare a lay language poster demonstrating the work for display at the Inuvik Research Centre. Please contact the researcher if you would like a copy of this poster or other reports.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from February 27 to March 31, and May 11 to June 15, 2009, in the Mackenzie River Delta with focus on Middle Channel, approximately from Point Separation (67d37m N, 134d05m W) to just North of Oniak Island (68d37m N, 134d10m W).