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

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: physical sciences, glaciology, remote sensing, ice, spring breakup

Principal Investigator: van der Sanden, Josephus J (3)
Licence Number: 14700
Organization: Natural Resources Canada / Canada Centre for Remote Sensing
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2012 2010 2009
Issued: Apr 23, 2010
Project Team: Mr. H. Drouin (Research Assistant, Natural Resources Canada, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing), Mr. C. Talbot (Marine Technologist, Environment Canada, National Water Research Institute), Dr. L. Lesack (Co-investigator, Simon Fraser University), Dr. S. Beltaos (Co-investigator, Environment Canada, National Water Research Institute), Dr. F. Hicks (Co-investigator, University of Alberta), Dr. T. Geldsetzer (Research Assistant, Natural Resources Canada, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing)

Objective(s): 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: 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 have been tasked to acquire images over the Mackenzie Delta since October 2008 to present. Regular data acquisitions will continue into 2010. To facilitate the interpretation of the images acquired, fieldwork will be carried out by 2-3 people to collect validation data in April 2010 and May-June 2010. Fieldwork in April will focus on verifying whether the ice at selected locations in the outer delta is afloat or frozen to the river bed. This will be determined by means of an ice auger and provides represents critical input for the hydraulic models under development by Dr. F. Hicks of the University of Alberta. In addition, a limited number of sites (about 5) in the Middle Channel (from Point Separation to Oniak) may be visited to collect information regarding ice type and thickness by means of an ice corer. The work would complement fieldwork carried out in that same general area in Feb/Mar 2009. For both activities, the selection of 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 to be chartered in Inuvik. Prolonged adverse weather for flying may force the team to access a more limited number of sites using a truck and/or skidoo. Ice cores collected will be transported to the Inuvik Research Centre for analysis (identification and typing of ice layers). The use of a ground penetrating radar (GPR) system is being considered in April to facilitate the assessment of ice grounding and ice thickness. Fieldwork at the time of spring breakup, i.e. May-June 2010, 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 (2-3 people). The over flights will be carried out near-coincident with RADARSAT image acquisitions. This work will focus on the Middle Channel, approximately from Point Separation to Oniak Island.

Educational benefits: The IPY-SCARF project, although officially ended, continues to include a well-developed community outreach program. Furthermore, the team of this specific radar remote sensing project will be happy to explore opportunities for local students to participate in the research. When in Inuvik, the team will make an effort to be available to meet with or give presentations to interested community members.

Social/cultural benefits: 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 re the potential of radar remote sensing data to map river ice and as such support decisions re their daily life and security in an environment affected by river ice.

The results of our work will be published in journals subscribed to by the library at the Aurora Research Institute. The team will prepare a lay language poster demonstrating the work for display at the institute. The project was first initiated in the framework of the larger IPY-SCARF (International Polar Year – Study of Canadian Arctic River-Delta Fluxes) project (lead Dr. L. Lesack, Simon Fraser University). Eventhough officially ended, this umbrella project continues to include a well-developed community outreach program. When in Inuvik, the team will also make an effort to be available to meet with or give presentations to interested community members. A factsheet describing the project is soon expected to be available on the NRCan/ESS/CCRS website (http://ccrs.nrcan.gc.ca/index_e.php).

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from April 24, 2010 to June 19, 2010.