Hay River Ice Jam Study
Principal Investigator: Hicks, Faye E (12)
Licence Number: 14892
Organization: University of Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
Issued: Mar 21, 2011
Project Team: Jennifer Nafziger (grad student, Univ of Alberta), Shawne Kokejl (hydrologist, DIAND), Meg McCluskie (hydrologist, DIAND)

Objective(s): To study ice processes on the Hay River in order to continue an ongoing development of computer models to predict them.

Project Description: The objective of this project is to study ice processes on the Hay River in order to continue ongoing development of computer models to predict them. Also, some flood warning tools have been developed for the community and the team would like to test and enhance them.

In order to develop realistic models, it is important that the researchers have the opportunity to observe river breakup so as to have a full understanding of the physical context of the historical data. The primary plan for 2011 and 2012 is to document the daily progression of river ice breakup, which would be done from small aircraft and also from the ground, since there are numerous road access points along the river. Much of the relevant data is already collected by the Town Flood Watch Committee during breakup, so the primary focus is on obtaining data that is complementary to their efforts.
From the air, digital photographs and video are the means by which river breakup is documented as this is the best vantage point to see all segments of the river along the study reach. Representatives from the Town of Hay River and the Kátl`odeeche First Nation are invited to participate in these observation flights. This year fewer flights will be conducted than in past years – due to much more limited funding.

Photographs and video would also be taken on the ground at accessible points along the river, particularly during ice movement events. Water and ice levels will be measured, before and after ice movements, when and where it is safe to do so. Water and ice level measurements are done with standard survey instruments (typically using a surveyor's rod and level, or with a computerized ‘global positioning system’ survey instrument). Additionally, dataloggers would be deployed to allow automated collection of ice/water elevations and ice run velocities. None of these types of measurements have any environmental impact.

The timing of this breakup survey will depend on weather conditions leading to spring thaw, but historical averages show us that the Hay River ice cover breaks up in late April and early May. The research team will mobilize and travel to the Town when reports and weather forecasts suggest breakup may soon commence.


During breakup updates will be through the web site and in face-to-face meetings. After breakup, updates will be through the web site, phone meetings and through the project reports and scientific articles.


The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from April 1, 2011 to May 21, 2011.