Permafrost and climate change, western Arctic Canada

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: physical sciences, climatology, permafrost, climate change, glaciology, pingo

Principal Investigator: Burn, Chris R (31)
Licence Number: 14942
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 13, 2011
Project Team: Douglas Esagok (Assistant and guide, Inuvik HTC), Graham Gilbert (Assistant, Carleton University), J. Ross Mackay (Collaborator, University of British Columbia), Hanne Christiansen (Collaborator, UNIS, Svalbard), Georges Seguin (Assistant, Carleton University), Astrid Ruiter (Assistant, Carleton University)

Objective(s): To understand how climate change is affecting permafrost in the western Arctic; to investigate the ice content of the ground and how this may affect terrain stability; to study changes in ground temperature at various locations in the western Arctic, ranging from Herschel Island through the delta area to Paulatuk; to continue monitoring environmental indicators of climate change, like lake-ice thickness and snow depth; and to study the development of a pingo and ice wedge cracking at the Illisarvik experimental site.

Project Description: The objective of this research is to understand how climate change is affecting permafrost in the western Arctic, particularly in the outer Mackenzie delta. The research team intends to investigate the ice content of the ground and how this may affect terrain stability. The researchers wish to study changes in ground temperature at various locations in the western Arctic, ranging from Herschel Island through the delta area to Paulatuk. The team expects to continue monitoring environmental indicators of climate change, like lake-ice thickness and snow depth. Finally they expect to study the development of a pingo and ice wedge cracking at the Illisarvik experimental site.

At all the sites, ground temperature sensors are installed in steel pipes and the ground temperature is measured several times each year. Steel benchmarks are also installed on permafrost to measure how the ground is moving. At Illisarvik, deep benchmarks (to 12 m) have been placed in the ground so that they will not heave and the team can measure how much settlement is occurring as the active layer becomes thicker. At some places, samples of permafrost are collected by drilling with a hand-held drill and the researchers test these for their ice content and soil type. The researchers also measure air temperature at the sites. This coming year, the team wishes to install tiny meters (the size of a matchbox) that measure ground shaking so that they can find out how often ice wedges crack at Illisarvik and whether they crack all at once or separately. The sites are visited at least twice a year, in April and then in the summer. In the summer the team always travels in August, but the researcher prefers to travel twice a summer, in June or July and in late August.

The researcher has applied with ARI for support on a joint project to the Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program. The researcher will put up posters in the community centre at Paulatuk and will give them to ARI for other places, make presentations at meetings such as Science in the Changing North. The researchers will use these presentations in public hearings when called before licencing boards, such as Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board (MVEIRB).
The researchers will give presentations in the ARI at Inuvik when requested to so do. Plain language summaries will be published, such as the upcoming book on Qikiqtaruk-Herschel Island.
The researchers will send all copies of reports and publications to Hunters and Trappers Committees on an annual basis.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 13, 2011 to December 20, 2011.