Evolution of the snowpack and snowmelt chemistry in the boreal forest and tundra ecosystem
Principal Investigator: English, Michael C (24)
Licence Number: 15016
Organization: Wilfrid Laurier University
Licenced Year(s): 2012 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
Issued: Jan 27, 2012
Project Team: Arvids Silis (Researcher, Environment Canada), Chris Derksen (Researcher, Environment Canada), Andrew Rees (Researcher, Knight-Piesold Inc.)

Objective(s): To relate ground truthed snowpack data to passive microwave data obtained from satellites through the winter months and to determine the relative importance of snowmelt runoff from both a northern boreal and tundra catchment from spring melt to freeze-up on water quantity and quality using stable oxygen and hydrogen isotopes of the water molecule, and relating the changes in source water to water chemistry.

Project Description: This research project has two primary scientific goals which include:
1) Relating ground truthed snowpack data to passive microwave data obtained from satellites through the winter months. This will assist in formulating a empirical relationship between the two datasets which is necessary to improve satellite monitoring of snow water equivalent.
2) Determining the relative importance of snowmelt runoff from both a northern boreal and tundra catchment from spring melt to freeze-up on water quantity and quality using stable oxygen and hydrogen isotopes of the water molecule, and relating the changes in source water to water chemistry.

The data collection described in this project will provide a spatial and temporal perspective of snow properties from the boreal forest into the tundra. This will permit the formulation of an empirical relationship to builds on the seven years of data collected in the tundra at Daring Lake and link it to the surrounding region.

The project team will travel to Wekweeti in January to establish the location and sampling protocol for the intensive boreal-tundra snow survey transect with the community technicians. This mid-winter survey will allow the researchers to collect more detailed samples at a greater number of sampling sites than sampled during the regular winter sampling.

After sites for snow sampling have been selected the sites location (easting and northing) will be entered onto GPS systems for ease of navigation during the surveys. At each site a standard Environment Canada protocol for sampling will be employed which consists of digging a snow pit, and within close proximity, taking 30 depth and 5 density measurements. Once the snow pit is dug, the stratigraphy and grain size of the snowpack are recorded. Densities of each 10cm layer (from top to bottom) are sampled using a rigid container of known volume. The container is inserted into the snowpack and withdrawn and the contents weighted with a hanging spring scale. A composite sample of the entire snowpack profile is extracted for chemical analysis. All data are recorded in a field notebook and snow samples for chemical analysis are kept frozen until they can be filtered and bottled for shipment to Waterloo.

During the January 2012 trip time will also be spent with the students and teachers at the Alexis Arrowhead School talking about snow science and sparking their interest in conducting some school project on snow. The research team intends on bringing up a snowfall sampling instrument (Nipher gauge) that the teachers can implement in a school project. The details will be decided in consultation with the teachers and the students. The technician in Wekweeti will sample the discharging stream from an un-named catchment which is located immediately to the west of Wekweeti. Sampling will be done from spring to freezeup 2012 on a weekly time frame. The samples will be filtered in Wekweeti by the technician, stored in a fridge until shipment to Waterloo where they will be analyzed for cations and anions.

Educational: The project team intends to initiate a snow science project in cooperation with the local teachers and students at Arrowmaker School in Wekweeti. This would involve talks with the students, and designing a snow sampling project that would assist with their understanding of the processes involved in snowpack evolution over time, sampling the snowfall after snowstorms using a Nipher gauge supplied by Environment Canada and learning different techniques to measure snow on the ground.
Cultural and social: The project team intends to meet with local elders to discuss the best places to sample the snowpack in the boreal forest, in the 'tree line' area and the tundra closer to the Coppermine River. Their knowledge of the area and snowpack characteristics in the forest and transitional zone will be invaluable when designing the sampling plan.

The best way of communicating results of the project will be by meeting directly with the residents of Wekweeti that are interested. By April 2012 the researchers will have some results that can be shared with the community. The results from the school snow science project will, most likely, be put on posters and displayed in the halls of Alexis Arrowmaker School. The data derived from this project, including the snow data and affiliated satellite data and the water quality data will be available to the people of Wekweeti and shared with both the GNWT Environment and Natural Resources and INAC in Yellowknife. Data will be shared with the Wek'eezhii Land and Water Board as well. This data will be presented at the next Geosciences Forum in Yellowknife in 2012.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from January 27, 2012 to April 30, 2012.