Hay River Ice Jam Study
Principal Investigator: Hicks, Faye E (12)
Licence Number: 15023
Organization: University of Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
Issued: Feb 26, 2012
Project Team: Jennifer Nafziger (Student, University of Alberta), Shawne Kokejl (Hydrologist, AANDC), Meg McCluskie (Hydrologist, AANDC), Faye Hicks (Professor, University of Alberta), Vincent McFarlane (Student, University of Alberta), Stefan Emmer (Student, University of Alberta)

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

Project Description: The objective is to study ice processes on the Hay River in order to continue the ongoing development of computer models to predict them. Also, the team has developed some flood warning tools for the community and we are interested in testing and enhancing 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 is to document the daily progression of river ice breakup, which the team would do 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 we document river breakup as this is the best vantage point to see all segments of the river along the study reach; however, the team will have only limited funding, so few flights are envisioned.

Photographs and video would also be taken on the ground at accessible points along the river, particularly during ice movement events. The team would also measure water and ice levels, 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, data-loggers 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 – the general duration of this field effort is 1 to 3 weeks depending upon how quickly breakup evolves. The research team would return to Hay River sometime between June 1 and Sept 30 for just a few days, to retrieve any data-loggers that were inaccessible after breakup, due to ice along the banks. The timing would be planned to coincide with low water, and so will depend upon the weather next summer.

Information will be communicated during breakup through the project web site and in face-to-face meetings and after breakup 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, 2012 to September 30, 2012.