Permafrost and climate change, western Arctic Canada

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: physical sciences, permafrost, climate change, pingo, wedge ice

Principal Investigator: Burn, Chris R (31)
Licence Number: 15230
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: Apr 17, 2013
Project Team: Douglas Esagok (Assistant and Guide, Inuvik), Ross Mackay (Collaborator, UBC), Jeff Moore (Assistant, Carleton), Stephan Gruber (Collaborator, Carleton)

Objective(s): To understand how climate change is affecting permafrost in the western Arctic, particularly in the outer Mackenzie delta.

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 also intends to investigate the ice content of the ground and how this may affect terrain stability. The research team wishes to study changes in ground temperature at various locations in the western Arctic, ranging from Herschel Island through the delta area to Paulatuk. The research team expects to continue monitoring environmental indicators of climate change, like lake-ice thickness and snow depth. Finally the research team expects to study the development of a pingo and ice wedge cracking at the Illisarvik experimental site.

At all the sites, the research team installed ground temperature sensors in steel pipes and will measure the ground temperature several times each year. The research team also installed steel benchmarks on permafrost to measure how the ground is moving. At Illisarvik, the research team will put deep benchmarks (to 12 m) in the ground so that they will not heave and they can measure how much settlement is occurring as the active layer becomes thicker. At some places the research team will collect samples of permafrost by drilling with a hand-held drill and they will test these for their ice content and soil type. They will also measure air temperature at the sites. This coming year the research 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 research team goes to the sites at least twice a year, in April and then in the summer.

The main way of communicating results is by plain-language summaries of the work, as in the Herschel Island book published in 2012. The research team will also give talks if they are invited. In 2012 they went to Aklavik, Inuvik, and Yellowknife to do this, and to the North Slope Conference.

The research team has prepared posters for display at the ARI and other community buildings and they are always happy to talk to people when they see them in the field, or in the communities, or at Herschel Island.


The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from March 19, 2013 to August 30, 2013.