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: 15545
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: Sep 16, 2014
Project Team: Robin Richter (Assistant, Carleton University), Zhanju Lin (Assistant, Carleton University), Andrew Burn (Assistant, Home)

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 our 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 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 install ground temperature sensors in steel pipes and measure the ground temperature several times each year. Benchmarks are also installed on permafrost to measure how the ground is moving. At Illisarvik the research team have 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 samples of permafrost are collected by drilling with a hand-held drill and are tested for their ice content and soil type. Air temperature is also measured 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 go 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 2013 they went to Yellowknife to do this at the Pan-Territorial permafrost 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 September 15, 2014 to December 31, 2014.