Permafrost conditions along the Dempster-ITH corridor

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: physical sciences, ground temperature, permafrost, lake ice, snow depth, infrastructure

Principal Investigator: Stockton, Emma (3)
Licence Number: 16931
Organization: Carleton University
Licensed Year(s): 2022 2021 2020
Issued: Jan 12, 2022
Project Team: Mary Wilson, Edwin Amos, Greg Elias, Ryan McLeod, Steve Kokelj, Jen Humphries

Objective(s): To understand how ground temperatures vary within the highway embankment between the border on the Dempster Highway and the north end of the Inuvik-Tuk Highway; and to determine how well current models used to predict ice thickness on lakes actually work.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.5130.

The first objective of this research is to understand how ground temperatures vary within the highway embankment between the border on the Dempster Highway and the north end of the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway. The road surface varies little between these points and it is cleared in winter, so conditions should be uniform and not be affected by vegetation. This will allow the team to understand how climate, and climate alone, affects ground temperatures, without interference from the effects of vegetation. The second objective of the program is to determine how well current models used to predict ice thickness on lakes actually work. The research team will change snow conditions on a lake near Inuvik by shovelling snow at different times in the winter and measuring the effects this has on lake-ice growth. These observations will be compared with what lake-ice models predict the effect of such adjustments should be.

The objective will be achieved by installing temperature sensors in the highway and right-of-way. The sites will be across treeline in the tundra and forest. Sensors will be placed in shallow holes drilled into the road and ground surface. Vegetation and snow surveys will also be made at each location. Data will be downloaded wirelessly onto a laptop and returned to Inuvik for analysis.

The research team will be in communication with the GNWT Department of Infrastructure (INF) about drilling in the centre of the highways. The team will also inform the James Creek Highway Maintenance Camp near the border and maintenance operators for other parts of the highway about the activities along the road. The research team are willing to present the research to the communities of Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic. This includes the Hunter and Trappers Committees and the Renewable Resources Committees in the communities, and at the Aurora Research Institute (ARI) in Inuvik. However, to ensure the health and safety of communities the team will only present the research after COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. The team will also produce a plain language report at the end of the project. The principal investigator is based in Inuvik and willing to speak to any community members and agencies with questions about the research.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from January 11, 2022 to December 31, 2022.