Report from June 1993

Permafrost Geoscience in Canadian Universities

The state of permafrost research in Canadian universities is intimately linked to industrial interest in northem regions. There was substantial activity from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, but now there are relatively few continuing programs. In part this stems from declining support for university research. For example, in January 1993 the Geological Survey eliminated its University Research Agreements program, which sponsored a small but significant portion of the field effort in permafrost, and substantially reduced, after a decade, its proportion of the support for Canada-France pipeline-ground freezing experiments at Caen, Normandy. The age structure of the professorate is also a factor, with some senior colleagues participating less in fieldwork. Projected budgets suggest that automatic replacement of retiring faculty is unlikely in the mid-1990s.

Nevertheless, we have the example of Professor J. Ross Mackay (UBC), who remains our most productive scientist, and has spent more time in the field since his "retirement" ( 1980) than many will in their entire lives. The award of the 1991 Logan Medal signifies the substance and leadership of his research. His most recent work on thermal contraction cracking provides aß remarkable synthesis of detailed field observations and the theory of crack propagation in solids.

The largest group of scientists are at the Ottawa-Carleton Centre for Geoscience Studies. The Carleton contingent is based upon the long-term interests of Peter Williams and Michael Smith in the geotechnical properties of freezing round. M.W. Smith and Dan Riseborough have maintained interests in the modeling of permafrost temperatures, resulting recently in the development of a stochastic approach to simulation of the effects of climatic change on permafrost. Chris Burn came to the Geography Department from UBC in July 1992, and continues diverse studies of near-surface permafrost in Yukon and the Mackenzie Delta. Fred Michel has been Chair of the Earth Sciences Department at Carleton since 1990, maintaining his interests in the geochemistry of ground ice. At the University of Ottawa, Marie-Anne Geurts, Bernard Lauriol. Peter Johnson and Claude Duguay of the Geography Department represent strong interest in the geomorphology and Quaternary of Yukon Territory. Duguay, a recent appointment, has interests in permafrost mapping using satellite data. Hugh French is now Dean of Science; Julian Murton, his most recent Ph.D. candidate (January 1993), presented ideas on the origin of sedimentary structures in thawing terrain of the western Arctic coastlands.

The two other principal goups in Canadian universities are at McMaster and Laval. Ming-ko Woo and Wayne Rouse (McMaster) continue long-term investigations of the hydrology and energy balance of peimafrost terrain. Modeling of active-layer hydrology by Zhaojun Xia and Ming-ko Woo, integrated with field studies in the High Arctic, is one of the most stimulating recent contributions from Canadian permafrost science. W.R. Rouse and Richard Bello's (York) work in the Hudson Bay Lowlands led to recognition of the importance of mesoscale climate influences on permafrost conditions. At Universite Laval, Quebec, Michel Allard, Serge Payette, Louise Filion and others at the Centre d'études nordiques conduct geomorphological, ecological and geophysical investigations in northern Quebec. The group has an extensive program on the east coast of Hudson Bay and in Ungava, areas that are relatively poorly known but which present a fascinating, dynamic Holocene thermal history associated with coastal emergence and fluctuations in treeline. Collaborative research on impacts to permafrost of recently constructed airstrips, with Laurel Goodrich (National Research Council) and Jean Pilon (Geological Survey of Canada), is an example of the numerous links this group shares with other geoscientists and engineers. An important monitoring service is provided by the network of 11 automatic weather stations in northern Quebec, which also gather round temperature data.

A long record of permafrost temperatures and extensive data on local variation are available in the Schefferville area, where the Schefferville Digital Transect is coordinated by Hardy Granbergß (Universite de Sherbrooke). Extensive microclimate -ground temperature studies are conducted at the site, one of those selected for the CRYSYS satellite monitoring prograrn. This program also aims to monitor changes in permafrost conditions on the Fosheim Peninsula, Ellesmere Island, the focus of hydrologic (Ming-ko Woo and Kathy Young, McMaster), geomorphologic (Antoni Lewkowicz, University of Toronto) and ground ice (Wayne Pollard, McGill University) studies, in anticipation of substantial climate change. The nearby Axel Heiberg research station hosts groundwater investigations by Michael English (Wilfrid Laurier). W.H. Pollard and Xiaogang Hu (McGill) recently initiated investigations of icings in northern Yukon.

In the Cordillera, research is concentrated at UBC where, in addition to J.R. Mackay, Wayne Savigny has been involved with studies of slope stability along the Norman Wells to Zama oil pipeline. At the University of Calgary, promising techniques for mapping permafrost in the discontinuous zone from satellite images have been developed by Stephen Franklin and Derek Peddle. Stuart Harris maintains a program on the extent and temperature structure of alpine permafrost in various parts of theß Cordillera, that is combined with studies of nearsurface hydrology and the development of palsas in Yukon. The hydrogeochemical studies are in association with Roy Krouse.

A more substantive review of current issues in Canadian permafrost research by C.R. Burn and M.W. Smith will be published in Progress in Physical Geography, 17(3), as part of a special volume contributing to the Third International Geomorphology Conference, McMaster University, 23-29 August 1993.

Prepared by Chris Burn
Carleton University


Report from December 1993

Canada to Host 1998 International Permafrost Conference.

As expected, Canada's invitation to the IPA to hold the Seventh International Conference on Permafrost in Yellowknife, NWT, Canada, in 1998 was accepted by the IPA Council. This decision was publicly announced at the closing ceremony of the Sixth International Conference in Beijing on 9 July. The invitation, from Pierre Peron, President of the National Research Council of Canada, was issued in January 1992, and had received unanimous acceptance in principle from the IPA Council at its meeting in Washington, DC, in August 1992. The invitation was ccepted unanimously at the Council meeting of 5 July 1993. Support for the conference will come from the Geological Survey of Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, the Science Institute of the Northwest Territories, and the Cold Regions Division of the Canadian Geotechnical Society.

Canadian National Committee for the IPA.

Natural Resources Canada (formerly Energy, Mines and Resources anada), through the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), has entered into a partnership with the National Research Council of Canada (NRCC) for the support of the Canadian National Committee for the International Permafrost Association (CNC/IPA). NRCC will continue to be responsible for paying the annual dues for Canada. GSC, which has supported the CNC/IPA secretariat since its inception in 1985, henceforth will also be responsible for the operating costs of the CNC/IPA.

The CNC/IPA held its annual meeting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 30 September 1993, directly following the Canadian Geotechnical Conference. As may be expected, the main item of business was the development of a structure of committees and individuals to organize the 1998 International Conference on Permafrost. The first meeting of the National Organizing Committee is being planned for April 1994. Alan Heginbottom, of the Terrain Sciences Division, GSC, and secretary of the CNC/IPA, was appointed as Secretary General for the conference and chairman of the National Organizing Committee. The conference will be held during the week of 27-3 1 July 1998, with field trips before and/or after the formal sessions.

In other business, the committee elected Don Hayley to be the new Chairman, CNCAPA, effective 1 January 1994; this appointment awaits ratification by the GSC. Mr. Hayley has been a member of the CNC since 1988. Before then, he served as Chairman of the Permafrost Subcommittee of the NRCC Associate Committee on Geotechnical Research, and was also the founding Chairman of the Cold Regions Geotechnology Division of the Geotechnical Society of Canada. He is vicepresident of EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd., in Edmonton, and a geotechnical engineer who has been involved in cold regions engineering research and practice for over 20 years. He has worked in many areas of the Canadian Arctic and Subarctic, in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska, and, most recently, the Russian Arctic.

In addition, the Committee heard reports from the Cold Regions Division of the Canadian Geotechnical Society, the Permafrost Committee of the Science Institute of the Northwest Territories, and the Canadian Polar Commission. Brief reports of progress were presented on IPA activities, particularly the Multilingual Glossary project of the Terminology Working Group, and the Circum-Arctic Permafrost Map project. Communications issues, both international and within Canada, were also discussed. The next meeting of the CNC/IPA will be held in association with the 47th Canadian Geotechnical Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in September 1994.

Cold Regions Division, Canadian Geotechnical Society.

The 46th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Geotechnical Society was held in Saskatoon, 27-29 September 1993. The Cold Regions Division sponsored a session on permafrost engineering, in which six papers were presented. The papers dealt with freeze-thaw treatment of oil sands tailings, creep of frozen soil, strength of silty permafrost, testing of frozen sand, and segregation potential. The 1993 Roger J.E. Brown Award, which was established in 1986 to honor the memory of the renowned Canadian permafrost scientist, was awarded to Branko Ladanyi, Département de génie civile, École polytechnique, Université de Montréal, for "services to permafrost studies in Canada." Don Hayley was also given a special award for "service to the Geotechnical Society," in recognition of his initiative and efforts in founding the Cold Regions Division of the Society.

The 47th Canadian Geotechnical Conference, to be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 21-23 September 1994, will include a session on "Piles in Permafrost." The conference will also include regular sessions for submitted papers. Abstracts of 500 words or fewer should be submitted by 30 November 1993 (see calendar).

Prepared by J.A. Heginbottom
Secretary, CNC/IPA