Ongoing, newly funded, as well as recently completed permafrost research activities are highlighted in this report, with major contributions by the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) and the Centre d’Etudes Nordiques, Laval University.

 

Monitoring Networks: The GSC received funding in 2001 for four years from the federal government’s Action Plan 2000 to develop and implement the framework and infrastructure for a national permafrost monitoring network. This project is a component of a successful larger multi-partner submission on Systematic Climate Observations – Atmosphere, Oceans and Cryosphere. This initiative will allow Canada to make progress in meeting its obligations to provide systematic cryospheric observations under the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) and to address the recommendations and concerns raised at the Canadian permafrost monitoring workshop (http:// sts. gsc. nrcan. gc.ca/permafrost/pfworkenter.htm). A data management node and web site will be established at the GSC which will coordinate submission and dissemination of active layer and permafrost thermal data from network sites as well as forming a link to other cryospheric nodes such as the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P), the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network (CCIN), CRYSYS (CRYospheric SYStem) and its related State of the Cryosphere in Canada web sites (http://www. socc. uwaterloo.ca/permafrost/permafrost_current.cfm) and (http://www.crysys.uwaterloo.ca/education/permafrost/permafrost_edu.cfm ).

The GSC continues to actively contribute to the development and implementation of the IPA’s GTN-P, an international programme of systematic observations of active layer and permafrost temperatures under GCOS . The GTN-P’s web site is hosted by the GSC (http://sts.gsc. nrcan. gc.ca/gtnp). A status report submitted in March 2001 and the borehole inventory and metadata can be accessed on the site. Contacts: M. Burgess and S. Smith. National permafrost databases: The GSC published a Canadian permafrost thickness database (Smith and Burgess, 2002) which is a compilation of publicly available information for about 1000 sites. This database will also soon be made accessible through the GSC permafrost web site. The Canadian Geothermal Data Collection - Northern Wells contains subsurface temperature data collected by the GSC from boreholes of depths greater than 125m within the Canadian permafrost region. Ground temperature logs from this collection as well the national summary permafrost temperature database (GSC Open File 3954) may now be accessed through the National Database section of GSC permafrost web site (http://sts.gsc.nrcan.gc.ca/ permafrost/). Contact: S. Smith. Regional and national syntheses: The GSC recently published two regional bulletins summarizing the results of two of its three 1990s Integrated Research and Monitoring Areas Programmes: the Mackenzie Valley (Dyke and Brooks, 2000) and the Fosheim Peninsula of Ellesmere Island (Garneau and Alt, 2000). These synthesis reports summarize baseline environmental conditions, examine the environmentalresponse to climate change, and include several papers of interest to permafrost scientists. The GSC also published a synthesis of geological hazards in Canada, a document which includes two papers on permafrost related hazards (Smith et al., 2001; Smith, 2001). Gas-Hydrate Research: During the winter of 2002 a consortium of seven international partners will undertake a gas-hydrate research, well programme at the Mallik site in the Mackenzie Delta. The project will include the drilling of a 1200 m deep main production research well and two nearby science observation wells. Full-scale field experiments will be conducted to monitor the physical behavior of the gas hydrate deposits to depressurization and thermal production stimulation. The spud date for the first observation well is expected to be in December 2001, with completion of the programme in early April 2002. A wide ranging science and engineering research programme is proposed with extensive research geophysics (including open hole logging, X-hole studies and VSP surveys), core studies and long-term monitoring of in-situ conditions. These are being coordinated and managed by the GSC. The scientific and engineering research objectives for the production research will focus on two themes: (1) the assessment of the production and geotechnical properties of gas hydrates, and (2) an assessment of the stability of permafrost gas hydrates given warming trends predicted by climate change models. Contact: S. Dallimore (sdallimore@ nrcan.gc.ca). Onshore Hydrocarbon Transportation Corridors: Both the Alaska and Mackenzie Delta Gas Producers groups have been actively examining possible pipeline routes for bringing Prudhoe Bay and Mackenzie Delta gas, respectively, to southern markets, via the western Canadian Arctic. Reconnaissance level field programmes and surveys are being conducted by industry to aid in route selection and for planning and scoping of future studies. Hydrocarbon exploration activity has dramatically increased in the Mackenzie Valley and Delta especially the offshore. The GSC received funding from the Federal Panel on Energy Research and Development (PERD) to undertake permafrost research relevant to several of the important technical issues for pipelines along these transportation corridors in the onshore western Arctic. Slope stability, pipeline-permafrost interactions, and data availability and syntheses are the major thrusts of the project. New field studies examining creep on warm permafrost slopes in the Mackenzie Valley were initiated in March 2001. A slope along the Norman Wells pipeline in the Central Mackenzie Valley was instrumented with inclinometers and temperature cables in collaboration with Enbridge Pipelines. This new site expands a programme on cold permafrost creep initiated some 10 years ago in the Mackenzie Delta. The synthesis of existing geological, geotechnical, geothermal data relevant to pipeline routing and design will involve consolidation and upgrading of existing databases into GIS compatible formats and increasing the accessibility of these databases and syntheses to stakeholders. The first product will be the re-release of the Mackenzie Valley geotechnical database, a compilation of data from over 12,000 boreholes, in MS access format. Contacts: L. Dyke (ldyke @ nrcan. gc.ca), M. Burgess, and S. Smith.

Infrastructure Adaptation: The GSC, in conjunction with municipal and territorial partners, undertook a community based approach to assess current and potential future permafrost, geotechnical conditions, and infrastructure performance and sensitivity in two pilot communities: Norman Wells and Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. Digital geotechnical databases were compiled for each community, as well as baseline information on infrastructure, foundation systems, climate, etc. The project incorporated thermal modelling of typical permafrost and soil profiles under both natural and disturbed (developed) conditions, as well as under scenarios of climate warming. Permafrost-related infrastructure problems currently exist in both communities, but evolving construction and maintenance practices have minimized the impacts to date. The goal of the pilot project was to develop an approach and framework to provide stakeholders with the geoscience knowledge and tools needed for decision-making regarding the assessment of impacts on infrastructure and potential adaptation measures to minimize the impacts. Several digital GSC Open Files (3913, D3912, and D3867) are either published or in press. Contacts: R. Couture (rcouture@nrcan.gc.ca) and M. Burgess.

Degradation of permafrost-affected peatlands: An analysis of a 50-year time series of aerial photos and high-resolution satellite images was undertaken to quantify magnitude and rates of thaw of six permafrost- affected peatlands sites in the Mackenzie Valley from latitude 60º to 64ºN in 2000-2001 with support from CCAF and the GSC. The study also examines the impacts of degradation of peatlands on drainage and carbon accumulation rates. Contact: S. Robinson (formerly GSC, presently at St Lawrence University, Canton, N.Y.).

Extreme Warm Summer of 1998: Recent studies have documented warming during the 1980s and 1990s in the high latitudes, but 1998 was conspicuous for the unprecedented warmth and length of the melt season over the Canadian Arctic. This warming was associated with significant anomalies in many components of the cryosphere. This multi-partner multidisciplinary project, funded by the Government of Canada’s Climate Change Action Fund (CCAF), allowed the Canadian cryospheric community to document the magnitude of the cryospheric change, toand to develop insights into the processes and feedbacks associated with extreme warm years. The project also provided the opportunity to compile and consolidate a large number of cryospheric data sets that were widely dispersed amongst various government, university and industry researchers. The individual project reports examining the response of various components of the cryosphere are available on-line through the meetings sections of the CRYSYS web site (http://www.crysys.uwaterloo.ca/science/ meetings/2001_meeting/).

Contributions to the permafrost component include: Active layer and permafrost temperatures in the Mackenzie Delta, Alert and Baker Lake (Smith, Burgess and Nixon, GSC); Recent warming impacts in the Mackenzie Delta and northern Yukon coastal areas (Wolfe, Kotler and Nixon, GSC); Active layer detachment slides on the Fosheim Peninsula (Lewkowicz, University of Ottawa). The first two contributions were published as GSC Current Research papers. Mackenzie Valley spatial ground temperature modelling: GSC researchers have developed a GISresident, ground temperature modelling capability to facilitate the investigation of ground thermal conditions in northern regions. The physically-based numeric model generates predictions of ground temperature based on available information about local/ regional climate and terrain conditions. The model provides estimates of the equilibrium distribution and thickness of permafrost under ‘current’ climatic conditions, and can predict changes in response to future climate scenarios. Initial low resolution (1km) modelling has produced preliminary maps depicting permafrost characteristics in the broader Mackenzie River Valley (CCAF Report A073). Work is continuing on the consolidation of a high-resolution (30m) digital database to support detailed modelling of ground thermal conditions in the vicinity of major communities in the Valley. This work was funded by PERD, CCAF and GSC. Contact: F. Wright (fwright@nrcan. gc.ca).

Coastal Investigations: See the report of the Working Group on Coastal and Offshore Permafrost for GSC investigations based at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. Contact: S. Solomon (solomon @agc. bio.ns.ca).

Centre d’Ètudes Nordiques (CEN) research: The collaboration between CEN and the Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR) continued in the field in Northern Québec in June 2001 with data recovery from thermistor strings and data loggers in a series of drill holes in a lithalsa. Data from a gauge that measures water pressure at the base of the permafrost was also recovered (see the German report in this issue of Frozen Ground). A comprehensive series of measurements were also made in cased drill holes at the sites in the lithalsa (a clay permafrost mound), and a sandy permafrost mound using thermal profiling and GPR tomography. Results were presented and described at the 1st European Permafrost Conference in Rome.

The GPR tomography work is the focus of a masters thesis project. A new approach combining field cone penetration tests (CPT) through permafrost with seismic tomography was also applied in the study area and forms the basis of another masters thesis project. Analysis and interpretation of core data, in-situ CPT tests from 2000, and thermal modelling applied to the clay permafrost mound is underway as a doctoral thesis. A regional sampling of ground ice, to depths down to 6 m, was performed east of Hudson Bay with portable drilling equipment, and is the subject of a doctoral dissertation aimed at understanding the processes of permafrost aggradation in uplifted marine sediments through cryofacies analysis and isotopic analysis of ground ice and trapped gases.Work on another doctoral project took place on Bylot Island in the High Arctic. The project involved drilling in low-centered polygons to reconstruct the palaeoclimatic changes recorded in the stratigraphy of aeolian and organic sediments in syngenetic permafrost. Pingos were also cored and described in sections along river banks. GPR profiling of polygon fields and pingos was conducted. CEN is making a special effort to bring up to date and verify the quality of data from many thermistor cables and automatic meteorological stations across northern Québec. It appears that the trend of change in the Ungava peninsula changed from cooling to warming between 1995 and 2001. Contact: Michel Allard (michel.allard@cen.ulaval.ca).

 

 

 

Dyke, L.D. and Brooks, G.R. (eds.). 2000. The physical environment of the Mackenzie Valley, Northwest Territories: a baseline for the assessment of environmental change; Geological Survey of Canada Bulletin #547, 208 p. Garneau, M. and Alt, B.T. (eds.). 2000. Environmental response to climate change in the Canadian High Arctic; Geological Survey of Canada Bulletin #529, 401 p. Smith, S.L., Burgess, M.M., and Heginbottom, J.A. 2001. Permafrost In Canada, a challenge to northern development. in A Synthesis of Geological Hazards in Canada, G.R. Brooks (ed.). Geological Survey of Canada Bulletin #548, p. 241-264. Smith, S.L. 2001. Natural gas hydrates. in A Synthesis of Geological Hazards In Canada, G.R. Brooks (ed.). Geological Survey of Canada Bulletin #548, p. 265-280. Smith, S.L. and Burgess, M.M., 2002. A digital database of permafrost thickness in Canada. Geological Survey of Canada, Open File Report #4173.

Margo Burgess (mburgess@nrcan.gc.ca) Sharon Smith (ssmith@nrcan.gc.ca)