One of the noteworthy events in Canada in 2004 was the special session held in honour of Professor Hugh French, as part of the joint Canadian Geomorphology Research Group/Association Québecoise pour l’Etude du Quaternaire meeting.
Hugh officially retired from the University of Ottawa in 2003 after a 36-year career in the Department of Geography and the Department of Earth Sciences. Among the awards that Hugh received during his career were the Roger J.E. Brown Award of the Canadian Geotechnical Society in 1989 for outstanding contributions to permafrost science and engineering, and the Canadian Association of Geographers Award for Scholarly Distinction in 1995. Hugh is now Professor Emeritus, but continues to teach courses including a periglacial field course in the Gaspésie (eastern Canada).
The day-long special session on May 15, 2004, in Quebec City honoured Hugh’s distinguished career as professor, permafrost scientist, founder and editor of the journal of Permafrost and Periglacial Processes (PPP), and member and past President of the IPA Executive. Over 30 permafrost researchers attended from Canada and abroad (Japan, Norway, Belgium, U.K., U.S.A.). The introduction to the meeting was made by Albert Pissart, Professor Emeritus at Liège, who worked with Hugh on Banks Island in the 1970s and later was Associate Editor on PPP; Jerry Brown; and Antoni Lewkowicz, Hugh’s former graduate student and Associate Editor of PPP. The latter and two other former graduate students, Wayne Pollard (McGill) and Julian Murton (Sussex) gave papers. Many of the more than 20 papers from the special session will be published in 2005 in the first issue of volume 16 of PPP as a lasting tribute to Hugh French’s influence on the field of permafrost science. The special session and special volume were organized by Antoni Lewkowicz.
On November 15–16 in Calgary, another special event took place—the two-day Permafrost and Arctic Geotechnology Symposium, “Our Canadian Legacy.” The symposium, organized by the Cold Regions Geotechnology Division of the Canadian Geotechnical Society, featured more than a dozen Canadian permafrost pioneers and specialists either summarizing their areas of expertise and/or sharing interesting and challenging case histories. Symposium attendance far exceeded expectations, clearly demonstrating the renewed interest in permafrost engineering issues associated with resource developments in Canada’s North. A highlight was the presence of Dr. J. Ross Mackay, who introduced Dr. Chris Burn, who spoke on climate change in the Mackenzie Valley. The programme and list of presentations can be found at http:// members. shaw.ca/cgssymposium.
In another notable event, Dan Riseborough (GSC/ NRCan) received the Senate Medal for Outstanding Achievement at the doctoral level and the Governor General’s Medal for the top student of all 2004 graduating classes. The awards were in recognition of his outstanding dissertation presented at Carleton University in September 2004 entitled “Exploring the Parameters of a Simple Model of the Permafrost-Climate Relationship”.
Researchers from the University of Calgary, lead by Matthew Tait of Geomatics Engineering and Brian Moorman of Geography, and Geology and Geophysics, are undertaking a project to investigate methods for measuring the small scale subsidence associated with hydrocarbon extraction beneath permafrost in the Mackenzie Delta. The subsidence bowl for an individual field has been modelled to be several square kilometres in spatial extent with subsidence in the centimetre per year range. Currently, DGPS and interferometric SAR in conjunction with active layer heave modelling are being tested against traditional surveying techniques.
A study of how permafrost and hydrological systems react to rapid glacier retreat is being undertaken on Bylot Island in the Eastern Canadian Arctic by researchers at the University of Calgary (lead by B. Moorman). Recent glacial retreat has been identified to have a major influence on the hydrological system of surrounding permafrost. Ongoing research includes hydrological routing, massive ice preservation, slope stability and the thermal regime of permafrost.
Mapping and studies of the properties of the lithalsas from southern Alaska across the Yukon Territory into British Columbia has been completed (S. Harris, Univ. of Calgary). Work on the layers within the active layer was presented in June 2004 at the Tyumen permafrost conference. Field work is continuing on evidence for a similar layering in bedrock containing permafrost at Plateau Mountain. The monitoring of ground temperatures in permafrost is continuing in the Yukon.
A federal interdepartmental initiative, led by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) and noted in last year’s Frozen Ground report, was approved by Cabinet for 3-year funding of $75 million. The science supported by this funding will be focused on addressing biophysical research gaps related to northern energy development in the Mackenzie Valley and Delta, and the associated government regulatory preparedness. Over $9 million will be dedicated to geoscience studies (mostly in NRCan and also in DIAND), will include permafrost monitoring, slope stability investigations, and coastal and nearshore studies. Energy, northern and pipeline related permafrost studies by the federal government in the western arctic (onshore, coastal and offshore) also continue to be funded by the Federal Panel on Energy Research and Development (PERD).
The application and environmental impact studies for the Mackenzie Gas Project were officially filed in October 2004 by Imperial Oil Resources Ventures Limited, the Mackenzie Valley Aboriginal Pipeline Limited Partnership, ConocoPhillips Canada Limited, ExxonMobil Canada Properties and Shell Canada Limited. The project will involve the development of three onshore natural gas fields in the Mackenzie Delta, and the transport of natural gas via buried pipelines through the continuous and discontinuous permafrost regions of the Mackenzie valley to northwestern Alberta. A streamlined regulatory review process has begun and a Joint Environmental Assessment (EA) Review Panel has been established. Many members of the Canadian permafrost community are or will be involved in various aspects of the project and its approval, from engineering design and environmental investigations for the proponents, to reviewing the environmental impact assessment.
GSC (Geological Survey of Canada) and its partners were involved in several coastal and nearshore permafrost investigations. The application of remote sensing to coastal permafrost distribution in the Mackenzie Delta region was a primary focus (S. Solomon). Radar satellite and ground penetrating radar were used successfully to delineate areas of bottomfast ice in the nearshore region. The University of Calgary (B. Moorman) provided the expertise in GPR. Bottomfast ice distribution is a critical control on the distribution of seasonal frozen ground and permafrost in water depths shallower than 2 m. The GSC (D. Forbes, G. Manson and S. Solomon) carried out coastal stability surveys at sites throughout the western Canadian Arctic. The surveys support aspects of the joint IPA-IASC Arctic Coastal Dynamics project by providing information of coastal environments ranging from submergent and exposed to emergent and protected. This project includes partners from the departments of Fisheries and Oceans and the Geodetic Survey of Canada who are determining rates of sea level rise and vertical ground motion, respectively. Rates of ground motion are also being monitored using GPS at sites in the Mackenzie Delta. These locations will provide information on differential rates of subsidence in the delta prior to the development of oil and gas fields there. Changes in the rate of sea level rise and subsidence influence flooding frequency and therefore coastal permafrost stability.
The web site for the Canadian Permafrost Monitoring Network was updated (www.canpfnetwork.com) (S. Smith). The site now provides access to summary historical ground temperature data for several Canadian boreholes and to active layer data for monitoring sites in the Mackenzie Valley. A CD compilation of summary thermal data for Norman Wells Pipeline monitoring sites was released this year. (For more information on both these items, see the report of the Standing Committee on Data Information and Communication).
A study concerned with massive ground ice in coarsegrained deposits and its implications for granular resource inventories is being conducted in the Mackenzie Delta area by researchers from McGill University (W. Pollard) and the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) (B. Gowan). Supported by PERD and DIAND, this study addresses questions concerning the nature, origin, distribution, and significance of massive ground ice in deposits identified as potential sand and gravel sources. In 2003–04 fieldwork included a series of resistivity and GPR surveys at sites on Richards Island and along the East Channel of the Mackenzie River. Samples of ice and ice-rich sediments were taken for physical and chemical analyses. Results will facilitate characterisation of sensitivity of these sediments to natural or anthropogenic disturbance, as well as providing information about massive ice occurrence in coarse sediments. This research forms the basis of MSc research of Greg De Pascale (McGill University).
The Canadian daily snow depth database that was released on the Canadian Snow CD in 2000 has been updated to the end of the 2002/2003 snow season. The database includes daily snow depths observed at close to 2000 climate stations in Canada, monthly depth statistics (mean depth, median depth, snow cover duration) as well as climate normals for the 1971–2000 period. The updated dataset files (partitioned by province) can be downloaded from the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network (www.ccin.ca) (R. Brown, Meteorological Service of Canada).
An Introduction to Frozen Ground Engineering, Second Edition by O.B. Andersland and B. Ladanyi, was published in 2004 jointly by ASCE and John Wiley & Sons, New York, 363 p. S. Solomon (NRCan/GSC) and D. Atkinson (formerly NRCan, now with the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska) completed their contributions to the Cryosphere chapter of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). They provided information on coastal permafrost and the sea level rise. B. Ladanyi (Ecole Polytechnique) contributed to the Chapter on Infrastructure, Buildings, Support Systems, and Industrial Facilities.
A two-day workshop on “Permafrost Geophysics: Exploration and Engineering Challenges” in regions of continuous and discontinuous permafrost is being organized for April 2005 in Calgary. The workshop, sponsored by the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta, will involve tutorials on the current knowledge from ultra-near surface to deep oil and gas exploration. Short presentations on case studies and a panel discussion focusing on cross-disciplinary approach to permafrost investigations are planned. For many decades numerous scientific field parties operating in the Canadian Arctic have received critical logistics support from the Federal government’s Polar Continental Shelf Project (PCSP) of NRCan. We wish to give PCSP the long overdue recognition for the significant contribution it has made to permafrost research in the Canadian Arctic, not only for Canadians but also numerous colleagues in the international community. Margo Burgess (firstname.lastname@example.org)