This Canadian year’s report focuses on IPY permafrost projects. It also includes reports from select other research activities at the Geological Survey of Canada, University of Ottawa, and McGill University. Finally a special item is provided on Don Hayley, in recognition of his 40 years of service to the Canadian and broader permafrost community.
Canadian IPY Activities:
Thermal State of Permafrost (TSP-Canada) - A Canadian Contribution to the International Polar Year - S. Smith, A. Lewkowicz and C. Burn: A collaborative project led by S. Smith (Geological Survey of Canada -GSC), A. Lewkowicz (University of Ottawa) and C. Burn (Carleton University) was one of 44 science and research projects that were selected for funding under the Canadian Government’s IPY program in March 2007. Th is project represents the main Canadian contribution to the International IPY project led by the IPA, Th ermal State of Permafrost (TSP). A primary objective was to develop new sites to address gaps in the existing long-term permafrost monitoring network. Over 80 new boreholes were established bringing the total number to 159. Funding acquired by Canadian government departments under the Northern Energy Development Memorandum to Cabinet (between 2005 and 2007) supported the drilling and instrumentation of about 70 boreholes in the Mackenzie Valley. The IPY program, other funding sources and a number of partnerships facilitated the establishment of new monitoring sites in other regions including the Yukon Territory, northern Manitoba and communities in the Baffin region of Nunavut. Collaboration with communities, mineral exploration companies and the Yukon Geological Survey resulted in the installation of temperature cables to depths of up to 40 m in an altitudinal transect of boreholes to better understand spatial variation in mountain permafrost in the Yukon. Collaboration with the Nunavut government and communities has resulted in an enhanced monitoring network in the Baffin region. Th ere are also plans to establish 4 to 8 sites over the next 1 to 2 years in additional Nunavut communities. Collaboration with Parks Canada resulted in establishment of monitoring sites in northern Manitoba including seven boreholes at the York Factory Heritage site.
Progress was also made on another primary objective to measure permafrost temperatures in new and existing boreholes in Canada during the IPY to provide a ‘snapshot’ of ground thermal conditions, and provide an improved baseline against which to measure change. Data were collected from most of the existing and many new monitoring sites during the fi rst portion of the Polar Year. Baseline information was collected in regions for which little recent information was available, and existing time series were extended, enabling quantifi cation of recent changes in permafrost conditions across the Canadian north. Analyses are underway and are expected to lead to a better understanding of permafrost-climate linkages and to explain variability and change in permafrost conditions. Preliminary project results were presented through posters at NICOP, including some by graduate students involved in the project. Data collection for the entire IPY period was completed in Fall 2008 and snapshot data will be disseminated in Canadian and IPA data products at the IPY early science conference in June 2010 and through a special IPY issue of Permafrost and Periglacial Processes.
Tundra Ecosystems and Perennially Frozen Peatlands - C. Tarnocai: Two major collaborative IPY projects were initiated to study the impact of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems in the permafrost region of Canada. Th e fi rst study, led by G. Henry (UBC), deals with Arctic tundra ecosystems and the second, led by J. Bhatti (Northern Forest Research Centre, NRCAN), deals with forest and peatland ecosystems in the Mackenzie Valley. Th e information obtained during the course of these projects will be published in posters and scientifi c journals. The fi rst study, entitled “Climate Impacts on Canadian Arctic Tundra Ecosystems” (CiCAT), includes a number of subprojects (approximately 32). The subproject led by C. Tarnocai (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) in cooperation with P. Achuff (Parks Canada), G. Broll (University of Vechta, Germany) and J. Gould (Government of Alberta) involves a long-term study of changes in the soils, permafrost, vegetation and thermal regime of High Arctic ecosystems and the eff ect of climate change on the carbon stored in the soils. Data collected during the July 2008 fi eld work in the Lake Hazen and Tanquary Fiord areas of Ellesmere Island revealed the development of an unexpectedly deep thaw never before observed during the past 18 years of this study. This rapid increase in thaw depth is supported by the soil temperature data collected at the Lake Hazen soil climate site. This unprecedented deep thaw triggered retrogressive fl ow slides, detachment slides, and severe landscape changes resulting from the thawing of ice wedges. The second study, entitled “Carbon source–sink and greenhouse gas emissions in forest and peatland ecosystems along the Mackenzie Valley,” includes approximately fi ve subprojects. The subproject led by C. Tarnocai (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) involves carbon dynamics and carbon cycles of perennially frozen peatlands. Coring of these peat deposits was carried out during the 2007 and 2008 fi eld work at the Inuvik, Norman Wells and Fort Simpson research sites. The samples collected at these sites are being radiocarbon dated, analysed and evaluated.
Permafrost Studies on Herschel Island Linked to IPY Project 90 - W. Pollard: Activities undertaken by McGill University’s project “An integrated study of permafrost conditions on Herschel Island, Yukon” are linked to the IPY Project 90: Arctic Circumpolar Coastal Observatory Network (ACCO-Net) and stem from the regional component of a larger endeavour originally planned as an IPY activity (Vulnerability of Ice-Cored Environments (VICE) - #376).
W. Pollard and Ph.D. candidate N. Couture brought a group of four undergraduate students to the Yukon coast to undertake fi eldwork that related to establishing the extent of ground ice on Herschel Island and the impact of its thaw. Each student specialized in one topic. The first is characterizing the permafrost stratigraphy of the Pauline Cove area of Herschel Island to help determine the thaw susceptibility of this area and gain insight into paleoenvironmental conditions. The second project uses ground penetrating radar (GPR) to assess the extent of massive ground ice deposits on Herschel Island and generate a fi rst approximation of ice volume to provide the basis for a prediction of thermokarst. The third examines the re-vegetation and succession patterns of retrogressive thaw slumps, and the fi nal component of the 2008 research is the development of a geographical information system (GIS) that will provide the basis for monitoring the extent and progressive changes in thermokarst and the impact of those changes. All projects make use of baseline data collected from earlier studies on the island.
The research team also included Dr. H. Lantuit and Ph.D. student M. Fritz from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Potsdam, Germany. The undergraduate projects complement M. Fritz‘s doctoral work which uses a joint approach based on sedimentary, palynological, and stable isotope records to gain insight into the island’s postglacial permafrost history.
GSC –Atlantic and its Collaborative NearshorePprojects in the Mackenzie Delta - S. Solomon: Work on nearshore permafrost within the bottom fast ice (BFI) zone of the Mackenzie Delta continued with the successful recovery of temperature loggers from beneath the BFI for the third year. This provides an unprecedented time series illustrating extreme interannual variability due to small variations in ice thickness and the rate of ice growth. Funding for these activities is provided by the Natural Resources Canada Program for Energy Development (PERD) and by the Northern Energy Development Program. BFI development through the 2007-08 freeze-up season was monitored using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from a variety of sensors. The availability of fully polarized SAR data in several diff erence frequency bands (C, L, and X-band) is enabling new methods for BFI mapping. This work is being undertaken in collaboration with the Centre for Cold Oceans Resource Engineering. We are also investigating applications of interferometric SAR for mapping BFI and for monitoring subsidence in the Mackenzie Delta. This work is funded by the Canadian Space Agency.
Although not directly permafrost-related, new PERDfunded projects have been initiated to improve our understanding of sediment transport in the coastal regions of the southern Beaufort Sea region and the role that sea-ice may play. Observations during spring break-up indicate that BFI plays a signifi cant role in controlling overfl ow over the sea ice surface during initial stages of the spring freshet. Vigorous upwelling at the edges of BFI mark the locations of overfl ow and small whirlpools (“strudel drains”) concentrated at the seaward edges of BFI and indicate locations of drainage. Strudel scours more than 1 m deep occur in the seabed. Th e strudel drainage process is being modeled by an M.Eng student at the University of Alberta (M. Belanger, under the supervision of F. Hicks and M. Loewen). Dr. M. A. Hoque has joined the GSCA Arctic coastal group as a visiting post-doctoral fellow to help develop models of waves, sediment transport and coastal erosion.
D. Forbes with colleagues from the Geodetic Survey of Canada (J.C. Lavergne and M. Craymer) continued their investigation of vertical ground motion in the Mackenzie Delta region using GPS measurements. Working with B. Moorman and his students, they further examined the applications of ground penetrating radar (GPR) for examining coastal permafrost. C. Stevens (Ph.D. candidate) extended his work on the identifi cation of thermal interfaces in the shallow nearshore region where the ground temperature data was collected. J. Bode (M.Sc. candidate) worked with D. Forbes to examine the role that ground ice may play controlling ground elevation and flooding extent. Nearshore ground temperatures and GPR results were presented at the NICOP in Fairbanks.
University of Ottawa - A. Lewkowicz: A. Lewkowicz and several graduate students undertook additional investigations of the spatial distribution and characteristics of permafrost in the Yukon. In collaboration with B. Etzelmüller (University of Oslo) and as a contribution to the IPY, DC resistivity profi ling was carried out at several thin permafrost sites along the Alaska Highway where permafrost has persisted over the past 44 years. Mt McIntyre, a possible borehole site close to Whitehorse, was also surveyed using this method. To enable predictive spatial modelling, the team completed two years of BTS measurements and latesummer observations of permafrost presence in five study areas across the southern half of the Yukon. Th ese data are currently being analysed and ways to incorporate vegetation and air temperature inversions into the models are being explored. In order to assess the impact of the inversions, air and ground surface temperatures, temperatures near the top of permafrost and snow depths are being recorded at almost 100 sites through the Territory. The potential infl uence is suggested by ground temperatures measured at three new IPY sites that are about 4°C warmer than would be predicted by adjusting nearby weather station data for the elevational diff erence. This is probably because they are unaff ected by the air temperature inversions that impact the weather stations, all of which are located in valley bottoms. A database of almost 1500 rock glaciers is also under construction and will be used to calibrate the spatial model between the study areas. The project, to produce detailed predictions of permafrost probability throughout the discontinuous permafrost areas of the Yukon, is planned for completion by the end of 2009.
McGill University - W. Pollard: There were four different but complementary themes to the permafrost research activities at McGill University led by W. Pollard.
(1) An integrated study of permafrost conditions on Herschel Island, Yukon, is reported above under the Canadian IPY activities.
(2) PERD Project NP 1.2.2: Massive ground ice nature and distribution. In collaboration with R. Gowan (Federal Department of Indian and Northern Aff airs) and funded by the Federal Panel on Energy Research and Development (PERD), the McGill team is also engaged in a project involving the detection and assessment of massive ground ice conditions for a range of environmentally sensitive sites related to hydrocarbon development activities in the Mackenzie Delta region. This project builds on previous PERD funded research on massive ground ice in granular deposits. As in previous PERD work, the team is conducting geophysical surveys using ground penetrating radar (GPR) and capacitive coupled resistivity (CCR). However, this project expands the scope of the earlier work by combining these techniques with frequency domain electromagnetic sounding (FEM), by using diff erent frequency GPR antennae to provide a more detailed view of near-surface ground ice stratigraphy, and by increasing the density of the surveys. In subsequent years, this data will be then be used to model terrain response for hydrocarbon production activities and potential long-term problems related to climate change.
(3) Nature and significance of perennial springs in cold permafrost. In 2008 fieldwork was undertaken at several groups of saline springs on Axel Heiberg Island, three periods of fi eldwork (March, July and September) were undertaken to characterize the response of spring discharge phenomena to seasonal changes. This is an ongoing NSERC funded project focusing on the permafrost hydrology, surface geomorphology and geochemistry of these unique spring systems. This year a series of geophysical surveys were conducted to define the subsurface extent of flow systems. Geochemical research focused on eutectic freezing processes and the formation of hydrated minerals. Th is research is related to the creation of a Mars analogue site funded by the Canadian Space Agency Canadian Analogue Research Network (CARN) Program.
(4) The response of ice-rich permafrost to climate change in the high Arctic. The main focus of this research is the assessment of ground ice distribution and thaw sensitivity of massive ground ice and ice wedge systems. In July 2008 fieldwork was conducted on Axel Heiberg, Ellesmere and Devon Islands. Included were (a) Ph.D. research by T. Haltigin on ice-wedge polygon geometry and detection and (b) M.Sc. research by J. Grom on the microclimate of a retrogressive thaw slump. Haltigin’s research has shown a strong predictive relationship between polygon geometry and the age, geology and ice content. Grom’s research has shown that there is a positive feedback between slump shape and rate of headwall retreat. W. Pollard continued the collection of microclimate data for several sites on Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere Island as well as the annual survey of retrogressive thaw slumps in the Eureka sound Lowlands. This is an ongoing project funded by NSERC and ArcticNet.
GSC-Northern Landslide Hazard Activities in the Mackenzie Valley - R. Couture: In the last three years, the Geological Survey of Canada, through the Natural Resources Canada’s Earth Science Sector Secure Canadian Energy Supply Program, has been providing new geoscience information on regional landslide hazards along a new proposed pipeline corridor in the Mackenzie Valley. A series of publications has been prepared and published in 2008 through traditional Geological Survey of Canada’s publications and scientifi c journal papers and international conferences. A GSC Open File (#5740) contains over 1800 landslides and other natural terrain hazard features (e.g. karstic sink holes, rock glacier) mapped along a proposed gas pipeline route, between Norman Wells and Inuvik, and integrated into a GIS spatial database. A second GSC Open File (#5738) includes high-resolution orthophotos and digital elevation models for three landslide-prone areas along this corridor. These Open Files are available through the following hyperlink http://gsc. nrcan.gc.ca/bookstore/index_e.php. Since 2006, InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) techniques have been used to monitor and better understand landslides and slope behaviour in permafrost that are otherwise difficult to analyse with usual geotechnical tools. D-InSAR (Differential Interferometry) analysis has led to preparation of guidelines for processing InSAR in permafrost environment. Two publications are in preparation for publication in early 2009. Also in 2006, the first ever a set of corner refl ectors (artificial permanent scatters) was installed in Canada at various landslide sites in a permafrost environment with the objectives of monitoring active landslides and slopes using a Point Target InSAR technique, (PT-InSAR). Preparation of guidelines for PT-InSAR in permafrost environment is underway with anticipated publication in 2009.
Recognizing Don Hayley’s 40 years of arctic engineering - EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd.: The staff and Board of Directors of EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd. are pleased to congratulate Mr. Don Hayley P.Eng., Director of Arctic Resource Projects for EBA’s Arctic Practice, for 40 years of consulting focused on arctic engineering, primarily related to northern resource development. During this time Don has led numerous feasibility and design studies for projects such as transportation facilities over permafrost terrain, arctic pipelines, northern mining developments, and exploratory oil and gas drilling and production structures. Don is one of Canada’s premiere proponents for responsible northern development. Don founded the Cold Regions Division of the Canadian Geotechnical Society and was its first Director. He is a past Chairman of the Canadian National Committee for the International Permafrost Association, and served on the CNC-IPA from 1988 to 2008. Don was a member of IPA Executive Committee from 2003 to 2008. He was named a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) in 2002 and more recently received the prestigious Julian B. Smith Medal from EIC for “Achievement in the Development of Canada”. Don graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Carleton University and an M.Sc. from the University of Alberta. He has worked with EBA, a consulting engineering and sciences company practicing in western and northern Canada since 1966, in Edmonton and Peachland throughout his 40 year career. EBA, and indeed members of the Canadian permafrost community, are proud to have Don as a colleague and mentor.
Margo Burgess (email@example.com)