The Canadian permafrost community has been busy this past year with IPY projects and other activities including organization of the Sixth Canadian Permafrost Conference. This report presents some highlights of ongoing research and other activities.

Thermal State of Permafrost (TSP-Canada) – A Canadian Contribution to the International Polar Year – S. Smith, A. Lewkowicz and C. Burn

This collaborative project led by S. Smith (Geological Survey of Canada), A. Lewkowicz (University of Ottawa) and C. Burn (Carleton University) has made significant progress on its objectives to establish new permafrost monitoring sites to address gaps in the existing long-term monitoring network. As reported last year over 80 new boreholes were added. In 2009 additional sites were established in Nunavut communities, along an elevation transect at Eureka and in the Yukon with the most recent borehole drilled at Mt. McIntyre. Permafrost thermal data have been collected for the IPY period (2007-2009) from most new sites as well as the long-term sites. These data are currently being compiled to produce a ‘snapshot’ of ground thermal conditions that will provide an improved baseline against which to measure change. The Canadian snapshot database will contribute to the larger international database. The Canadian team will be active in preparation of a special issue of Permafrost and Periglacial Processes that will present initial IPY results. Canadians and their international colleagues met in October 2009 in Ottawa to develop the special issue. The snapshot database and the special journal issue will be disseminated at the IPY early science conference in June 2010.


Permafrost and Climate Change, Herschel Island – C. Burn

A long-term study of permafrost response to climate change on Herschel Island, Yukon Territory has recently been completed. Research results contribute to the IPY project and were presented in a recent paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research by C. Burn and Y. Zhang of Carleton University. Using a recent ground temperature profile, climate records and modelling, Burn and Zhang determined that mean annual temperatures at the top of permafrost and 20 m depth increased by 2.6 and 1.9°C respectively over the last century.  An interesting aspect of the Herschel Island study is that the scientists were are able to reconstruct climate conditions 100 years ago from the records kept by the missionaries and whalers who lived there at the turn of the 20th century. The whalers, especially H.H. Bodfish, described snow conditions at Herschel, and they are much the same as today over much of the windswept island, i.e. a very thin layer of snow throughout winter. The missionaries, especially I.O. Stringer, kept weather records on behalf of Canada's Dominion Observatory. These data enabled a precise documentation of the change in conditions that has occurred in the 20th century in Canada's western Arctic.

Special Issue of Permafrost and Periglacial Processes on the Mackenzie Delta – C. Burn and S. Kokelj, editors
A special issue of Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, edited by C. Burn (Carleton) and S. Kokelj (Department of Indian and Northern Affairs), containing a collection of papers on permafrost in the Mackenzie Delta and adjacent regions was released in June 2009. Topics investigated include cryostratigraphy and its relationship to Quaternary history, trends in active layer thickness and ground temperatures across treeline, the development of retrogressive thaw slumps and their influence on lake water quality, and the potential impact of climatically induced thermokarst on terrain stability. Much of the research presented is very relevant to planned infrastructure projects including the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project.
Highlights of the PPP issue include maps of ground temperatures in the Mackenzie Delta area. This is the first regional comparison of ground temperature conditions over a period of about 40 years. Included were conditions over the region collected in the last three years and contrasted with data presented by J.R. Mackay from the1970s. The PPP issue also contains the longest record of active layer thickness variation published so far, with data collected at Illisarvik, 1983-2008.  This record, summarizing changes at 12 sites on a hillslope transect shows clear thickening of the active layer at a tundra site during that period.

Enhancement of the Permafrost Monitoring Network in the Mackenzie Corridor – S. Smith

Through support received from the Northern Energy Development Initiative, the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) undertook to address gaps in its permafrost thermal monitoring network in the Mackenzie Corridor and to collect baseline environmental information that is essential for planning northern energy development and the assessment of associated environmental impacts. Over 50 new monitoring sites were established throughout the corridor between 2005 and 2008. Collaboration with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (Kokelj) facilitated the installation of temperature cables in the Mackenzie Delta region. Permafrost thermal data have now been collected from all new installations with a two year record available for most sites. The initial data have been presented in GSC publications including a database product published as GSC Open File 6041 that includes thermal and geotechnical data for new field sites established in the central and southern Mackenzie Valley. An important achievement was the collection of new information on ground thermal conditions in areas (such as the region north of Norman Wells) where very little recent information existed. Data from the new sites and the existing long-term monitoring sites have facilitated an updated characterization of ground thermal conditions throughout the corridor providing a baseline against which change can be measured. Data are being generated that are essential for planning development within the region. In addition the enhanced network will be an important contribution to environmental monitoring and management programs associated with future development projects in the region.

2008 Roger Brown Award Recipient, Margo Burgess

Margo Burgess of the Geological Survey of Canada was presented with the Roger J.E. Brown Award at the 2008 Annual Canadian Geotechnical Society Meeting. The Roger Brown Award is presented by the Cold Regions Geotechnology Division of the Canadian Geotechnical Society and honours excellence in the field of permafrost science and engineering. Margo was recognized for her achievements as a geoscientist over her 30 year career at the Geological Survey of Canada. Highlights of her work include the monitoring of the response of the ground thermal regime and terrain stability to natural and anthropogenic disturbances and the compilation of permafrost and geotechnical databases. She has published extensively, with many publications on the performance of the Norman Wells pipeline including its response to geotechnical issues such as uplift buckling of pipelines, and creep of thawing warm permafrost slopes. The results of her research related to the Norman Wells pipeline have been important not only to the ongoing maintenance and management of the existing pipeline but have also been utilized in the design of the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project and the associated environmental assessment process.

Margo has also been active in the IPA as a member of its Standing Committee on Data, Information and Communication. She also served as a member and secretary of the Canadian National Committee to the International Permafrost Association from 1999 to 2009.

Margo has also contributed her permafrost expertise to international assessments. In 2000, she co-authored the permafrost contribution to Chapter 2 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Third Assessment report. In 2004, she was an expert reviewer for the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.

The Canadian permafrost community is proud to have Margo as a colleague and congratulate her for receiving this honour.

Sixth Canadian Permafrost Conference, September 2010

The CNC-IPA together with the Canadian Geotechnical Society will be hosting a joint Canadian Permafrost Conference and annual Geotechnical Conference in Calgary, September 12-15, 2010. This will be the Sixth Canadian Permafrost Conference and is open to all permafrost-related contributions.  The conference website is

J. Oswell (Naviq Consulting Inc. and Chair, CNC-IPA) has been invited to present the R.M. Hardy Address at the Conference. The R.M. Hardy Keynote Address was established in 1986 to honour this great Canadian teacher and engineer. The address is presented by a well-known, senior CGS member from the area or city where the annual Canadian Geotechnical Conference is held. The topic is usually on a problem or issue of national or local interest. Jim will make a presentation on geotechnical aspects of pipelines in permafrost.


Proceedings of Canadian Permafrost Conferences Available On-line


The proceedings of the five Canadian Permafrost Conferences (1962-1990) are available for searching and viewing at

PDF files of the proceedings can be viewed sequentially, and a database containing 187 records describing the papers and other items that appeared in the proceedings can be searched for words in titles and abstracts, broad or detailed subject and geographic categories, authors, and conference numbers. All in this database are also available in the international Arctic & Antarctic Regions database, the main Arctic Science and Technology Information System (ASTIS) database, and relevant ASTIS subset databases.

This initiative was supported by the Canadian National Committee for the International Permafrost Association. The Geological Survey of Canada (Natural Resources Canada) provided support for the digitization of the conference proceedings and funded ASTIS (Arctic Institute of North America, University of Calgary) to index the papers and create the website.

Don Hayley to Present Canadian Geotechnical Society Cross Canada Lecture in Spring, 2010

The Canadian Geotechnical Society has invited Don Hayley, of EBA Engineering Consultants and former member of the Executive Council of IPA, to present a series of lectures to the membership of the Canadian Geotechnical Society. This lecture tour is a semi-annual program and the lecturer is a notable engineer or geo-scientist of international repute in their respective field.  Specific dates for the tour and locations have yet to be finalized.

Sharon Smith (