The Canadian permafrost community continues to be active in a number of research initiatives. For example, a new project led by Laval, Arctic Development and Adaptation to Permafrost in Transition (ADAPT), has been initiated. This project involves a team of researchers with the goal to define how changing permafrost and snow conditions affect tundra landscapes, water and wildlife and implications for northern communities and industries depending on these resources.

 

There has also been considerable activity in northern Canada with respect to natural resource developments and design of major infrastructure. Several mining projects are proposed for northern Canada and a number have been moving through the approval process over the past year. This includes the recently approved Mary River Project on Baffin Island which is an iron ore mine that will require a railway built on permafrost to transport ore to the port site. Environmental assessment hearings were completed this fall for a proposed highway that will traverse areas of ice-rich permafrost between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. The increasing potential for major projects in northern Canada highlights the need for knowledge on permafrost conditions and the expertise of permafrost engineers and scientists. Over the past year there have also been a number of workshops and meetings with a permafrost theme and we highlight some of these in this report.

Cold Regions Engineering 2012, the 15th International Specialty Conference on Cold Regions Engineering, was held in Quebec in August 2012. The conference was chaired by G. Doré (Laval) and was organized by the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering and the American Society for Civil Engineering. The theme of the conference was “Sustainable infrastructure development in a changing cold environment”. Over 80 papers were presented, a majority of which had a permafrost theme and focused on various topics including embankment engineering, foundation design, slope stability and climate change. The keynote address was given by Don Hayley. Peer reviewed scientific papers were published in a proceedings volume edited by G. Doré and B. Morse.

A Permafrost Degradation Workshop was held with the Northern Forum in Quebec in April 2012. This workshop was very much aligned with the “Climate Change Adaptation – Sustainable Technologies” theme of the Northern Forum. Canadian and Russian researchers gave presentations and discussed issues associated with permafrost and communities, transportation and natural resource development and also offered recommendations to deal with the challenges of changing permafrost conditions.

A special issue of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences on “Fundamental and applied research on permafrost in Canada” was published in August 2012. C. Burn (Carleton) was the guest editor of the issue that includes nine papers based on presentations at the 6th Canadian Conference on Permafrost held in Calgary in 2010. Themes included: effect of climate change on permafrost; regional variability in ground conditions; role of running water on permafrost conditions; effects of natural and artificial disturbance.

Canadians were also active participants in the IPY 2012 Conference in Montreal in April 2012. Canadians gave over 30 oral and poster presentations in the “Permafrost on a Warming Planet” sessions co-chaired by M. Angelopoulos (McGill). Also related to IPY, was a special issue (November 2012) of Climatic Change presenting results from the Canadian International Polar Year. Permafrost, including results from the Canadian Thermal State of Permafrost project, was an important component of the cryosphere paper in this issue.

Permafrost is also an important component of a series of Regional Impact Assessment Reports associated with ArcticNet. P. Bonnaventure (Queen’s) is leading the permafrost chapter for the Eastern Canadian Arctic region which complements the permafrost contribution already completed for northern Quebec. State of Knowledge reports including one for permafrost are currently being prepared for the Nunavut General Monitoring Program. These reports will present a regional baseline to support decision making.

Prepared by Sharon Smith, Secretariat Canadian National Committee for the International Permafrost Association