This report highlights a number of current Canadian permafrost activities. The last two years have seen an increase in permafrost research activities in Canada, in part attributable to a new federal programme for science, impact and adaptation research related to climate change. This new Climate Change Action Fund programme is supporting a number of projects with strong partnerships between government, academia and the private sector. A few of these projects are described below.
A surge in resource exploration and development activities in the western Arctic is occurring, placing significant demands on permafrost science and engineering for infrastructure design and management, and for adaptation to climate change impacts. These increased activities and needs, as well as the concurrent interests for construction of gas pipelines, will present both challenges and opportunities for the Canadian permafrost community. In this era of new information technology, the web is presenting opportunities for dissemination and management of permafrost data. Two Canadian examples are presented in this report: an Illisarvik bibliography and a national ground temperature database.
The Government of Canada established the Climate Change Action Fund (CCAF) in 1998, in order to engage Canadians in partnerships that will lead to a deeper understanding of the climate change issue, as well as to take early and meaningful actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. One component of this fund is directed towards Science, Impacts and Adaptation projects. This component of CCAF has funded several projects where permafrost is central or integral to the study. Further information on the CCAF programme can be found at http://www.climatechange.gc.ca/ english/html/fund/index.html.
The Geological Survey of Canada convened a National Permafrost/Glaciers/Ice Caps Monitoring Networks Workshop in Ottawa, January 28-29, 2000. The workshop was attended by some 50 participants, more than half of whom represented the permafrost community (government, academia and private sector). Sponsored by the federal Climate Change Action Fund to provide input to the development of Canada’s Global Climate Observations System (GCOS) Plan for the Cryosphere, the workshop focused on the requirements for coordinated national networks to observe the climate change signal, assess its regional variability, and evaluate its impacts in permafrost . For more details on the workshop see the section on the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P) in this issue of Frozen Ground. The final report of the Canadian permafrost monitoring workshop will be available on the GSC’s permafrost web site: http:// sts.nrcan.gc.ca/permafrost/ and released as a GSC Open File.
In a collaborative programme between Germany’s BGR and Centre d’études nordiques of Université Laval, twenty holes were drilled through the permafrost in July 2000 near Umiujaq in Nunavik (the Inuit territory of northern Québec) in order to obtain cores and to install geophysical instrumentation in the permafrost. The aims of the project include: to observe the cryostratigraphy in permafrost that aggraded in marine sediments following land emergence; to obtain samples of ice and trapped gases for chemical and isotopic analysis; to obtain temperature data that provide three dimensional temperature fields in permafrost and obtain groundwater pressure measurements at the base of permafrost in order to calibrate heat and mass transfer models of permafrost growth and regime; to provide open access holes for determination of geophysical properties; and to interpret and model the process of formation of palsas and permafrost mounds. As the recent emergence of these marine sediments is a possible analogue for early glacial emergence of marine sediments in other Arctic regions, this study will provide some potential explanations of permafrost characteristics and features now found in sea bottom conditions.
Three sites were drilled and instrumented: a (mineral) palsa consisting of a circular mound 50 m in diameter and 3 m high; a permafrost mound 14 m high that probably formed when permafrost invaded a spur between two pre-existing gullies; a 2.5 m high sandy mound. Preliminary results of the project will be presented at the 1st European Permafrost Conference in Rome.
A new National Park is being established on Bylot Island and northern Baffin Island in the eastern Canadian Arctic. In conjunction with this activity the University of Calgary (Brian Moorman) continues to study the glacier-permafrost interactions in the area. Moorman ‘s team from the University of Calgary is examining the linkages between glacial and permafrost hydrological systems, the burial and preservation of glacier ice, and the stability of permafrost under changing environmental conditions. To accomplish these goals a number of new techniques have been utilised including: combining differential GPS and ground-penetrating radar surveys to create 3-D maps of glacier thickness, englacial and subglacial drainage systems, and buried ice. Current research includes developing electrical resistivity imaging techniques for mapping the 3-D thermal structure of the ground and the distribution of massive ice. To assist in the development of new geophysical applications and permafrost modelling, a low-temperature experimental facility has been constructed at the University of Calgary to enable numerical and physical modelling of field conditions. The facility includes a walk-in freezer, currently housing a scale model (1.5 m x 3 m x 2 m) of permafrost, massive ground ice, and a buried pipeline. Two pumping constant-temperature baths enable precise control of the pipe temperature and the thermal field surrounding it. The facility also has an automated control and monitoring system that enables experimentation under controlled dynamic conditions. Currently, a number of experiments are being undertaken in the facility to test the scalability of geophysical techniques.
An Internet bibliography of the nearly 50 reports and papers that have been published covering research at Illisarvik is available at http:// www.nwtresearch.com/illisarvik. Illisarvik is the experimental drained lake on Richards Island in Canada’s western Arctic. The experiment was conceived by Ross Mackay and began in collaboration with the Geological Survey of Canada and the (then) Earth Physics Branch in 1978. Research at Illisarvik is continuing. The bibliography lists the full citation and abstract of all these articles. The bibliography was compiled by Margo Burgess (GSC), Ross Mackay (UBC) and Chris Burn (Carleton), and is hosted by the Aurora Research Institute, Aurora College, N.W.T.
The Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) has published a ground temperature database for northern Canada (Smith, S. and Burgess, M., 2000. ‘Ground temperature database for northern Canada, Geological Survey of Canada Open File no. 3954’) which provides a baseline summary compilation of data acquired over the last 30 years. This national database includes publicly available information from published and unpublished sources for 656 sites, 526 of which are in the permafrost region. The majority of sites are abandoned and currently inactive. Information on site characteristics such as air temperature, snow cover and vegetation, which influence the ground temperature regime has also been compiled. The entire database is presented digitally as an Excel spreadsheet. A series of maps and graphs illustrate site distribution, near-surface ground temperatures, and other attributes of the database.
Funding from the Federal Government’s Climate Change Action Fund has been received to increase data accessibility and web enable the national ground temperature and permafrost thickness databases. The web-based version of these databases is currently under development by Sharon Smith and Margo Burgess, and Phase I of the project is available at http:// sts.gsc.nrcan.gc.ca/tsdweb/geoserv_new.asp/.
Upon completion of the project by March 2001 access to the database will be provided through the GSC Permafrost Web Site (http://sts.gsc.nrcan.gc.ca/ permafrost/).
High Arctic Permafrost Observatories are maintained by the Geological Survey of Canada. Ground temperatures to depths of 60 m have been measured since 1978 on a regular basis at five borehole sites at Canadian Forces Station Alert, Nunavut (82.5ºN, 62.4ºW) with the ongoing collaboration of the Department of National Defence. These are the most northerly permafrost monitoring sites in the world and the 22-year data set is one of the longest records of permafrost temperatures in Canada. Funding was obtained in 2000 from the Federal Government’s Climate Change Action Fund to undertake an analysis incorporating the last decade of observations and to service and upgrade site instrumentation. In summer 2000, ground temperature cables were connected to data loggers and air and ground surface temperature sensors were installed at three sites. Preliminary analysis indicates that air temperatures have generally increased since 1986 and this has been accompanied by an observed rise in permafrost temperatures in the upper 15 m. Snow cover is generally thin to absent in this area but exhibits high spatial variability and this may be an important factor influencing the response of shallow permafrost temperatures to changes in air temperature. Data were also recovered in summer 2000 from data loggers at two other High Arctic sites near Eureka and on Lougheed Island. The record of permafrost temperatures to depths of 60 m from 1991 to 1997 is now available for analysis.
A study of the impacts of climate change on the Beaufort Sea coast is currently underway by Steve Solomon. The Geological Survey of Canada, with funding from the Panel on Energy Research and Development and the Climate Change Action Fund has been examining the effects of changes in environmental forcing on rates of coastal erosion. Examination of historical data has revealed decadal scale cycles in storm events, which cause storm surges and wave induced erosion. Ice chart data over 30 years reveals a trend towards increased open water periods, especially during the past decade. During the last field season, a late summer storm resulted in a storm surge of 2.2 m (a return period of about 10 years). The surge was especially interesting in light of the abundance of ice in the region. Despite the construction of new shore protection at Tuktoyaktuk, flooding and localised severe erosion took place. At nearby Tuktoyaktuk Island, a thermoerosional notch 2 m high and 10-15 m deep was cut at the base of the cliffs over the 24 hours of the storm. The data from the storm and other field measurements and mapping will be synthesized in a report on the sensitivity of the Beaufort Sea coast to climate change, scheduled for completion in April 2001.
The Second International Conference on Contaminants in Freezing Ground, Cambridge U.K., July 2000, was jointly organised by Carleton University’s Geotechnical Science Laboratories and Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute (See United Kingdom report for details).
The Inuvik Gas Pipeline Project received the Professional Award of Merit for 2000 by the Association of Professional Engineers of Northwest Territories (NAPEGG). The recipients were Inuvik Gas Ltd, Nixon Geotech Ltd, Comeau and Associates, Asher Engineering and North of 60 Ltd. The 150 mm diameter gas line provides natural gas to the town of Inuvik at rates of up to 3 million standard cubic feet per day, over a distance of 50 km from two wells at Ikhil, due north of Inuvik, NWT. The gas is used for electricity production, and domestic heating. Innovative engineering approaches were used to complete the design for slopes, ice wedges, backfill thaw settlement and occasional warm gas flow at the north end of the line. EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd. of Edmonton AB received an Award of Excellence from the Consulting Engineers of Alberta for their design and construction management of a frozen core dam at Ekati Diamond Mine, northeast of Yellowknife NWT. The 10 m high dam was constructed to contain surplus water from storage of processed kimberlite. The dam has a core of frozen gravel on a permafrost foundation that must remain frozen considering natural climatic variability and the risk of a progressive warming trend. A large number of delegates to the 7th International Conference on Permafrost, Yellowknife, 1998, visited the Ekati Mine and the dam just before diamond production began.
Margo Burgess (email@example.com)