It has been a busy year for the Canadian permafrost community. One of the major highlights of 2010, was GEO2010, which was a joint conference of the 63rd Canadian Geotechnical Conference and the 6th Canadian Permafrost Conference (CanCOP6), held in Calgary, September 2010. CanCOP6 was very successful as was jointly organized by the Canadian National Committee for the IPA (CNC-IPA) and the Canadian Geotechnical Society’s Cold Regions Division. Although the majority of participants were Canadian, there were several international participants including good representation from the USA, China and Russia. Over 70 permafrost/cold regions papers were presented and also published in the proceedings. The program included presentations on results of IPY research, northern foundations, northern pipeline design, monitoring and management, infrastructure design for northern mines, permafrost issues in the Mackenzie Delta. Two plenary papers with a permafrost theme were presented in the opening session of the joint conference, one by Dr. J. Oswell (RM Hardy keynote address) and the other by Dr. S. Kokelj (JR Mackay award recipient). Short courses on permafrost geophysics and remote sensing and permafrost were also offered.
Other Canadian scientists and their contributions to research were also recognized in 2010. Dr. J.R. Mackay was awarded the inaugural IPY lifetime achievement award at the Third European Conference on Permafrost. This award recognizes the significant contribution that Dr. Mackay has made to our understanding of the permafrost environment during a career that has spanned more than six decades. The project on the impact of climate change on permafrost conditions in Yukon and northern BC led by Dr. A Lewkowicz (U of Ottawa) with students, C. Miceli and M. Duguay, was recognized as the 2010 Expedition of the Year by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Dr. L. Arenson (BGC Engineering) was awarded the Roger Brown Award by the Canadian Geotechnical Society honouring excellence in permafrost engineering.
The Canadian permafrost community has been active in providing their expertise to various initiatives to improve our understanding of the impacts of climate change on infrastructure and the development of strategies to adapt to these changes. Permafrost scientists and engineers (including D. Hayley, C. Burn, S. Smith, D. Fortier) were members of an expert working group led by the Canadian Standards Association tasked with developing guidelines for engineering design of community infrastructure for a changing climate. There was considerable interaction with various individuals from northern communities. The report was released in 2010 (available at: http://www.shopcsa.ca/onlinestore/welcome.asp) and there are early indications that it is being welcomed in various regions as a guide for construction in permafrost regions. The permafrost community also contributes to the Network of Expertise on Permafrost, a Transportation Association of Canada initiative.
The Thermal State of Permafrost (TSP-Canada) Project led by S. Smith, A. Lewkowicz and C. Burn was Canada’s main permafrost contribution to the International Polar Year (IPY). One of the key achievements of this project was a snapshot database and map of the current thermal state of permafrost. The map was presented at the IPY Oslo Conference (June 2010) and in the special issue of Permafrost and Periglacial Processes released during the conference as well as a paper in the proceedings of CanCOP6. The database for TSP-Canada is also provided online (www.gtnp.org and http://nsidc.org/data/g02190.html). The current conditions were also placed in the context of the longer record and the results show that permafrost temperatures continue to increase across the Canadian north and over the last three decades the range in temperature of permafrost in Canada has decreased by about 1°C. Analysis of the data collected during IPY is continuing and additional publications are to be released and/or submitted in 2011. The results from the Canadian project were important contributions to the Arctic Council Climate and Cryosphere Project (Snow Water Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic). Scientific reports for the Federal IPY program are currently being prepared and the results of TSP-Canada will be a key contribution to the cryosphere report.
On the resource development front, in late 2010 the National Energy Board of Canada released its reason for decision and conditions for approval of the Mackenzie Gas Project. This project, which would see a natural gas pipeline constructed from the Mackenzie Delta to northern Alberta, was the subject to regulatory hearings and inquiries since 2004. Full details on the reason for decision may be found at http://www.neb-one.gc.ca/clf-nsi/rthnb/pplctnsbfrthnb/mcknzgsprjct/rfd/rfd-eng.html
Sharon Smith (Sharon.Smith@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca) and Jim Oswell (email@example.com)