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Permafrost Monitoring in the Inuvik Region
Recent climate warming has led to increases in surface air and ground temperatures, which has contributed to regional permafrost degradation, or permafrost thaw, across the Beaufort Delta Region. Thawing permafrost has led to infrastructure challenges across the region; roads and waterways are experiencing slumping along their borders, and buildings built on pilings are starting to tilt. For many years, Dr. Burn has studied changes in permafrost stability and ground temperature at various locations in the western Arctic, with a focus on the outer Mackenzie delta. He has an array of thermistor installations, ranging from Herschel Island, on the Yukon North Slope, to Paulatuk, on the Arctic Ocean coast of the NWT. At each site, ground temperature sensors are deployed in steel pipes, inserted into the ground through the permafrost layers. Ground temperature readings are measured and recorded to develop temperature profiles and observe changes in temperature/depth across these profiles over time.
The main objective of this monitoring program is to improve our understanding of how climate change is affecting permafrost in the western Arctic. The ice content of permafrost terrain affects its stability, and as ice melts this can result in damage to infrastructure and changes to the landscape. Permafrost monitoring is a crucial step in preparing for these changes.
The field team visits two sites near the town of Inuvik. One site is located off the Dempster Highway, just past the Inuvik airport, and the other site is at NRC Lake, located next to Big Lake Channel in the Mackenzie River Delta.
The field team visits both study sites once a month. At each site, the team takes ground temperature readings from a thermistor string buried in the permafrost. Measurements of local snow depths (in winter) and active layer depths (in summer) are also recorded.
Sampling occurs monthly throughout the year.
Dr. Chris Burn, Carleton University
Permafrost, active layer, talik, snow depth, active layer depth, thermistor