Environmental Monitoring and Research

Community Focused Thermokarst Mapping to Inform Geohazard Assessments and Future Permafrost Thaw Risk

Soapbox Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - 13:07 to 13:13 Theatre 3


C. Gibson (Presenting)
University of Guelph

A. Coles
Wilfrid Laurier University

J. Baltzer
Wilfrid Laurier University

M. Turetsky
University of Guelph

The future impact of climate warming on communities and infrastructure is one of the most pressing issues facing northern Canada. Large areas of permafrost in Canada show signs of degradation and, with the Northwest Territories (NWT) warming ~4 times the rate of the global average, rates of permafrost thaw are expected to accelerate. Increasingly there is a need to consider the potential for thermokarst formation in community and land use planning. Current products that assess the distribution of thermokarst landscapes do so at the large, circumpolar scale, which is too coarse a scale to be useful for community or regional planning efforts. We aim to identify and predict – for a 50 km radius around six communities of the Northwest Territories – areas of the landscape that are susceptible to thermokarst formation. We identify and delineate thermokarst features in these focus areas using Sentinel remotely sensed imagery. These fine-scale community-focused datasets are then used to validate the current large-scale thermokarst probability maps (Olefeldt et al., 2016) and determine whether they can be downscaled for use in community land use planning and hazard assessment. Finally, our work seeks to understand the hierarchy of importance of landscape characteristics in determining a region’s sensitivity to thermokarst formation. We will develop maps of subsurface predictor variables – such as surficial geology, ground ice content, land cover and slope – and use spatial multi-variate correlation analysis to determine the hierarchy of landscape controls on thermokarst formation. Overall, the objectives and outputs of this work seek to advance our ability to map permafrost geohazards and to help inform where and when to apply management and adaption efforts.