Environmental Monitoring and Research

Compilation of Northwest Territories Permafrost Data

Thursday, November 22, 2018 - 11:20 to 11:39 Theatre 3


K.C. Karunaratne (Presenting)
Northwest Territories Geological Survey

S.V. Kokelj
Northwest Territories Geological Survey

T.P. Ensom
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University

Knowledge of permafrost conditions is an essential component of environmental research and monitoring, resource development projects, and infrastructure design and performance monitoring. In the north, various needs drive the collection of permafrost geotechnical and ground temperature data including government and industry infrastructure projects, academic research, and regulatory monitoring. Research programs typically summarize the permafrost conditions in academic publications. Regulatory monitoring data accompanies reporting to the responsible authorities. Geotechnical information collected for development purposes is usually summarized in infrastructure design and maintenance reports.

Although ground temperatures are regularly measured in the Northwest Territories (NWT), the data usually reside with the research institute, government agency, or private industry consultant that collected them. Data are typically not retained by institutions that are best suited to manage and archive temperature data and records, such as the Northwest Territories Geological Survey (NTGS), or the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). As geotechnical and ground temperature data are expensive to collect, especially in remote areas, it is beneficial for the Government of Northwest Territories (GNWT) to house this information and make it publicly accessible for use in research, monitoring, and future development projects.
Permafrost data collected in the NWT are being compiled by the NTGS and collaborators at Carleton University, Wilfrid Laurier University, GSC, and Tetra Tech Canada Inc. Metadata templates have been developed for ground temperature records and geotechnical data so that information is described in a common and standardized way. The metadata templates include information on project details, site location and conditions, instrument installation, ground temperature record, permafrost conditions, and related publications and data. Metadata helps with understanding the conditions in which the permafrost data were collected and with the interpretation of those data.

A significant amount of permafrost data has been collected along the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway (ITH) corridor. The ITH geotechnical legacy represents a focal point for developing a data management system because of the volume and quality of the data, the relevance to a major infrastructure investment, and the national and international research interest in the region. The GNWT is working to find resources to develop and sustain an ITH permafrost data management system, which can act as a model for data collected across the territory. The collection and management of NWT permafrost data is becoming increasingly important because climate change is influencing environmental systems, transportation and community infrastructure, and the frequency and severity of geohazards. Capacity investment is required to preserve permafrost data so they can inform decisions on mitigation, climate change adaptation, and responsible development.