Talk
Changing Permafrost Landscapes

NWT Thermokarst Mapping Project

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 2:40pm to 3:00pm Theatre Three

Author(s)

T.O.G. Gingras-Hill (Presenting)
Wilfrid Laurier University
S.V. Kokelj
Northwest Territories Geological Survey
A.C.A. Rudy
Northwest Territories Geological Survey
S.A. Wolfe
Geological Survey of Canada
P.D. Morse
Geological Survey of Canada
C.M. Gibson
University of Guelph
C.R. Beel
Wilfrid Laurier University
J.L. Baltzer
Wilfrid Laurier University

Permafrost thaw is a primary cause of climate-driven landscape change in the north and has a major effect on ecosystems and infrastructure. Understanding the distribution of thaw-sensitive terrain is critical to predict the future state of the environment and water resources in the Northwest Territories (NWT), and for planning community and infrastructure adaptation to climate change. Although several local-scale mapping products describing the nature, intensity, and distribution of thermokarst processes and permafrost landforms are currently available, there are no NWT wide, observationally-based maps that depict the distribution of landforms indicative of permafrost thaw or sensitive terrain. This collaborative project has drawn on experts from across Canada, forming a northern-driven partnership aimed to develop a method for identifying thermokarst landforms and to map sensitive permafrost terrain to generate NWT-wide thermokarst and permafrost feature inventory maps. Through an iterative process, satellite imagery, combined with a 7.5 x 7.5 km gridded cell system is being used to inventory the location and relative density of features throughout the NWT and transboundary watershed areas using remote sensing and GIS software. These features are grouped into the following themes: A) Thawing slopes and mass-wasting; B) Hydrological features; C) Organic terrain; and D) Periglacial landforms. A QA/QC process integrating local-scale mapping products and expertise of academic and community partners will be applied to validate the empirically-based maps. Preliminary efforts to test the mapping methodology are focused on areas around the 33 NWT communities. The second component of this project will involve training northern students and project partners to use this method to create inventory maps for the entire NWT and the adjacent Provincial/Territorial transboundary watershed areas. Outputs will provide information relevant to all NWT regions, inform and validate modeling efforts, and support community climate change adaptation.