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TitleLong-term measurements of permafrost degradation and ground surface subsidence in the Mackenzie Delta area from a network of thaw tubes
AuthorO'Neill, H B; Smith, S L; Duchesne, C
Source47th Annual Yellowknife Geoscience Forum, abstracts; by Gervais, S D; Irwin, D; Terlaky, V; Northwest Territories Geological Survey, Yellowknife Geoscience Forum Abstract and Summary Volume vol. 2019, 2019 p. 65-66 (Open Access)
LinksOnline - En ligne (complete volume - volume complet, PDF, 6.60 MB)
Year2019
Alt SeriesNatural Resources Canada, Contribution Series 20190314
PublisherNorthwest Territories Geological Survey (Yellowknife, Canada)
Meeting47th Annual Yellowknife Geoscience Forum; Yellowknife, NT; CA; November 19-21, 2019
Documentserial
Lang.English
Mediaon-line; digital
File formatpdf
ProvinceNorthwest Territories
NTS107B/02; 107B/03; 107B/06; 107B/07; 107B/10; 107B/11; 107B/14; 107B/15; 107C/02; 107C/03; 107C/06; 107C/07; 107C/10; 107C/11
AreaMackenzie Delta; Richards Island; Kittigazuit Low Hills; Tununuk Low Hills; Mackenzie River; Inuvik; Caribou Hills; Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway; Canadian Arctic
Lat/Long WENS-135.0000 -133.0000 69.7500 68.0000
Subjectssurficial geology/geomorphology; environmental geology; Nature and Environment; Science and Technology; permafrost; ground ice; periglacial features; thermokarst; subsidence; in-field instrumentation; climate; statistical analyses; sediments; glacial deposits; glacial landforms; glacial features; moraines; kames; coastal environment; terraces; deltas; Anderson Plain; climate change; permafrost degradation; permafrost thaw; thaw tubes; elevations; active-layer thickness; site characteristics; glaciofluvial sediments; alluvial sediments
ProgramClimate Change Geoscience, Permafrost
Released2019 11 01
AbstractSignificant climate warming in the Mackenzie Delta area in the past few decades has resulted in increases in permafrost temperatures and thaw depths. In ice-rich permafrost, these increases result in differential ground surface subsidence that may damage infrastructure and alter ecosystems. The Geological Survey of Canada maintains a network of thaw tubes to monitor long-term changes in active layer conditions in the Mackenzie Valley and Delta. We analyzed annual measurements (1991-2016) from a subset of 17 thaw tubes in the Mackenzie Delta region to investigate changes in thaw penetration (TP), ground surface (GS) elevation relative to a stable benchmark, and active-layer thickness (ALT). Over the whole study period, TP increased significantly at 10 of the sites, at a median rate of 0.5 cm/a (min: 0.2, max: 1.5 cm/a), indicating progressive degradation of upper permafrost. Significant ground surface subsidence occurred at 10 sites, at a median rate of 0.4 cm/a (min: 0.2, max: 0.8 cm/a), indicating melt of ground ice. These results highlight long-term permafrost degradation and subsidence of ice-rich terrain in the western Arctic. The measurements show that between ~5 to 38 cm of permafrost have thawed over 25 years at the sites, and ~5 to 20 cm of excess ground ice have melted. In contrast with TP, ALT increased significantly at only 5 sites, decreased at 4 sites, and was unchanged at 8 sites. In ice-rich ground, measured increases in TP can be more than double increases in ALT. For example, ALT increased by only 19 cm between 1994 and 2016 at a site near Inuvik, but TP increased by about 40 cm and was accompanied by 20 cm of surface subsidence. At sites with ice-poor permafrost, negligible settlement occurs, and increases in TP and ALT are similar. The observations further highlight that the degradation of ice-rich permafrost cannot be detected by traditional probing for active-layer thickness. The results have implications for forecasting changes to permafrost in Earth system models due to climate change. Simulations that do not account for ground surface subsidence may not adequately represent heat flow through the active layer/permafrost system and hydrological implications caused by thaw of ice-rich ground.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
Long-term measurements (1991-2016) from 17 thaw tubes in the Mackenzie Delta region of Canada's western Arctic were analyzed to investigate changes in thaw penetration into permafrost and ground surface elevation relative to a stable benchmark, to determine rates of permafrost degradation and ground surface subsidence associated with recent climate warming. Overall, there was systematic regional permafrost degradation, at rates of up to 1.5 cm per year. Significant ground surface subsidence occurred at sites with ice-rich permafrost, at a maximum rate of 0.8 cm per year. These results indicate long-term regional permafrost degradation and surface subsidence in the western Canadian Arctic. About 5 to 38 cm of permafrost have thawed over 25 years at the sites, and about 5 to 20 cm of excess ground ice have melted.
GEOSCAN ID321057