Permafrost problems at both ends of Canada

The IPA President, Antoni Lewkowicz, was in the field with his graduate students this past summer at both ends of Canada: in Labrador, on the Atlantic coast, and in the Yukon, close to Canada’s western boundary with Alaska.

At Cartwright (54°N) in Labrador, the isolated patches of permafrost are useful to the local inhabitants. They park sleds to be towed behind snowmobiles on top of palsas so that they are easily accessible and not covered in deep snow in the winter. In Nain (57°N), ERT surveys showed permafrost to be quite widespread in the community and at some locations it’s sufficiently ice-rich to be causing problems to building foundations.

In Old Crow (68°N), ERT surveys showed the continuous permafrost to be more variable in thickness than expected, with shrub presence linked to snow accumulation, being the critical factor. The impact of buildings on the permafrost, causing talik development, was also evident in some of the older, abandoned houses, but also at certain newer buildings.

ERT proved useful at both ends of the country and the additional information on permafrost was shared with local decision-makers. Air and ground temperature data, and snow depth information, are now being collected in and around the communities.

What was the biggest difference between Labrador and the Yukon? More mosquitoes and black flies in Labrador…



Thaw settlement of building (still in use) at Nain, Labrador



Sled parked for the summer on top of a palsa at Cartwright, Labrador



ERT survey beneath a recently constructed building experiencing foundation problems in Old Crow.



Elder from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation helping set up a climate station above treeline at Old Crow.



Protection from insects during ERT surveys in Labrador.  The President’s blue IPA cap was rarely visible.