Northeastern British Columbia (NEBC) and the adjacent southern Northwest Territories (NWT) are among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth, and are experiencing major industrial expansion. Climate warming and industrial disturbance in the NEBC-NWT border region has led to widespread permafrost thaw and land cover change that has disrupted the hydrological cycle and the ecosystems and human activities that depend on it.
In response to the need for improved understanding of, and ability to predict, permafrost thaw impacts, CPET was formed in 2015 to (i) investigate hydrological and ecological changes resulting from permafrost thaw in the NEBC/NWT border region, (ii) develop and mobilise knowledge of these changes, and (iii) improve predictive modelling tools of interest to industry, government and community stakeholders in the region.
CPET is funded through a NSERC Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) grant with funding and in-kind support from many partners, including; Nexen, Geoscience BC, BC oil and gas research and innovation society (BCOGRIS), Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada (PTAC), Government of Northwest Territories and local First Nations groups.
The core science objectives of CPET are as follows:
CPET research activities are conducted over an approximately 175 km north-south oriented study transect traversing the zone of discontinuous permafrost in southwestern NWT and northeastern BC. Field-studies are concentrated at two research basins, which form latitudinal end-members of the study region. Scotty Creek research basin (north) was established in 1999 and Suhm Creek research basin (south) was established by CPET as a research site in 2015 to act as a paired basin to Scotty Creek. The on-going development of Suhm Creek research basin is anticipated as a key legacy of CPET. From a hydrological modelling perspective, the development of a paired research basin to the south of Scotty Creek is a major advantage for developing and evaluating models at sites representing different latitudinal positions along the southern margin of discontinuous permafrost. It is noted that a significant difference between Scotty Creek and Suhm Creek basins is that Scotty Creek has no industrial presence, other than linear disturbances from prior to 1985, whereas Suhm Creek is representative of current industrial activity in NEBC (e.g. shale gas exploration and extraction). This allows for comparing the impacts of industrial activities on basins in the zone of discontinuous permafrost. For example, Suhm Creek basin has a much higher density of linear disturbances (e.g. seismic line, pipelines and winter roads), compared to Scotty Creek basin.
Scotty Creek basin is estimated to be approximately 140 km2 and drains into the Laird River. Discharge from the basin has been measured continuously since 1996 by the Water Survey of Canada. The topography is relatively flat (~250 m relief) and land cover is dominated by upland forest, treed plateaus, flat bogs and channel fens. Research involving data from field-studies, automated instruments and remote sensing has been conducted continuously since 1999 and a growing body of scientific literature regarding hydrology of the discontinuous permafrost zone has been produced from this site. A significant amount of infrastructure is currently in place at Scotty Creek including a basic field camp for researchers and an array of automated instrumentation measuring climatological, hydrological, and ecological variables across different land cover types (e.g. bogs, fens, and peat plateaus). These instruments measure variables such as precipitation, air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, incoming and outgoing radiation, snow height, soil moisture, and soil temperature at sites across the basin. In addition to automated instruments, a large volume of field sampling data has been, and continues to be, collected including measurements of depth to permafrost and talik formation (e.g. using ground penetrating radar), snow depth and water equivalent, soil moisture, and vegetation properties. Remote sensing archives have also been developed over the basin consisting of airborne LiDAR data and historical aerial photography (dating back to 1940’s), as well as satellite RADAR and optical remote sensing imagery.
Suhm basin is estimated to be 365 km2 and there is approximately 200 m of topographic relief over the basin. On-going work is being done at Suhm Creek to address data gaps for hydrological modelling by installing automated instruments, conducting field-sampling and obtaining remote sensing datasets. Two climate monitoring stations were installed in late 2015 with analogous measurement capabilities to those at Scotty Creek basin. One climate station is located in a forested peat-plateau and the other is in an open wetland site. Pressure transducers have also been deployed at 6 nodes of Suhm Creek basin to measure water level and to assist in understanding the flow routing of streams over the basin and parameterize routing in distributed hydrological models. Installation of an automated stream discharge gauge near the outlet of Suhm Creek with Petitot River is also planned for the future to monitor total basin discharge. In terms of field sampling, distributed measurements are being done along transects of peat plateaus during site visits to Suhm Creek basin to determine distributions of permafrost presence relative to treed land cover and characterize active layer depths relative to distances from plateau edges. CPET researchers have obtained remote sensing datasets over Suhm Creek basin and work is being completed to map both vegetation and wetland land covers at high resolutions. A LiDAR derived digital elevation model has also been obtained.
In addition to field-studies and data development of Suhm Creek and Scotty Creek basins, remote sensing areas of interest (AOIs) have been established along a north-south configuration in the NWT/NEBC border region. These AOIs connect the two research basins and enable sampling of land cover distributions along a latitudinal distribution over the discontinuous permafrost zone. Each of the 12 AOIs has a footprint of 36 km2 (432 km2 total area). Imagery stacking over these sites includes recent Landsat (30 m resolution) and World View 1/2 (50 cm resolution) datasets and historical aerial photographs acquired in 1970/71 (1.2 m resolution). Detailed statistical characterization of the land covers within these AOIs is being developed at high resolutions, providing information on proportions of major land cover types and changes to the land cover types over a 40-year period.
Improved knowledge and predictive capacity of permafrost thaw patterns, rates, impacts and feedbacks developed by CPET will (i) improve water planning, management and security by reducing the uncertainty of future availability, and (ii) reduce construction and maintenance costs arising from thaw- induced damage to infrastructure and property.
On-going communication is done in meetings among CPET researchers, and representatives from industry, community groups, and government, to share emerging knowledge and align scientific activities with local community interests. CPET science is also reported to researcher audiences at conferences and in the form of peer-reviewed publications.
What's new at CPET
Dr. Adams delivered an invited presentation on CPET to Water Tech 2017, an industry oriented water resources conference in Banff Alberta. The presentation was in a session hosted by a CPET industry partner, Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada (PTAC).
Bill Quinton and Ryan Connon arrived at Scotty Creek on March 9, 2017 to open the research station for the upcoming field season and to host a high school ecohydrology school course for students in the Dehcho region. The course was instructed by Bill, Ryan, and Alex MacLean, all from Wilfrid Laurier University. Students arrived the morning of March 12th and stayed in camp until March 18th. The students had many hands on-experiences including digging snow pits to measure snow properties, conducting snow surveys, measuring active layer properties such as depth of refreeze, performing chemical analysis on water from different sources, and conducting vegetation plots and measuring tree heights. The students also had time to analyze and discuss their data to understand how different land cover types accumulated snow. This was complemented by using unmanned aerial vehicles (i.e. drones) to map snow cover across the basin. The final day even included a Scotty Creek paddle hockey tournament!
After the students left, Élise Devoie and Michael Braverman joined Bill and Ryan in camp to begin the 2017 field campaign. Michael modified his thermosyphon experiment and was successfully able to re-freeze the soil in a previously disturbed seismic line. He is continuing to work on improving his design. Bill, Élise, and Ryan completed the annual spring snow surveys to determine end of winter snow water equivalent. Other tasks included downloading station data and ensuring that the camp is functional for another field season.
CPET has been approved to join NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE). As part of ABoVE, various aircraft based remote sensing datasets will be acquired over CPET field sites (Scotty Creek and Suhm Creek) and remote sensing AOI in summer 2017. The remote sensing data include: hyperspectral, LiDAR, and synthetic aperture radar (P-band and L-band). The affiliation with ABoVE will provide significant amounts of complex land cover data that can enhance our researchers' ability to address project objectives. For example, the remote sensing datasets available from ABoVE will considerably improve the characterization of land-cover properties (e.g. vegetation types and attributes) involved in developing and evaluating hydrological models. Further information on the CPET – ABoVE project can be found here: http://above.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/above/inv_pgp.pl?pgid=3630
The CPET team published a report in Geoscience BC Summary of Activities 2016, which describes on-going project work throughout the study region. The report can be found here: http://www.geosciencebc.com/s/SummaryofActivities.asp?ReportID=775431
CPET researcher Ryan Connon (PhD Candidate) visited Fort Simpson, NWT for several days where he attended the Dehcho K'ehodi workshop. Here, he met with community members as they work to build a guardianship program to incorporate Traditional Knowledge into a holistic environmental monitoring framework
Bill Quinton, Jennifer Baltzer and Aaron Berg provided an overview of their research groups’ work at the fourth annual meeting of the Changing Cold Regions Network (held at U of Guelph). Many of their post-docs and students presented posters at the meeting that described on-going work toward CPET objectives.
Bill Quinton, Justin Adams, Olivia Carpino and Ryan Connon completed a two-week field trip to the CPET study region. The group completed installation of water level recorders throughout Suhm Creek basin, and did maintenance on Suhm Creek climate stations. Aerial reconnaissance of land cover and ground verification of permafrost presence were completed at points in Suhm Creek basin and AOI11.
Geoff Kershaw joins CPET as a PhD student in hydrology. Welcome to the team Geoff!
James Craig hosted a CPET hydrological modelling workshop at Wilfrid Laurier University. Many CPET affiliated researchers participated.
Dr. Quinton led a large contingent of researchers at Scotty Creek for two weeks of field work.
CPET ecology researchers completed a very productive field season at Scotty Creek, NWT and Suhm Creek, BC.
CPET researchers William Quinton, Justin Adams and Ryan Connon presented research findings at the 11th International Conference on Permafrost in Potsdam, Germany.
The CPET team is growing – Post-doctoral fellow Christoforos Pappas, PhD student Katherine Standen and MSc student Meagan Warkentin begin working with supervisor Jennifer Baltzer. Welcome to CPET Christoforos, Katherine and Meagan!
CPET researchers Ryan Connon, Bhaleka Persaud, and Olivia Carpino presented some of their thesis research at the Canadian Geophysical Union annual meeting in Fredericton, NB.
CPET ecologists Jenn Baltzer, Katherine Standen, and Christoforos Pappas, commenced field-work at CPET sites (Suhm Creek and Scotty Creek) installing Sap Flow sensors. Eva Needlay from Fort Nelson First Nation assisted the team in NEBC.
CPET research associate Justin Adams travelled to Ottawa and met with Government Scientists at Natural Resources Canada to discuss a strategy for NRCAN-CPET collaboration, knowledge and data transfer going forward.
A very productive CPET science meeting was held at Wilfrid Laurier University. Research objectives and logistical plans for the upcoming field season were refined.
A field-work trip to the CPET field sites at Scotty Creek, NWT, Suhm Creek, BC and Gote Creek, BC was led by Bill Quinton. Climate stations were maintained and snow surveys were done at all three sites. Eva Needlay from Fort Nelson First Nation assisted with the work in NEBC. Meetings were held with community leaders from Jean-Marie First Nation, Liildlii Kue First Nation, Sambaa K’e First Nation and the town of Fort Simpson. Several students remain posted at Scotty Creek camp for the next couple of months completing their research.
Elise Devoie joins CPET as a MASc student in Engineering at University of Waterloo (supervisor James Craig). Welcome Elise!
A Geoscience BC article was published by Quinton, Adams, Baltzer, Berg, Craig and Johnson describing CPET in the 2015 Summary of Activities section. This can be found here <http://www.geosciencebc.com/s/SummaryofActivities.asp
Shawn Williams at Nexen presented a poster describing CPET research and partnerships to the annual KNOWvember symposium at Nexen Centre in Calgary.
Bill Quinton, James Craig and Justin Adams travelled to Nexen head office in downtown Calgary to conduct a knowledge transfer session with Nexen staff about future hydrological modelling work in the NEBC region.
CPET affiliated students Ryan Connon, Bhaleka Persaud and Olivia Carpino presented an update of their research at the annual Scotty Day meeting at Wilfrid Laurier University. Great job!
Dr. Justin Adams joins CPET as a Research Associate. Welcome Justin!
Bill Quinton and Justin Adams conducted a 10-day field trip to NEBC to launch four new climate monitoring stations at CPET sites in NEBC at Gote Creek and Suhm Creek. Bill and Justin worked with Eva Needlay, a technician from Fort Nelson First Nation. Eva’s local knowledge was very valuable!
MSc Student Olivia Carpino at U of Guelph (supervisor: Aaron Berg) joins CPET as a student researcher. Welcome Olivia!
CPET is launched!
Bill Quinton, Jennifer Baltzer, Aaron Berg and Oliver Sonnentag complete a scouting trip to determine CPET sites in NEBC and southern NWT.
James Craig and William Quinton host a Raven hydrological modelling workshop in Yellowknife for the GNWT.
Click on a researcher to find out more about them
Professor, Faculty of Science, University of Alberta
Professor and Canada Research Chair in Physical Hydrology, University of Calgary
Manager of Forest Resources, Environment and Natural Resources, Government of Northwest Territories
Executive director at Liildlii Kue First Nation, Northwest Territories
Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Atmospheric Biogeosciences at High Latitudes, Universtité de Montréal
Associate Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Western Ontario
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Science, University of Alberta
Government of the Northwest Territories
British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Director of Lands Department, Fort Nelson First Nation, British Columbia
Chief of Jean-Marie First Nation, Northwest Territories
Director, National Water Survey of Canada
Senior Scientist and lead CPET industry partner contact, Nexen Energy