Canada’s North is endowed with abundant sources of freshwater including glaciers, lakes and rivers, from tiny streams to the majestic Mackenzie River. Groundwater sources are generally inaccessible due to the ground being frozen so most northern communities depend on limited surface water resources for their livelihood and well-being. Sustainable development of northern mineral and petroleum resources must therefore ensure that freshwater environments are understood and protected from contamination. NRCan researchers are developing remote sensing techniques to evaluate surface water resources within lakes, rivers and wetlands and to determine the potential impacts of climate change.
Northern marine waters are similarly sensitive to economic development but include processes and conditions unique to the northern environment. Of these, the seasonal formation of sea ice represents one of the greatest challenges to resource development. Grounded sea ice and icebergs can scour the seafloor and present a considerable hazard to coastal and seabed infrastructure. Freshwater from flooding rivers can flow out on top of the sea ice then drain through cracks to form deep scour holes on the seabed. NRCan research has shown that the seasonal ice cover in the Arctic Ocean has been changing rapidly in the time period that historical records have been kept.
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