Quantifying the Hidden Thaw
Permafrost—which lies hidden under nearly half of Canada’s landmass and as much as 15 per cent of the Earth’s land surface—both affects and is affected by global climate.
Atmospheric warming is causing widespread and persistent thawing of this permafrost. This has significant economic, social and environmental implications, and affects wildlife habitats, natural hazards and the integrity of buildings and roads. Reliable knowledge of current and future permafrost conditions is needed so we can develop policies and strategies to reduce associated risks.
Dr. Stephan Gruber, Canada Research Chair in Climate Change Impacts/Adaptation in Northern Canada, wants to improve our understanding of permafrost and its changes. He and his research team are using new sensor technology to determine the effects of subsurface energy gains on characteristics such as ice and water content.
Gruber and his team are also using computer modelling to analyze changes in topography and subsurface material. By integrating fine-scale ground observations with coarse-scale simulations, they aim to refine computer models to better predict and assess global permafrost trends.
Ultimately, Gruber’s research will improve our understanding of permafrost environments and provide a better picture of the looming risks to ecosystems and infrastructure. It will also support the development of more accurate and traceable measurements and computer simulations of permafrost change, so we can manage the economic and social costs of climate change more effectively.