Threatened Arctic Lakes: Pressures from Climate Change and Resource Development

tubacitychiropractorManagement

Nov 8, 2013 (3 years and 8 months ago)

64 views

Threatened Arctic Lakes: Pressures from Climate Change and Resource Development

Lindsey
Witthaus

Department of Environmental Engineering

University of Kansas

Ashley Zung

Department of Geography

University of Kansas

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

1
) summarize our current understanding of the mechanisms that drive
thermokarst

lake drainage by reviewing literature on the topic, from both western
science and indigenous perspectives;
2
) analyze the factors that contribute to lake drainage in an area of northwestern Canada and determine the
potential for lake drainage in the region; and 3) evaluate current water resource policies in the Northwest Territories to de
ter
mine how (or if) lakes and also
traditional ecological knowledge are included in the policies.

Mechanisms of Lake Drainage

Potential Impacts of Oil and Gas Development

Water Use Policy in the Northwest Territories

BACKGROUND

Lakes are a dominant feature of the arctic landscape in
Northern Canada. There are over 45,000 thermokarst lakes in
the Mackenzie Drainage Basin. Lakes
are essential
habitats.
They serve
as support systems for arctic food webs year
-
round,
and provide
key resources for human communities, such as
freshwater, locations to hunt waterfowl during migratory
seasons and to fish year
-
round, and navigation routes through
the tundra to hunting camps





Northwest Territories Water Act

(1992) is the central water



Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act

(1998) establishes a co
-
management
framework for land and water regulations between First Nation Tribes.



“in relation to waters when on or flowing through their first nation lands or waters
adjacent to their first nation lands, the right to have the quality, quantity and rate of
flow remain substantially unaltered by any person” (Mackenzie Valley Resource
Management Act
-

S.C. 1998, c. 25 (Section 75)).



Northwest Territories Northern Voices, Northern Waters: Water Stewardship
Strategy

integrates traditional knowledge systems into the NWT water management
plans.


Potential Impacts of Climate Change

In this analysis, we focused
on the effect of climate on permafrost degradation which can
lead to
thermokarst

creation and lateral lake drainage, especially in ice
-
rich permafrost
zones such as the
Tuktoyaktuk

Peninsula. Long
-
term climate data
from
stations at
Tuktoyaktuk

and Inuvik were obtained from Canada’s National Climate Archive
at
http
://www.climate.meteo.gc.ca/climateData/canada_e.html)


MAT and MWT at
Tuktoyaktuk

increased 4.3 C
and 3.7 C,
respectively. Increased MAT and MWT have
been
associated with
increased
permafrost thaw rates in
modeling
and observational studies across the
Arctic.
There was a lack
of long
-
term data from Inuvik,
and we
cannot confidently comment on climatic trends
at that
location. MAP from
1974
-
2007 was 164.7 mm, varying
from 89.1 mm to 248.7
mm.
The ten year running average
of
MAP confirms that precipitation decreased during the
period of record.
Average winter
snow cover was
189.5,
ranging from 75
cm in 1985
to
377.7 cm in 1981. Ten year
running averages
show
snow
cover has also decreased.
Decreased
precipitation and snow
thickness may retard
permafrost
degradation.
Annual precipitation anomaly
averaged
+ 4.5 mm from 1974
-
2007.
A positive annual
precipitation anomaly
could
support lake area expansion;
however, high inter
-
annual variability
could still
significantly alter
surface water hydrology in the region.

IPCC
global climate projections
anticipate
5
°
C warming in the arctic
by
2080.
Increased temperatures
have the potential to alter
permafrost and regional
hydrology
accelerating lake drainage.

In order to assess the potential impact of human activity on lake drainage on the
Tuktoyaktuk

Peninsula, we focused
the
proposed Parsons Lake Gas Processing Facility and gathering
pipeline.
Assuming a 1 km area around the proposed pipeline route, and that the entire lease area near
Parson’s Lake would be impacted, we estimated that at least 250 lakes in the area would be
directly impacted by construction of the facility. We would
expect
many more to be
impacted
considering the interconnected nature of
deranged
drainage
networks.

The proposed 62,500 square meter
gas
conditioning
facility north
of Parsons
Lake includes
t
anks
, pump
houses, living quarters,
and a
drilling
pad.
Extraction of
natural gas and oil have
caused land subsidence in
the
Arctic
and warming of excess ground
ice, causing
further
subsidence. Human constructs alter
snow
cover dynamics
on the tundra, and construction
and
maintenance of the facility
would
disrupt vegetative
cover
further
accelerating permafrost
thaw, likely
promoting permafrost degradation and lake drainage,
and undoubtedly
altering
hydrological networks.


Increased temperatures can cause
permafrost melting and an influx of runoff
into thermokarst lakes. The heat flux can
both further thaw surrounding permafrost
around and below the lake, resulting in
larger lake areas and deeper
talik
. As the
talik

develops deeper below the lake it can
eventually reach the groundwater table
and hydraulic potential will cause
subsurface drainage of the lake.


Rising temperature can degrade
permafrost and cause erosion and
slumping of lake edges and stream
channels. As stream channels open from
the lake, rapid drainage can occur.


Slumping and Declining Lake Levels

William Paul (at Wilson’s Camp): “A tree
has fallen in, really changing now.
Really dried out the lake.”

Interview conducted by Trevor Bennett
September 12, 2010.


Open Channel Partially Drains Lake

William Paul: “Used to be a little water
fall there, it was like a tap, now it’s wide
open. This happened maybe in 2008? It
really fell in.

Interview conducted by Trevor Bennett
September 12, 2010


Study Area


Northern Canada



Parson’s Lake Study Area

Proposed Mackenzie Gas Project
Pipeline and Facilities


The
Tuktoyaktuk

Peninsula is located
near
the mouth of the Mackenzie
River
in
the Northwest Territories,
Canada.


Arctic
tundra
here is underlain
by
the
most ice
-
rich
continuous
permafrost in
the Canadian Arctic (
Lantuit

& Pollard 2007
).


Pingos

and
arctic lakes dot the landscape.


The Mackenzie Gas Project is a consortium of oil and gas companies,
who have proposed construction of a 1,196 km pipeline system running
through the Northwest Territories from the Arctic Ocean to northern
Alberta (Imperial Oil, Limited 2003).


The proposed Parsons Lake Gas Conditioning Facility would be built on
the Arctic coastal plain, a landscape dominated by
glaciofluvial

and
lacustrine sediments and numerous thermokarst lakes.

Images from
Inuvialuit Observations

CONCLUSIONS


Rising air temperature, increased snow cover, and negative
precipitation anomalies increase permafrost thaw rates and may
accelerate lake drainage in the Arctic.


Human alteration of the landscape through vehicular traffic, removal
of vegetation, construction of barriers, and other activities can
further accelerate permafrost degradation and potentially lake
drainage.


Increasing MAT and MWT and construction of the gathering pipeline
and gas processing facility around Parson’s Lake may significantly
alter subsurface thermal regimes, leading to permafrost
degradation. Possible subsidence and lake drainage of 250 lakes
could significantly alter surface hydrology.


Observations from northern Canadian indigenous communities
indicate that rapid change is
already
occurring due to climate change
and development.


Further lake drainage and alteration of regional hydrology due to
climate change and the Mackenzie Gas Project may be critically
threaten to the livelihoods and culture of people who live there.


While the Canadian Government may claim that they are powerless
to reverse global climate change and the inevitable changes that will
occur to water resources in First Nations communities, the
Government does have an active role in approving development
projects and natural resource extraction activities within its
territories.


The impacts of the Mackenzie Gas Project could be significant,
seriously altering water and food resources, seemingly in contrast to
the rights set forth in the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management
Act.


We have several concluding questions:

1.
What will be the consequences of the Mackenzie Valley Project for
the people living downstream of the project (i.e. the people living in
the Inuvialuit Settlement Area)?

2.
Will the right to unaltered water quality and quantity be enforced
by the Canadian government?

3.
If and when additional changes to water occur


will the Indigenous
voices be heard?

LAKE DRAINAGE IN GREENLAND

Catastrophic lake drainage is also a problem in Greenland

In warmer years
supraglacial

meltwater

lakes are 3.5 times more likely
to drain due to fractures in lake bed, which carry water to ice sheet bed

(Liang et al. 2012)





Diagram: University of Chicago
http://geosci.uchicago.edu/research/glaciology_files/meltpond_formation_rese
arch.shtml

Photo: Credit: ©James
Balog