Evaluating the Effects of Climate Change on Permafrost in Northern Coastal Canada

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 4/15/2010 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

Posted by

Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

Permafrost in Northern Canada provides a foundation upon which ecosystems and human communities can build. Increased air temperatures associated with climate change are expected to thaw or melt permafrost across the region; land use decisions and plans need to adjust to these changing climate conditions. This study will provide scientific understanding and tools to assist land use planning and management decisions within the context of climate change in Canada’s northern communities in Inuvialuit, Nunatsiavut, Nunavut, and Yukon.


Permafrost (the area of ground that remains permanently frozen) underlies a large percentage of Northern Canada’s landmass. Its thickness and existence depends largely on atmospheric climate conditions. With increased temperatures, permafrost will likely disappear; as it thaws, associated problems may take place in the form of ecosystem degradation and infrastructure instability, requiring the implementation of adaptation actions to help Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal inhabitants prepare for climate change. The objectives are to evaluate how permafrost will react to global climate change and to assess the factors that may affect the degree of impact on permafrost (e.g., soil type, ground and snow cover, topography, ice content). Products may be useful for managers and planners dealing with projected climate impacts in these polar and subpolar regions. Funding for this project is provided by Ouranos and ArcticNet.


Project leaders from McGill University and the Centre d’études Nordiques are supported by other partners, including Coopération Québec Bavière, and the Governments of Inuvialuit, Nunatsiavut, Nunavut, and Yukon. The project, started in April 2008, is expected to last through 2014. Project leads are modeling ground surface temperatures under different scenarios and monitoring for landscape changes, such as coastal erosion and landform development, across a range of environments.

Outcomes and Conclusions

Upon project completion, managers, planners, and policy makers will have access to maps and tools to assist decision-making in a highly vulnerable region.


Gregg, R.M. (2010). Evaluating the Effects of Climate Change on Permafrost in Northern Coastal Canada [Case study on a project of McGill University and Centre d’études Nordiques]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/evaluating-effects-climate-change-per… (Last updated April 2010)

Affiliated Organizations

McGill University is one of Canada's best-known institutions of higher learning and one of the country's leading research-intensive universities. With students coming to McGill from about 150 countries, our student body is the most internationally diverse of any medical-doctoral university in Canada.

The Centre d'études nordiques (CEN) is a research centre involving three academic institutions, the Université Laval, the Université du Québec à Rimouski and the Centre Eau, Terre et Environnement of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique. CEN researchers are also found at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and at the Université de Sherbrooke.

The State of Bavaria Québec Office, located in Montreal, has the mandate of officially representing the Bavarian Government in the Province of Quebec within the framework of the cooperation agreement signed between the State of Bavaria and the Province of Quebec in January 1989.

The origin of the Inuvialuit Corporate Group, composed of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) and its subsidiary corporations, began with the signing of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement on June 5, 1984, between the Government of Canada and the Inuvialuit - Inuit of Canada's Western Arctic.

The Nunatsiavut Government was established in 2005. It is born out of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, the result of three decades of work to realize our long-held dream of self-governance. The Nunatsiavut Government is a regional Inuit government within the Province of Newfoundland & Labrador. We are the first Inuit region to achieve self-government, an accomplishment of which all Labrador Inuit should be proud.

Nunavut -- "our land" in the Inuktitut language - has been home to Inuit for millennia and part of Canada for more than a century. Embracing both traditional knowledge and values and the new opportunities presented by technologies like the Internet, the Government of Nunavut now provides a wide range of services tailored to the unique needs of approximately 29,500 residents.

Yukon is larger than life with breathtaking wilderness, a wealth of opportunities, abundant natural resources and friendly welcoming people. It is home to a skilled and educated work force, modern infrastructure and endless options for outdoor activities year-round.