Remotely Sensed Monitoring of Northern lake Ice Using RADARSAT Constellation Mission and Cloud Computing Processing

Principal Investigators: Homa Kheyrollah Pour (Wilfrid Laurier University), Andrea Scott (University of Waterloo), Grant Gunn (University of Waterloo)

Project Overview

The timing of lake ice freeze-up, break-up, and the duration of ice cover in winter are indicators of the annual temperature regime in cold temperate lakes. Under current climate change and winter warming, northern lakes are experiencing significant shifts in ice cover duration and water temperature. Previous studies have identified lake ice as a cryosphere component that is highly sensitive to climate conditions. Analysis of ice thickness trends during the 1950–2011 period indicate a trend toward thinner ice covers for Arctic lakes. Knowledge of the thickness of the lake ice and of the overlaying snow cover are important requirements when determining how much weight an ice cover can safely sustain. However, knowledge of lake ice thickness is remarkably limited. This is mainly due to logistical difficulties in traditionally collecting measurements directly, and challenges estimating lake ice thickness from remote sensing data. Estimation of ice phenology and thickness are vital for safe winter travel for Northern community members and transportation companies, who use ice roads to move both people and goods into areas that would otherwise not be accessible. Efficient monitoring of ice growth and snow accumulation close to the winter access roads is needed to develop ice phenology and thickness estimation tools, which will help address the community priority of safe winter travel.

This project will yield tools to further develop big data applications in the realm of cryosphere studies, it will evaluate novel lake ice monitoring approaches, and contribute to scientific study of lake ice phenology and thickness retrievals. Through open lines of communication with our stakeholders, this work will be carried out with the goal of feeding into decision support tools and mitigation strategies that will lead to 2 prudent investment and knowledge-based community adaptation for the Northwest Territories (NWT) and to feed into the implementation of the Government of NWT (GNWT) Climate Change Action Plan (2019) using Canada’s new generation of Earth observation (EO) satellites, RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) supplemented by existing satellites sensors. Wilfred Laurier University’s (WLU) Partnership with GNWT will further facilitate the engagement and transfer of scientific-knowledge and tools through the NWT Centre of Geomatics to several NWT departments and will inform policy and mitigation techniques.