Till Groh
Ph.D. student
Department of Geology and Geological Engineering
Laval University

Supervised by:

Richard Fortier (Regular member)

Co-supervised by:

Jean-Michel Lemieux (Regular member)

Research project description

Development of meteorological indicators and thresholds for the identification and prediction of natural hazards in Nunavik

Introduction: In Nunavik, significant environmental changes are already being observed and are expected to occur in the near future due to ongoing climate changes. More frequent climatic extremes that could lead to large-scale natural hazards are also expected. These natural hazards may affect the performance, maintenance costs, and lifespan of northern infrastructures and threaten public safety. As a result, there is a growing demand to foresight such problematic environmental situations and their impacts in order to increase the situational awareness of Inuit communities and implement preventive mitigation and emergency response measures to reduce their vulnerability. Objectives: My research project is an integral part of an envisioned project called Qaujikkaut (meaning ‘warning’ in Inuktitut) that is funded by Sentinel North. In this project, the plan is to develop an advanced forecasting tool for extreme meteorological events and associated natural hazards in Nunavik for stakeholders in northern communities using CEN’s SILA network of environmental monitoring stations. To contribute to the Qaujikkaut project, I will 1) draw a climatic portrait of Nunavik synthesizing the time series of available climate data, 2) analyse the links between climate change and natural hazard occurrences based on an inventory of natural hazards in Nunavik (L’Hérault et al., 2017), and 3) evaluate meteorological indicators and their thresholds necessary for triggering these natural hazards. These indicators will then be used by the Qaujikkaut project team to predict natural hazards in the making using big data processing and artificial intelligence approaches. Study sites: My research project covers a large part of Nunavik where catastrophic natural hazards could be witnessed in the past, that is, mainly around Inuit communities and mining infrastructures (L’Hérault et al., 2017). Given that the territory of Nunavik is immense and sparsely populated, these processes and their impacts were mainly observed around the fourteen Inuit communities and on the Katinniq Plateau where mines are in operation. The most commonly observed natural hazards in Nunavik with damage to civil infrastructures that threaten public safety are mass movements such as dry and wet snow avalanches, landslides, and thaw settlement of permafrost, along with extreme meteorological and hydrological events (L'Hérault et al., 2017). Climate change in Nunavik is very evident. Both observations and projections show large-scale changes in, for example, air and ground temperatures, precipitation amounts, or the extent and duration of ice and snow cover (Barrette et al., 2020). Material and methods: The frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events in Nunavik result in large-scale environmental changes that can be explained by examining meteorological observations (Barrette et al., 2020). Time series of meteorological data available from CEN's SILA network and government networks, as well as climate reanalyses, models, and projections, will be used to draw a climate portrait of Nunavik in which synthesis tools will allow assessment of local and regional developments of various climate parameters. Based on this climate portrait and the existing inventory of natural hazards in Nunavik (L'Hérault et al., 2017), possibly supplemented by detections from remote sensing observations, the occurrence of these events and their relationship to favorable environmental conditions will be analyzed using various statistical and physical models. Based on this analysis, the critical meteorological thresholds and event-triggering mechanisms can then be identified. References: Barrette C., Brown R., Way R., Mailhot A., Diaconescu E.P., Grenier P., Chaumont D., Dumont D., Sévigny C., Howell S. et S. Senneville (2020). Chapter 2: Nunavik and Nunatsiavut regional climate information update. In Ropars P., Allard M., M. Lemay (eds.), Nunavik and Nunatsiavut: From science to policy, an integrated regional impact study (IRIS) of climate change and modernization, second iteration. ArcticNet Inc, Québec, Canada, 58 p. L’Hérault E., Boisson A., Allard M., Aubé-Michaud S., Sarrazin D., Roger J. et C. Barrette (2017). Détermination et analyse des vulnérabilités du Nunavik en fonction des composantes environnementales et des processus physiques naturels liés au climat. Rapport final. Réalisé pour le compte du Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs, Gouvernement du Québec. Centre d’études nordiques, Université Laval, 160 p.

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