Articles tagged with: climate change

  • New research finds evidence of climate-driven changes to northern lakes

    Across the Old Crow Flats in the northern Yukon, lakes are telling a story of climate-driven change.

    The traditional territory of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (VGFN), the Old Crow Flats is recognized as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance thanks to its more than 8,000 thermokarst lakes (up to 15 square kilometres) and ponds. Thermokarst lakes are formed by thawed permafrost and can be prone to drainage if they expand into low-lying areas.

    Kevin Turner, an Associate Professor in Brock’s Department of Geography and Tourism Studies and Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Arctic Studies at the University of Washington, has studied the area since 2007, and he says that warmer temperatures, longer summers and more rain are “priming this important landscape for continued climate-driven landscape change.”

    In a new paper with Lauren A. MacDonald, who was a post-doctoral research fellow at Brock in fall 2020, as well as researchers from Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Waterloo and Parks Canada, Turner and his team share an analysis of water samples suggesting significant trends toward increased rainfall in the area, which could affect drainage in the shallow lakes and cause changes to soil stability along shorelines.

    The research, conducted under the direction of the Vuntut Gwitchin Government and the North Yukon Renewable Resources Council, saw sampling take place from 14 lakes in the Old Crow Flats two to three times per year from 2007 to 2019.

    Kevin Turner collects water samples for analysis from a thermokarst lake in Old Crow Flats. (Photo courtesy of Luke Gray)

    The samples produced a 13-year record that the research team has analyzed using water isotope tracers to distinguish between input sources, such as rainfall and snow melt, and also to track water losses due to evaporation.

    “There is more than meets the eye with these results, as they represent a status indicator of the increasing vulnerability of this area to drastic change,” says Turner. “For example, permafrost, which holds the landscape intact, degrades more during warmer and wetter conditions, which can lead to more shoreline slumping and rapid drainage of lakes into the river network.”

    These changes to the landscape can disrupt ecosystems, affecting plants and wildlife and interfering with traditional ways of life — a trend already recognized by the VGFN.

    “Findings complement the traditional knowledge of the VGFN, who have observed changes in climate and landscape characteristics during recent decades and have recently declared a climate emergency,” says Turner.

    Isotopic evidence of increasing water abundance and lake hydrological change in Old Crow Flats, Yukon, Canada” was published in Environmental Research Letters in late November. Turner says that its findings demonstrate why collaboration and co-operation in research is so important.

    “This research showcases the value of innovative and collaborative long-term monitoring programs in these important and remote areas of the North where the impacts of climate change are heightened,” he says.

    STORY REPOSTED FROM THE BROCK NEWS

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  • New paper by Kevin Turner “Isotopic evidence of increasing water abundance and lake hydrological change in Old Crow Flats, Yukon, Canada”

    A new paper titled, “Isotopic evidence of increasing water abundance and lake hydrological change in Old Crow Flats, Yukon, Canada” co-authored by GeoTour Associate Professor, Dr. Kevin Turner, was recently published in Environmental Research Letters.

    Abstract:
    Lake-rich northern permafrost landscapes are sensitive to changing climate conditions, but ability to track real-time and potentially multiple hydrological responses (e.g. lake expansion, drawdown, drainage) is challenging due to absence of long-term, sustainable monitoring programs in these remote locations. Old Crow Flats (OCF), Yukon, is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance where concerns about low water levels and their consequences for wildlife habitat and traditional ways of life prompted multidisciplinary studies during the International Polar Year (2007–2008) and led to the establishment of an aquatic ecosystem monitoring program. Here, we report water isotope data from 14 representative thermokarst lakes in OCF, the foundation of the monitoring program, and time-series of derived metrics including the isotope composition of input waters and evaporation-to-inflow ratios for a 13 year period (2007–2019). Although the lakes spanned multiple hydrological categories (i.e. rainfall-, snowmelt- and evaporation-dominated) based on initial surveys, well-defined trends from application of generalized additive models and meteorological records reveal that lakes have become increasingly influenced by rainfall, and potentially waters from thawing permafrost. These sources of input have led to more positive lake water balances. Given the documented role of rainfall in causing thermokarst lake drainage events in OCF and elsewhere, we anticipate increased vulnerability of lateral water export from OCF. This study demonstrates the value of long-term isotope-based monitoring programs for identifying hydrological consequences of climate change in lake-rich permafrost landscapes.

    Reference:
    MacDonald, L.A., Turner, K.W., McDonald, I., Kay, M.L., Hall, R.I., and Wolfe, B.B. (2021). Isotopic evidence of increasing water abundance and lake hydrological change in Old Crow Flats, Yukon, Canada. Environmental Research Letters, 16(12): online.

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  • Five Brock courses with a focus on climate change

    As the COP26 climate summit continues with world leaders talking climate change in Glasgow, Scotland, the topic is also at the forefront of both research and courses at Brock University. Climate change and its effects is discussed in various Faculties and from a variety of angles at Brock. Here are five examples of how students are learning about climate change.

    Contemporary Environmental Issues

    ENSU 3P90 is an Environmental Sustainability capstone course for Brock students who share an interest in sustainability and a concern for improving the relationships between people and the planet. Students engage in a wide range of sustainability issues, including climate change and biodiversity loss as well as displacement and environmental racism.

    The course’s instructor, Jessica Blythe, Assistant Professor in Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, says it resonates with students who are seeking to make a positive change in the world.

    “Many members of Gen Z feel overwhelmed by the state of the world and are responding by devoting their professional careers to finding solutions,” she said. “This course is designed to help students develop core competencies in sustainability science, including systems thinking, anticipatory and strategic skills, so they can thrive in sustainability careers and contribute to addressing the climate crisis.”

    Watershed Study and Assessment

    ERSC 4P31 is an Earth Sciences course that looks at the environmental health of two branches of the upper Twelve Mile Creek. Students in the course measure water quality parameters under different ambient conditions. They then get to compare their results with historical ones obtained in 1978 and 2001.

    Professor of Earth Sciences and course instructor Uwe Brand said the exercise encourages participants to re-evaluate their perceptions of clean water and its availability.

    “The course should show them that water is not only important to the fauna of the creek but also speaks to our water security,” he said. “In light of increasing CO2 emissions and global warming, don’t take anything for granted, including access to ‘clean’ water.”

    Environmental Economics

    ECON/TOUR 2P28 is a course that provides Economic perspectives on environmental and natural resource issues. Economics Instructor Geoff Black, who leads the course, said it is often an eye-opening experience for students.

    “We look at ways in which this shortcoming can be modelled and investigate policy that can bridge the gap,” he said. “It’s important for students to understand the market failures that occur regarding both common resources and public goods.”

    Ecocinema: History, Theory, Practices

    COMM/FILM/PCUL 4P58 is a Film Studies course that explores the proliferation of both fiction and nonfiction films that deal with the climate change, species extinction, resource extraction and other industrial practices.

    Course instructor Christie Milliken, Associate Professor of Film Studies, said the topic of climate change has been more prevalent in recent years, but it was also common in science fiction films in earlier decades.

    “The course invites students to consider the various rhetorical strategies deployed across a range of films as they invite us to rethink our relationship to the planet,” she said.

    Climate Crisis

    GEOG/ERSC 2P08 is a Geography course that provides an Introduction to the Earth’s atmosphere and the natural and anthropogenic drivers that change the Earth’s climate system. These include the Greenhouse effect, human activities that alter the climate system, climate models, climates of the past and projections of future climate.

     

    STORY REPOSTED FROM THE BROCK NEWS

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  • New video on “Climate Politics and Science” by David Grimes

    On World Meteorological Day, March 23, 2021, David Grimes presented a virtual talk on “Climate Politics and Science: Obstacles, Relationships and Responsibilities”. Watch the video below:

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  • New video on “Water and Climate” by David Grimes

    In this talk, David Grimes presents on “Water and Climate: Uncertain Times, Inconvenient Realities”. Watch the full video below:

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  • Film crew joins Crawford Lake research efforts

    When a group of researchers returned to Crawford Lake to continue the search for evidence of a possible new geological era, they came with a film crew to document the occasion.

    Toronto-based Mercury Films joined the team of scientists, led by Brock’s Department of Earth Sciences, shooting footage during last month’s trip to the Milton site to collect samples.

    Brock Professors Mike Pisaric and Francine McCarthy, Brock undergraduate student Brendan Llew-Willams and Carleton Professor Tim Patterson discussing the stratigraphy visible in sediments. (Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton)

    The team is studying the lake as a possible location to define a new geologic epoch called the Anthropocene. It is one of 10 sites being captured by Mercury Films.

    The production company’s most recent film,Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September and is part of a multimedia project that includes a major travelling museum exhibition of photographs, short films and augmented reality. It has been featured at the Art Gallery of Ontario and National Gallery of Canada, and will be on display in Bologna, Italy, in April.

    In addition to the field work, Mercury Films will visit Brock to obtain footage of the laboratory analysis component of this research effort. As part of a project, contracted through the German government, they will highlight each site’s candidacy for type section — a location where evidence of a time period shift can be seen — and cover all the steps leading to the formal proposal of the Anthropocene epoch.

    In order to receive this ‘golden spike’ designation, a proposal must be submitted to the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) for evaluation. If the AWG approves of this proposal, it will then be evaluated by the International Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy, chaired by Brock University Professor of Earth Sciences Martin Head.

    While the world is technically in the Holocene epoch, the group researching Crawford Lake, which also includes researchers from Carleton and McMaster universities as well as Conservation Halton, hopes their findings can convince fellow scientists around the globe to establish the start of the latest geological age.

    Researchers suggest the Anthropocene began around 1950. While it hasn’t been officially adopted as a geological epoch, Brock Professor of Earth Sciences Francine McCarthy and her team are attempting to build a case for Crawford Lake.

    Annually laminated freeze core recovered from the deep basin of Crawford Lake. (Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton)

    To get a better understanding of the history that exists within Crawford, annually laminated sediments called varves are recovered through freeze-coring — a process that involves dropping a dry ice and ethanol filled-metal sampler into the lake.

    “Over the next year or so, various types of analysis of the varves and the overlying water will be conducted, including radionuclide analysis to look for the ‘bomb spike’ and evidence of the Great Acceleration since the Second World War,” McCarthy said. “If a good radionuclide signature, including plutonium, is present in the sediments of Crawford Lake, the site will be a strong contender as the type section, with a ‘golden spike’ at around 1950.”

    Faculty of Math and Science Dean Ejaz Ahmed commended team members for their efforts.

    “I would like to send my congratulations to the team for their work on this matter,” he said. “They should be both proud of their research and excited by the attention it is receiving.”

    There is still plenty of work to be done before the Anthropocene is recognized as a geological era. Progress reports from 10 candidate sites will be presented in April at the upcoming European Geophysical Union Meeting in Vienna. Additionally, supporters from each site will travel to Berlin in May to discuss the next steps that need to be taken to establish the Anthropocene epoch.

    Nick de Pencier of Mercury Films Inc. filming Brock Professor Mike Pisaric and graduate student Joe Viscek as they prepare to core Crawford Lake. (Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton)

    Story reposted from The Brock News.

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