The goal of PermafrostNet is to boost Canada’s ability to adapt to large scale permafrost thaw by informing forward-looking decision making in our Arctic that is undergoing accelerating change. Network research will allow to generate better information for all of Canada by creating new predictive capabilities with data that is already available as well as that generated by selected new field projects. These are necessary to fill important gaps in understanding, to develop novel methods and to increase the robustness of methods and practices through joint application with partners.
This network’s contribution is conceptualized in a risk-reduction framework where responsible development—fiscally, environmentally and socially—includes adaptation planning for anticipated change. Permafrost thaw affects risk via hazards and exposure and, where driven by climate change, this is beyond our immediate control. Development affects exposure and vulnerability and can additionally change risk via permafrost thaw. Better permafrost and adaptation knowledge can reduce risk by enabling responsible development. Because of climate change, permafrost and adaptation knowledge must include future scenarios.
- Quantify, understand and predict permafrost thaw and its consequences. This gap exists because global climate change was not of concern when the foundation of permafrost science was established by researchers several decades ago.
- Connect spatial scales from individual sites to national-scale prediction and assessment and from field measurements to satellite-based remote sensing and Earth-system modeling. This is important because corresponding knowledge and capabilities are currently part of scientific disciplines that are poorly connected with permafrost science.
- Prototype reliable and useful data and knowledge products for stakeholders and develop relevant next practices with them. This gap exists because insufficient linkages exist between new scientific research, engineering and application of new knowledge in government, communities and industry.
- Characterisation of permafrost. This theme will improve the understanding of ground-ice loss and its consequences though better characterisation of permafrost in the field and in laboratories so that prediction can better represent processes during thaw and have relevant subsurface input such as ground-ice content.
- Monitoring of permafrost change. This theme will reveal and quantify permafrost change in Canada and contribute to understanding its varying rates and expressions at the land surface.
- Prediction of permafrost change. This theme will improve the accuracy and delivery of transient permafrost simulation based on climate data, remote sensing and novel subsurface data so that the model results can support stakeholder needs at local and national scales.
- Hazards and impacts associated with permafrost thaw. This theme will elucidate the relevance and the controls of permafrost hazards and thaw-induced impacts. Furthermore, it will improve their prediction to support adaptation decisions based on avoiding exposure and reducing vulnerability.
- Adaptation to permafrost thaw. This theme will assist northern communities, governments and industry to plan for and manage the changing permafrost environment by providing specific strategies to minimise permafrost thaw and to reduce exposure and vulnerability of infrastructure.