Skip to main content
Log in

The Changing Cold Regions Network: Observation, diagnosis and prediction of environmental change in the Saskatchewan and Mackenzie River Basins, Canada

  • Research Paper
  • Special Topic: Watershed Science
  • Published:
Science China Earth Sciences Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Climate change is causing rapid and severe changes to many Earth systems and processes, with widespread cryospheric, ecological, and hydrological impacts globally, and especially in high northern latitudes. This is of major societal concern and there is an urgent need for improved understanding and predictive tools for environmental management. The Changing Cold Regions Network (CCRN) is a Canadian research consortium with a focus to integrate existing and new experimental data with modelling and remote sensing products to understand, diagnose, and predict changing land, water, and climate, and their interactions and feedbacks over the geographic domain of the Mackenzie and Saskatchewan River Basins in Canada. The network operates a set of 14 unique and focused Water, Ecosystem, Cryosphere and Climate (WECC) observatories within this region, which provide opportunities to observe and understand processes and their interaction, as well as develop and test numerical simulation models, and provide validation data for remote sensing products. This paper describes this network and its observational, experimental, and modelling programme. An overview of many of the recent Earth system changes observed across the study region is provided, and some local insights from WECC observatories that may partly explain regional patterns and trends are described. Several of the model products being developed are discussed, and linkages with the local to international user community are reviewed—In particular, the use of WECC data towards model and remote sensing product calibration and validation is highlighted. Some future activities and prospects for the network are also presented at the end of the paper.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Baltzer J L, Veness T, Chasmer L E, et al. 2014. Forests on thawing permafrost: Fragmentation, edge effects, and net forest loss. Glob Chang Biol, 20: 824–834

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barry R, Serreze M. 2012. The changing climate. In: French H, Slaymaker O, eds. Changing Cold Environments: A Canadian Perspective. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd. 89–104

    Google Scholar 

  • Beilman D W, Robinson S D. 2003. Peatland permafrost thaw and landform type along a climate gradient. In: Phillips M, Springman S M, Arenson L U, eds. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Permafrost. Zurich, Switzerland. 61–65

    Google Scholar 

  • Best M J, Pryor M, Clark D B, et al. 2011. The Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES), model description-Part 1: Energy and water fluxes. Geosci Model Dev, 4: 677–699

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bolch T, Menounos B, Wheate R. 2010. Landsat-based inventory of glaciers in western Canada, 1985–2005. Remote Sens Environ, 114: 127–137

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bonsal B R, Zhang X, Vincent L A, et al. 2001. Characteristics of daily and extreme temperatures over Canada. J Clim, 14: 1959–1976

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown R D, Braaten R O. 1998. Spatial and temporal variability of Canadian monthly snow depths, 1946–1995. Atmos-Ocean, 36: 37–54

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown R D, Mote P W. 2009. The response of northern hemisphere snow cover to a changing climate. J Clim, 22: 2124–2145

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown R D, Robinson D A. 2011. Northern hemisphere spring snow cover variability and change over 1922–2010 including an assessment of uncertainty. Cryosphere, 5: 219–229

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burgess M M, Smith S L. 2003. 17 years of thaw penetration and surface settlement observations in permafrost terrain along the Norman Wells pipeline, Northwest Territories, Canada. In: Phillips M, Springman S M, Arenson L U, eds. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Permafrost. Zurich, Switzerland. 107–112

    Google Scholar 

  • Burn C R, Kokelj S V. 2009. The environment and permafrost of the Mackenzie Delta area. Permafrost Periglacial Process, 16: 355–367

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burn C R, Zhang Y. 2010. Sensitivity of active layer development of winter conditions north of treeline, Mackenzie Delta area, western arctic coast. In: Proceedings of the 6th Canadian Permafrost Conference. Calgary, Alberta. 1458–1465

    Google Scholar 

  • Burn C. 2012. Permafrost Distribution and Stability. In: French H, Slaymaker O, eds. Changing Cold Environments: A Canadian Perspective. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd. 126–146

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Burn D H, Cunderlik J M, Pietroniro A. 2004. Hydrological trends and variability in the Liard River basin. Hydrol Sci J, 49: 53–67

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burn D H, Fan L, Bell G. 2008. Identification and quantification of streamflow trends on the Canadian Prairies. Hydrol Sci J, 53: 538–549

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chasmer L, Quinton W, Hopkinson C, et al. 2011. Vegetation canopy and radiation controls on permafrost plateau evolution within the discontinuous permafrost zone, northwest territories, Canada. Permafrost Periglacial Process, 22: 199–213

    Google Scholar 

  • Clark D B, Mercado L M, Sitch S, et al. 2011. The Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES), model description—Part 2: Carbon fluxes and vegetation dynamics. Geosci Model Dev, 4: 701–722

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Comeau L E, Pietroniro A, Demuth M N. 2009. Glacier contribution to the north and south Saskatchewan Rivers. Hydrol Process, 23: 2640–2653

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Connon R, Quinton W, Craig J, et al. 2014. Changing hydrologic connectivity due to permafrost thaw in the lower Liard River valley, NWT, Canada. Hydrol Process, 28: 4163–4178

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DeBeer C M, Pomeroy J W. 2009. Modelling snow melt and snowcover depletion in a small alpine cirque, Canadian Rocky Mountains. Hydrol Process, 23: 2584–2599

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DeBeer C M, Pomeroy J W. 2010. Simulation of the snowmelt runoff contributing area in a small alpine basin. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci, 14: 1205–1219

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DeBeer C M, Sharp M J. 2007. Recent changes in glacier area and volume within the southern Canadian Cordillera. Ann Glaciol, 46: 215–221

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Demuth M N, Keller R. 2006. An assessment of the mass balance of Peyto Glacier (1966–1995) and its relation to recent and past-century climatic variability. In: Demuth M N, Munro D S, Young G J, eds. Peyto Glacier: One Century of Science. National Hydrol Res Institute Sci Report, 8: 83–132

    Google Scholar 

  • Demuth M N, Pietroniro A. 2003. The Impact of Climate Change on the Glaciers of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Eastern Slopes and Implications for Water Resource-related Adaptation in the Canadian Prairies, “Phase 1”—Headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River Basin. Report to the Climate Change Action Fund—Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative, PARC. Project P55. Geological Survey of Canada Open File 4322, 162 and technical appendices

    Google Scholar 

  • Demuth M N, Pinard V, Pietroniro A, et al. 2008. Recent and Past-century Variations in the Glacier Resources of the Canadian Rocky Mountains—Nelson River System. Terra Glacial, 11: 27–52

    Google Scholar 

  • Demuth M N, Wilson P, Haggarty D. 2014. Glaciers of the Ragged Range, Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories, Canada. In: Kargel J, Leonard G J, Bishop M P, et al, eds. Global Land Ice Measurements from Space. Springer-Praxis Books. Berlin: Springer

    Google Scholar 

  • Derksen C, Brown R, MacKay M. 2008. Mackenzie Basin snow cover: Variability and trends from conventional data, satellite remote sensing, and Canadian regional climate model simulations. In: Woo M K, ed. Cold Region Atmospheric and Hydrologic Studies: The Mackenzie GEWEX Experience. Berlin: Springer. 213–239

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Derksen C, Walker A, Goodison B. 2003. A comparison of 18 winter seasons of in situ and passive microwave-derived snow water equivalent estimates in western Canada. Remote Sens Environ, 88: 271–282

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Duguay C R, Prowse T D, Bonsal B R, et al. 2006. Recent trends in Canadian lake ice cover. Hydrol Process, 20: 781–801

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Environment Canada. 2014. Canadian Climate Normals. http://climate.weather.gc.ca/climate_normals/, website accessed February 2014

    Google Scholar 

  • Goetz S J, Epstein H E, Bhatt U S, et al. 2011. Ecent changes in arctic vegetation: Satellite observations and simulation model predictions. In: Gutman G, Reissell A, eds. Eurasian Arctic Land Cover and Land Use in a Changing Climate. Springer Science + Business Media, doi: 10.1007/978-90-481-9118-5_2, 9–36

    Google Scholar 

  • Hall F G. 1999. Introduction to special section: BOREAS in 1999: Experiment and science overview. J Geophys Res-Atmos, 104: 27627–27639

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hanesiak J M, Stewart R E, Bonsal B R, et al. 2011. Characterization and summary of the 1999–2005 Canadian prairie drought. Atmos-Ocean, 49: 421–452

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harvey K D, Pilon P J, Yuzyk T R. 1999. Canada’s reference hydrometric basin network (RHBN). In: Partnerships in Water Resource Management. CWRA 51st Annual Conference, Canadian Water Resources Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Halifax Hinzman L D, Bettez N D, Bolton W R, et al. 2005. Evidence and implications of recent climate change in northern Alaska and other Arctic regions. Clim Change, 72: 251–298

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hogg E H, Brandt J P, Michaelian M. 2008. Impacts of a regional drought on the productivity, dieback, and biomass of western Canadian aspen forests. Can J For Res, 38: 1373–1384

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In: Stocker T F, Qin D, Plattner G K, et al., eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1535

  • Jorgenson M T, Shur Y L, Pullman E R. 2006. Abrupt increase in permafrost degradation in arctic Alaska. Geophys Res Lett, 33: L02503, doi: 10.1029/2005GL024960

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kelly R. 2012. Remote sensing and Canadian snow climatology. In: French H, Slaymaker O, eds. Changing Cold Environments: A Canadian Perspective. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd. 66–86

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Lantz T C, Marsh P, Kokelj S V. 2013. Recent shrub proliferation in the Mackenzie Delta uplands and microclimatic implications. Ecosystems, 16: 47–59

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lenormand F, Duguay C R, Gauthier R. 2002. Development of a historical ice database for the study of climate change in Canada. Hydrol Processes, 16: 3707–3722

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lloyd A H, Bunn A G. 2007. Responses of the circumpolar boreal forest to 20th century climate variability. Environ Res Lett, 2, doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/2/4/045013

    Google Scholar 

  • MacDonald G M, Szeicz J M, Claricoates J, et al. 1998. Response of the central Canadian tree-line to recent climatic changes. Ann Assoc Am Geogr, 88: 183–208

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • MacDonald G. 2012. Climate change and the central Canadian treeline. In: French H, Slaymaker O, eds. Changing Cold Environments: A Canadian Perspective. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd. 185–199

    Google Scholar 

  • MacKay J R, Burn C R. 2002. The first 20 years (1978–1979 to 1997–1998) of active layer development, Illisarvik experimental drained lake site, western Arctic coast, Canada. Can J Earth Sci, 39: 1657–1674

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marshall S J, White E, Demuth, M N, et al. 2011. Glacier water resources on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Can Wat Res J, 36: 109–134

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mekis E, Vincent L A. 2011. An overview of the second generation adjusted daily precipitation dataset for trend analysis in Canada. Atmos-Ocean, 2: 163–177

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mekonnen M A, Wheater H S, Ireson A M, et al. 2014. Towards an improved land surface scheme for prairie landscapes. J Hydrol, doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.01.020

    Google Scholar 

  • Moore R D, Fleming S W, Menounos B, et al. 2009. Glacier change in western North America: Influences on hydrology, geomorphic hazards and water quality. Hydrol Process, 23: 42–61

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Naz B S, Frans C D, Clarke G K C, et al. 2014. Modeling the effect of glacier recession on streamflow response using a coupled glaciohydrological model. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci, 18: 787–802

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Olthof I, Pouliot D. 2010. Treeline vegetation composition and change in Canada’s western Subarctic from AVHRR and canopy reflectance modeling. Remote Sens Environ, 114: 805–815

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pietroniro A, Fortin V, Kouwen N, et al. 2007. Development of the MESH modelling system for hydrological ensemble forecasting of the Laurentian Great Lakes at the regional scale. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci, 11: 1279–1294

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pomeroy J W, de Boer D, Martz L W. 2005. Hydrology and water resources of Saskatchewan. Center for Hydrology, Report #1, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 25

    Google Scholar 

  • Pomeroy J W, Gray D M, Brown T, et al. 2007. The cold regions hydrological process representation and model: A platform for basing model structure on physical evidence. Hydrol Process, 21: 2650–2667

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Price D T, Alfaro R I, Brown K J, et al. 2013. Anticipating the consequences of climate change for Canada’s boreal forest ecosystems. Environ Rev, 21: 322–365

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prowse T D, Bonsal B R. 2004. Historical trends in river ice break-up: A review. Nord Hydrol, 35: 281–293

    Google Scholar 

  • Prowse T D, Furgal C, Melling H, et al. 2009. Implications of climate change for northern Canada: The physical environment. Ambio, 38: 266–271

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prowse T. 2012. Lake and River ice in Canada. In: French H, Slaymaker O, eds. Changing Cold Environments: A Canadian Perspective. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd. 163–181

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Quinton W L, Baltzer J. 2013. Changing surface water systems in the discontinuous permafrost zone: Implications to stream flow. In: Cold and Mountain Region Hydrological Systems Under Climate Change: Towards Improved Projections. IAHS Publ, 360: 85–92

    Google Scholar 

  • Quinton W L, Hayashi M, Chasmer L E. 2009. Peatland hydrology of discontinuous permafrost in the Northwest Territories: Overview and synthesis. Can Wat Res J, 34: 311–328

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Quinton W L, Hayashi M, Chasmer L E. 2011. Permafrost-thaw-induced land-cover change in the Canadian subarctic: Implications for water resources. Hydrol Process, 25: 152–158

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rood S B, Pan J, Gill K M, et al. 2008. Declining summer flows of Rocky Mountain rivers: Changing seasonal hydrology and probable impacts on floodplain forests. J Hydrol, 349: 397–410

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sauchyn D, Barrow E, Fang X, et al. 2009. Saskatchewan’s natural capital in a changing climate: An assessment of impacts and adaptation. Report to Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment from the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative. 162

    Google Scholar 

  • Sellers P J, Hall F G, Kelly R D, et al. 1997. BOREAS in 1997: Experiment overview, scientific results, and future directions. J Geophys Res-Atmos, 102: 28,731–28,769

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Serreze M C, Walsh J E, Chapin III F S, et al. 2000. Observational evidence of recent change in the northern high-latitude environment. Clim Change, 46: 159–207

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith R E, Veldhuis H, Mills G F, et al. 1999. Terrestrial ecozones, ecoregions, and ecodistricts of Manitoba: An ecological stratification of Manitoba’s natural landscapes. Land Resource Unit, Brandon Research Centre, Research Branch, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 14

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith S L, Burgess M M, Riseborough D W, et al. 2005. Recent trends from Canadian permafrost monitoring thermal monitoring network sites. Permafrost Periglacial Process, 16: 19–30

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith S L, Romanovsky V E, Lewkowicz A G, et al. 2010. Thermal state of permafrost in North America: A contribution to the International Polar Year. Permafrost Periglacial Process, 21: 117–135

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith S L, Wolfe S A, Riseborough D W, et al. 2009. Active-layer characteristics and summer climatic indices, Mackenzie Valley, Northwest Territories, Canada. Permafrost Periglacial Process, 20: 201–220

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith S. 2011. Trends in permafrost conditions and ecology in northern Canada. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, Technical Thematic Report No. 5. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. iii, 22

    Google Scholar 

  • St. Jacques J M, Sauchyn D J, Zhao Y. 2010. Northern Rocky Mountain streamflow records: Global warming trends, human impacts or natural variability? Geophys Res Lett, 37, doi: 10.1029/2009GL042045

  • St. Jacques J M, Sauchyn D J. 2009. Increasing winter baseflow and mean annual streamflow from possible permafrost thawing in the Northwest Territories, Canada. Geophys Res Lett, 36: doi: 10.1029/2008GL 035822, 2009

  • Stewart R E, Leighton H G, Marsh P, et al. 1998. The Mackenzie GEWEX Study: The water and energy cycles of a major North American River Basin. B Am Meteorol Soc, 79: 2665–2683

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stewart R E, Pomeroy J, Lawford R. 2011. he Drought Research Initiative: A comprehensive examination of drought over the Canadian prairies. Atmos-Ocean, 49: 298–302

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sturm M, Racine C, Tape K. 2001. Climate change: Increasing shrub abundance in the Arctic. Nature, 411: 546–547

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tape K, Sturm M, Racine C. 2006. The evidence for shrub expansion in Northern Alaska and the Pan-Arctic. Glob Chang Biol, 12: 686–702

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tedesco M, Brodzik M, Armstrong R, et al. 2009. Pan arctic terrestrial snowmelt trends (1979–2008) from spaceborne passive microwave data and correlation with the Arctic Oscillation. Geophys Res Lett, 36: L21402, doi: 10.1029/2009GL039672

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tenant C, Menounos B, Wheater R, et al. 2012. Area change of glaciers in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Cryosphere, 6: 1541–1552

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Verseghy D L. 2000. The Canadian land surface scheme (CLASS): Its history and future. Atmos-Ocean, 38: 1–13

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vincent L A, Mekis E. 2006. Changes in daily and extreme temperature and precipitation indices for Canada over the twentieth century. Atmos-Ocean, 44: 177–193

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vincent L A, Wang X L, Milewska E J, et al. 2012. A second generation of homogenized Canadian monthly surface air temperature for climate trends analysis. J Geophys Res, 117, doi: 10.1029/2012JD017859, 2012

    Google Scholar 

  • Whitfield P H, Moore R D, Shook K S. 2013. Summary and Synthesis of Workshop break Out Group Discussions. In: Pomeroy J W, Whitfield P H, Spence C, eds. Putting Prediction in Ungauged Basins into Practice. Canadian Water Resources Association. 271–304

    Google Scholar 

  • Woo M K, Rouse W R, Stewart R E, et al. 2008. The Mackenzie GEWEX Study: A contribution to cold region atmospheric and hydrologic sciences. In: Woo M K, ed. Cold Region Atmospheric and Hydrologic Studies, the Mackenzie GEWEX Experience, Volume 1: Atmospheric Dynamics. Heidelberg: Springer. 1–22

    Google Scholar 

  • Woo M K. 2012. Permafrost hydrology. New York: Springer. 563

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Zhang X, Brown R, Vincent L, et al. 2011. Canadian climate trends, 1950–2007. Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010. Technical Thematic Report No. 5. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers. Ottawa, ON. iv, 21

    Google Scholar 

  • Zhang X, Harvey K D, Hogg W D, et al. 2001b. Trends in Canadian streamflow. Wat Resour Res, 37: 987–998

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zhang X, Hogg W D, Mekis E. 2001a. Spatial and temporal characteristics of heavy precipitation events over Canada. J Clim, 14: 1923–1936

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Chris M. Debeer.

Electronic supplementary material

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Debeer, C.M., Wheater, H.S., Quinton, W.L. et al. The Changing Cold Regions Network: Observation, diagnosis and prediction of environmental change in the Saskatchewan and Mackenzie River Basins, Canada. Sci. China Earth Sci. 58, 46–60 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-014-5001-6

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11430-014-5001-6

Keywords

Navigation