Scientists in the Northwest Territories are warning of a "catastrophic lake drainage" due to thawing permafrost at a remote lake just south of the treeline. 

The Northwest Territories Geological Survey warns that a flash flood could happen any time without warning this summer or fall. But scientists expect it to happen sometime during the next couple of weeks. 

Flash flood warning in NWT

The lake lies about 20 km west of Fort McPherson, N.W.T., west of Husky Lake. (Google Maps)

No homes or people are threatened. However, the government is warning people to avoid travelling or camping in the area. 

Steve Kokelj, a permafrost scientist with the territorial government, said there is a traveller's cabin in the area, but it's rarely used in the summer.

"The risk to people is relatively low, but nonetheless it's something people in the area should be aware of," Kokelj said.

"Once the water starts to erode the permafrost in the head of this slump, [the water] will go very very quickly."

The small lake lies about 20 kilometres west of Fort McPherson, N.W.T., home to about 800 people. It's to the west of Husky Lake. 

It's right next to a growing permafrost slump, which is caused when permafrost in the ground begins to melt, causing the ground to sink.

"In this case we have a slump that's growing up a slope and there happens to be a lake at the top of that slope," Kokejl said. "Fortunately it's a relatively small lake, but as that slump grows and the ice thaws, it sort of chews its way up the slope."

The lake will be monitored as part of a government-led permafrost research project.

Flash flood warning in N.W.T.

Looking northeast at the lake and the permafrost slump. (Scott Zolkos, University of Alberta/NTGS)

Flash flood warning in NWT

Looking south at the lake. (Scott Zolkos, University of Alberta/NTGS)

Husky Lake and small lake

Point three on this map shows the small lake lies. It's west of Husky Lake, west of Fort McPherson, N.W.T. (NTGS)