Nunavut government to make permafrost guide for homeowners

The Nunavut government wants to help homeowners prepare and protect their homes as thawing permafrost causes damage to homes, roads, and buildings in the North.

Pamphlet to help residents prepare for complex problem

Melting permafrost is one of the major concerns associated with climate change in the North.

As the frozen subsoil thaws, it can cause all sorts of problems; buckled roads, shifting foundations and broken infrastructure.

Now, the Nunavut government wants to help homeowners prepare and protect their homes.

In some parts of the western Arctic, melting permafrost is already a builder's foe. The shifting ground can wreak havoc on foundations, requiring expensive repairs.

Further east in Nunavut, the permafrost is thicker and more stable.

Anne-Marie LeBlanc, who is with Natural Resources Canada, said that’s changing, along with the climate.

"When the ground warms and the active layer gets deeper and deeper, the ice in the ground will melt and the ground will subside. So we can observe some subsidence," said LeBlanc, referring to the term used for motion in the ground due to a number of factors – in this case, permafrost thaw.

Researchers in Iqaluit have focused on the airport where there are cracks in the runway in some areas.

They've also been measuring and mapping the city's permafrost to better understand where the vulnerable areas are located.

N.W.T. to release similar guide this fall

Home construction is booming in many communities and the Nunavut government wants people to prepare for any problems.

"We want to try to ensure that Nunavummiuts’ investments in their home remain a good and solid investment and that they have the tools and resources to ensure that their homes are protected and the foundations are stable," said Colleen Healy, the Nunavut government’s climate change coordinator.

The government is now devising a "Homeowner's Guide to Permafrost" which is meant as a sort of primer for a complex issue.

"What permafrost is, what the permafrost regime in Nunavut is like, why some of these structures in Nunavut are dependent on a stable permafrost regime, and where there are measures a homeowner can take to promote and to preserve permafrost under their home, where there are things they can do, we'll show them how to do it," said Rob Eno from Nunavut’s Department of Environment.

The guide should be ready by next spring.

The Northwest Territories has also put together a homeowner's guide to permafrost which should be available this fall.