Sudbury

Permafrost study aims to update maps and help communities adapt, researcher says

A Sudbury-based researcher says more needs to be done to understand permafrost and its impact on people who live on it.

$5.5M study being done by 12 different universities

Pascale Roy-Léveillée is an associate professor of geography at Laurentian University. (Submitted by Pascale Roy-Léveillée)

A Sudbury-based researcher says more needs to be done to understand permafrost and its impact on people who live on it.

Recently, the federal government announced $5.5 million in funding to study permafrost at 12 different universities, including Laurentian University.

Associate professor of geography Pascale Roy-Léveillée says it is important to learn more about permafrost, which is ground that is frozen and shouldn't melt in the summer.

She's involved in researching the topic, including on mapping where permafrost is located in places like the James Bay lowlands.

"When you don't have the information in advance in terms of where the ice is in the ground underneath or how quickly it will thaw, then we're sort of having a band-aid approach," Roy-Léveillée said.

"We're trying to move beyond that reactive approach."

She says having this information will help with developing infrastructure in areas.

"When we build on permafrost and we know there's permafrost underneath, then we can take some engineering precautions to make sure it's anchored as solidly as possible," she said.

Roy-Léveillée says climate change is also playing a part.

"With buildings and with roads, we make predictions thinking, ok, we know in the summer it will thaw a bit at the surface and then we prepare for that," she explained.

"But now that conditions are warming, the ground is starting to thaw deeper and deeper in the summer and we're hitting some of those layers that have ice in it."

Roy-Léveillée says she will also be involved in research on hazard assessments in the Yukon where she previously lived. She's also researching ways communities can adapt to changing permafrost conditions.

"People who live in the north have no questions about climate change because they can see it happening and unravelling."

What happens when permafrost thaws? What problems could result in northern Ontario? Pascale Roy-Léveillée is an associate professor of Geography at Laurentian University and a scientist at the Vale Living with Lakes Research Centre. She says we should be paying attention. 6:27

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