(Tom Spears/Ottawa Citizen via Canada.com, 28 February 2007) --
The majesty of Arctic studies — sweeping vistas, expanses of icy ocean — sometimes comes down to a muddy hole in the ground. This
is where it starts for Julian Kanigan, a master’s student in geography
at Carleton University, who spent last summer planting sensors in the
Mackenzie River delta soil, and inspecting muddy ponds of drilling
waste. The Big Picture will come later. For now, scientists all over
the world are joining for a year of unprecedented studies of Earth’s
north and south ends by 60,000 researchers, called International Polar
Year. It kicks off Thursday. And Julian Kanigan, who will describe his
work at a conference Thursday at Carleton University, is assembling one
small piece of the puzzle.
“I just came back from a summer of field
work in the Mackenzie Delta, installing ground temperature cables and
going back later to collect the data,” he said. He was back in
December, and returns again in April. Sensors show that while the
air temperature there has risen by three degrees in 40 years, the soil
temperature has risen very little. Mr. Kanigan thinks the snow cover is
keeping it cold. Whatever the cause, this feeds into the enormous
international effort to measure Arctic temperatures, the
fastest-changing in the world.
The work, he recalls, “is no picnic:”
living in tents, swarmed by mosquitoes, trying not to get lost in the
spruce forest or while navigating a motorboat through the shallow,
winding channels. Plenty of mud. He has also been looking for
drilling waste — a salty slurry that’s supposed to be frozen harmlessly
in deep permafrost pits. But sometimes they puts start to thaw and the
liquid wastes can ooze out and form a pond.
“There’s concern about
happens if these drilling wastes move into the environment,” he says.
That brought a drive to count them and figure out which ones were
oozing. It may not match the sanitized southern view of clean snow
and polar bears, but as the Mackenzie’s people look toward building a
pipeline, this is the work that matters. Students from Carleton and
the University of Ottawa get together once a year to show what they’ve
learned up north. Thursday’s event is a little more special, as it
lines up with the International Polar Year.
Posted by Amanda Graham – 1 March 2007; 2:27:34 AM – Permalink
Tagged: IPY project, News