Monitoring climate change in the Northwest Territories

This project builds local capacity for community-based monitoring of towers that measure climate change in the Northwest Territories.

Northwestern Canada is experiencing twice the rate of climate warming compared to the rest of the Earth. It is vital to track and measure land surface changes such as permafrost degradation and related impacts on the hydrological cycle, local water resources and regional climate. Several million dollars have been invested over the last 15 years to develop a network of 10 micrometeorological towers across the Northwest Territories to share findings with the scientific community and decision-makers to build resilience against climate change.

Future Skills Centre is investing $660,668 in this 2-year project. Travel restrictions to protect communities from COVID-19 revealed a major shortcoming of the tower network: the absence of local expertise threatens its continued operation. This project will build local capacity for community-based micrometeorological monitoring to protect important Canadian research infrastructure. No tower maintenance has been performed since September 2019, which marks a significant disruption to the data record. Existing staff live outside of the NWT and it is unclear when these activities can resume due to the pandemic. Continued tower operation requires regular visits by trained staff, ideally monthly, to ensure the integrity and functioning of the infrastructure, solar power supply systems and state-of-the-art micrometeorological instruments.

The use of digital communication tools (such as cell phone reception or satellite internet access at most towers) and local capacity, coordinated through a micrometeorological research associate or technician, will increase the resilience of Canadian climate change research infrastructure that is vital to support evidence-based decision-making on northern resources, resulting in more prosperous, sustainable and healthy northern communities. This project will reduce the reliance on subject-matter experts who reside outside of the territory. This project also addresses the territorial government’s strategic priorities to build local capacity, particularly in northern communities, to adapt to changing climate and permafrost conditions.

Image of an eclipse eddy covariance) Tower network.

Evaluation Strategy

This project will be evaluated using tools and approaches aligned with its goals, context, and stage of development. The evaluation will focus on generating the right evidence at the right moment to move the intervention forward. Read more about our evaluation strategy.

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