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Guillaume Couture


Master student

Department of Applied Geomatics, Université de Sherbrooke

2500, boul. de l'Université
Université de Sherbrooke
Quebec, Canada
J1K 2R1

819 821 8000 extension 62506






Projet de recherche

Development of a polynya climatology using RADARSAT imagery in the canadian Arctic

In 2016, Arctic sea ice coverage reached a total area of 4.72M km2. Sea ice surface is complex and presents multiple characteristics increasing its variability in thickness and concentration over short distances. In some places, formation of open water areas can occur in winter following dynamic and thermodynamic processes that have in return important impacts on how the cryosphere responds to climate variability and change. These areas are known as polynyas and play an important role as a food source for great mammals, as a control agent for annual CO2 cycles while initiating spring melt. These areas are also used as hunting grounds for Inuit populations in these regions. With the current observed climate warming in the Arctic, an increase in size and occurrence of these polynyas can be expected. However, there does not seem to be any study to this day which describes the spatial and temporal trends of these polynyas in Arctic regions.

In the context of the project ‘Development of a multi-scale cryosphere monitoring network for the Kitikmeot region and Northwest territories using in-situ measurements, modeling and remote sensing’, funded by POLAR Knowledge Canada, the goal of this project is to develop a digital polynya database based on RADARSAT 1 and 2 images taken in the past twenty years.

The study area for this project is the Kitikmeot region in Nunavut that encompasses parts of Victoria Island, King William Island and Prince of Wales Island. Caribou populations in the region use the sea passages between these islands. An increase in polynya occurrence and size could potentially modify their regular migration routes. Furthermore, a greater insight on polynya location might be very helpful to better guide ships for maritime transport. To do this, a polynya detection algorithm using radar imagery has been developed by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

The project aims to develop a digital polynya database using RADARSAT 1 and 2, to develop a climatology evaluating spatial and temporal trends in the western Canadian Arctic and, finally, to evaluate the characterization of important processes linked to polynya occurrence and the potential links to extreme meteorological events.

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