Pingualuit Crater Lake Project

Lake Pingualuk

Aerial view of Lake Pingualuk  ©Robert Fréchette / ARK

The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences funded the international research project "The Pingualuit Crater Lake Project" to investigate the unique climate record of this impact crater lake which might cover several interglacials. The project started with a presentation of the planned project to the community in Kangiqsujuaq (see photos).  The project was well received and the fieldwork in May 2007 will be supported by the community.

Contact us     Project description  Fieldwork in May 2007

Impressions from the public hearing in Kangiqsujuaq in May 2006

Discussion women

presentation fieldwork

group_image Robert

We thank you for your hospitality

and we are looking forward to coming
back in May 2007

flight back

Project description

Earth's climate is changing rapidly, with the global temperature now rising at a rate unprecedented in modern history. These climate changes are being experienced particularly intensively in the Arctic. Arctic average temperature has risen at almost twice the rate as in the rest of the world in the past few decades (ACIA 2004). Arctic climate changes are expected to exert a strong impact on northern ecosystems and communities. The study of climate change dynamics of the Arctic is thus very important for the understanding of global climate because the Arctic plays a key role in global climate change dynamics.

In order to effectively address the highly complex Arctic climate and environmental science questions of the 21st century, scientists, resource managers, decision makers, and interested citizens will need access to more detailed information of the Arctic and its role within the global climate system. Comparison of past and present climate variability will give policy makers a tool to justify laws for the reduction of greenhouse gases inspired by the Kyoto Protocol.

Predictions of the extent and impact of future climate change depend on our ability to reliably model past climatic regimes. Of particular significance is determining when, where, and how rapidly climate has varied during the Pleistocene and Holocene, when boundary conditions were similar to today. The need for high-resolution paleo-records is especially pressing for high latitude regions given that they are now subject to increasing physical perturbation caused by anthropogenic changes in the Earth’s atmosphere in combination with cyclic forcing. Until now the only terrestrial climate record of the arctic which covers several interglacials is the impact crater lake El'gygtgyn in Sibiria. The Pingualuit impact crater lake (also known as the New Québec crater lake) is one of the rare terrestrial sites in high latitude regions that has stored the climate history of the Canadian Arctic over the past 1.3 million years. The Pingualuit crater lake therefore offers the unique research opportunity to obtain paleo-records from the Canadian Arctic that extend back hundreds of thousands of years.

Accurate climate models are essential for improved weather forecasting and prediction of environmental change. The latter is especially important for federal policy and management decisions. Yet one of the central findings of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) report as presented in Reykuavik in 2004 was that climate data sets for the circumpolar region are currently inadequate to constrain and validate regional-scale models. The northern Québec region is especially important in this regard given the major economic importance of its hydroelectric power industry, and the prospect of increased coastal shipping with reduced sea ice duration. Furthermore, the available data suggest that northern Québec shows atypical stability in its climate relative to equivalent latitudes elsewhere, thus making this region the ultimate bellwether of continental and global change. The research at The Pingualuit crater lake addresses this need for regional data by providing an unprecedented temporal record of paleoclimate history for northeastern North America.

Project Members:

  • Reinhard Pientiz, CEN/Geography, Université Laval,
  • Sonja Hausmann, University of Arkansas,
  • Warwick Vincent, CEN/Biology, Université Laval,
  • Martin Lavoie, CEN/Geography, Université Laval,
  • Michel A. Bouchard, Centre des Technologies de l’Environnement de Tunis (CITET), Dept. of Civil Engineering École Polytechnique Université de Montréal,
  • Isabelle Larocque, IRNS/ETE, Geography University of Berne,
  • Guillaume St. Onge, GEOTOP/ISMER,
  • Veli-Pekka Salonen, University of Helsinki,
  • Richard Niederreiter, UWITEC Austria,
  • Derek Muir, Environment Canada, Burlington,
  • Michel Lamonth, University of Montreal
  • Matthias Krebschek, Bergakadmie Freiberg
  • Nikolaus Gantner, University of Guelph,

Fieldwork May 2007

In May 2007 an international group of researchers took about 8.5 m of fine grained sediments of the  Crater Lake under the leadership of Reinhard Pienitz from the Centre d'études nordiques at the Université Laval. An UWITEC corer was used with the field assistance of Richard Niederreiter from Austria.

We arrived in Kangiqsujuaq (Wakeham Bay) in the afternoon of May 5. After we went to the Coop store to get some supplies we had the Sunday off to get acclimatized to the winterly conditions. Originally it was planned that our gear and ourselves would be transported by helicopter to the cabins. However, we had to change plans as the only available helicopter needed repairs. After 5 hours of snowmobile ride under the guidance of Yaaka Yaaka we arrived at the newly build cabins.

Yaaka Yaaka explains the route

On our way to Lake Pingualuk

The first three days were spent by schlepping the equipment to the deepest part of the lake, making a 1 square meter hole for the ground plate through the 1.70 m thick ice, setting up the tripod  and  placing the ground plate.

Arrival at our cabin

Schlepping the gear

ice hole
1 square meter ice hole for the ground plate

Innukshuk made out of ice cubes

An Innukshuk was built with the recovered ice cubes. The mayoress of Wakeham Bay, Mary Pirlutuut, said she had never seen blue ice before.

The first encouraging results were the investigation with a Knudson echosounder by Guillaume St-Onge. The lake basin holds over one hundred meters of laminated fine grained sediments. The same day we took short cores. Over the next 6 days we recovered 8.5 m of sediment cores under harshest conditions. Every day we had snowstorm and came "home" after 10 pm. This May was unusually cold after a mild April. Although the weather conditions were at the limit, a warmer temperature would not have allowed us to transport our gear to the crater by snowmobiles. We had to thaw every screw and every stiff rope with hot water. Uttermost precautions were made because the lake water is exceptionally clear. It is in the extreme protection zone of the Pingualuit National Park, the first northern National Park, which will open in September 2007.

Besides sediment cores, water samples and fishes were taken and measurements of water transparency with a PUV-500 instrument were done. Fish genetics will be investigated to help understanding when the lake got isolated. In addition, their ear bones are an archive for environmental change that will be investigated by Derek Muir from Enviroment Canada.

Knudson echosounder

Signal of Knudson
Tripod with funnel which guided the corer

Holocene sediments

First impressions of the sediment seem to confirm that the basin contains sediments from several interglacial/glacial cycles. In June the cores will be opened at the Universit
é Rimouski and sampled for infra-red luminescence dating, after core logging and paleomagnetic investigations. The cores will be subsampled for analyses of biological remains (pollen, chironomids and diatoms), thin section analyses and oxygen isotope anlayses using chironomids. Depending on further funding additional analyses are planned.

We'd like to thank Robert Fréchette, director of the Parc National des Pingualuit, for providing the cabin and the indispensable help of the park employees; Nathalie Girard from the Kativik Regional Government, who is responsible for the education and conservation of the park; Mary Pirlutuut, mayoress and regional councillor from Kangiqsujuaq; Bill Doidge, Director Nunavik Research Centre, Kuujjuaq; Yaaka Yaaka, proprietor of Yaaka Yaaka Manufacturing, for developing the pulley system to haul down the gear from the crater rim to the crater lake and for general help and guidance; Peter Kiatainaq, Markusie Qisiiq and Tivi Alaku for help in the field and lots of thanks for all other park employees for driving us to the crater and back.

We thank the
Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences for financial support. Further we like to thank the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs du Québec for their support.

Veli-Pekka Salonen, Richard Niederreiter, Guillaume St-Onge

Almost at home

The Fieldwork Team

From left top:
  • Peter Kiatainaq, Dog race champion and park guard, Kangiqsujuaq
  • Yaaka Yaaka, Yaaka Yaaka Manucfaturing and park guard, Kangiqsujuaq
  • Guillaume St-Onge, Université Rimouski
  • Sonja Hausmann, University of Arkansas
  • Reinhard Pienitz, Université Laval
  • Nathalie Girard, Eduction and Conservation Specialist, Kativik Regional Goverment
  • Veli-Pekka Salonen, University of Helsinki
  • Richard Niederreiter, UWITEC Austria
Not on the picture:
  • Markusie Qisiiq, Assistant Park Director, Kangiqsujuaq
  • Tivi Alaku, park guard, Kangiqsujuaq


Reinhard Pienitz
Principal Investigator

Laboratoire de Paléolimnologie-Paléoécologie
Département de Géographie & Centre d'études nordiques
Pavillon Abitibi-Price, room 1232
Université Laval
Québec, Québec
Phone: 418-656-2131 ext. 7006
FAX:  418-656-2978
Sonja Hausmann
Scientific Project Manager

University of Arkansas
Department of Geosciences
113 Ozark Hall (Departmental Office)
102A Ozark Hall (Office)
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701

Phone: 479-575-3159
FAX:  479-575-3469


update May 24, 2007