CERC - Canada Research Chair in Remote Sensing of Canada’s New Arctic Frontier

About this CERC

Introduction Abstract Objectives Tools References


The Arctic world is experiencing unprecedented change under the double pressure of climate change and modernization. The current pace of arctic warming now exceeds the most pessimistic scenarios of climate modelers. In the Canadian Arctic, rapid economic, social and political development coincides with this transformation of the environment. The exploration and exploitation of new mineral and oil resources accelerate. As they move towards self-governance, northern communities face critical health, education and economic issues. National frontiers in and around the central Arctic Ocean Basin are being defined and negotiated. New sea-lanes are opening (the Northwest Passage and Northeast Passage were both free of ice in summer 2008, for the first time in recorded history). As issues of access, sovereignty and resource exploitation multiply and magnify, circum-arctic nations increase their military presence in the region.

For Canada, the on-going transformation of its immense and geographically complex maritime Arctic poses environmental, socio-economic and strategic challenges that imperatively require a vastly improved understanding of the Arctic Ocean, its ecosystems, and its resources. Twenty years ago, the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) revolutionized our understanding of four of the five oceans and revealed their importance in determining Earth's climate. Ironically, the Arctic Ocean, the most significant ocean in controlling climate, was left out because the new instrumentation developed during WOCE could not be deployed in permanently ice-covered waters. Recently, Canada has joined the multi- national charge to understand, monitor, model and forecast the global climatic and human consequences of the on-going meltdown of the Arctic Ocean's cryosphere. Canadian specialists have led and co-led major endeavours such as the International North Water Polynya Study (NOW, 1997-2001), the mobilization of the research icebreaker Amundsen (2002), the Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (CASES, 2002-2007), the Network of Centres of Excellence ArcticNet (2004-), the international Nansen-Amundsen Basins Observational System (NABOS, 2003-) and several programs of the International Polar Year (2007-2012) including the Circumpolar Flaw Lead Study (CFL), the Inuit Health Surveys, Malina, Arctic-SOLAS, Arctic-Geotraces and Canada's Three Oceans (C3O).

The overarching goal of the proposed CERC research program is to augment, diversify, organize, geo- reference, and exploit for models the rapidly expanding observational basis of the ecosystems of the Canadian Arctic Ocean resulting from these programs, and to help make this information accessible to policy makers in northern and southern Canada. Building on the dynamic arctic research environment at Université Laval (see Phase I proposal), the exceptional financial means provided by the CERC program and matched by the Quebec government will enable us to assemble the team which, under the internationally recognized leadership of the Chair holder, will attain this ambitious goal. The specific science objectives of the CERC are:

  1. To augment in time and space the observation of arctic marine ecosystems by implementing new algorithms for the remote-sensing of phytoplankton, particulate matter, dissolved organic carbon and seawater optical properties in the surface layer of the Canadian Arctic Ocean, from which primary production, bacterial growth, and organic matter photo-oxidation will be derived;
  2. To develop, validate, and implement the urgently-needed ecosystem models that will help anticipate the impacts of climate change and industrialization on the resources and services (fisheries, navigation, minerals, energy, tourism) provided now and in the near future by the ecosystems of the Canadian Arctic Ocean; 3- To adapt existing and future new
  3. To adapt existing and future new observing technologies to the extreme conditions of the Arctic Ocean, with emphasis on the field deployment of Profiling Floats, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, and Ocean Gliders, and on the use of optical sensors;
  4. In collaboration with the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network (CCIN), Centre d'Etudes Nordiques (CEN) and other national and international partners, to mesh the respective expertise of ArcticNet and GEOIDE, two pan- Canadian NCE hosted at Université Laval, into the development of state-of-the-art geo- referenced data archiving systems that can be accessed online by scientific, industrial and government stakeholders to produce maps and analyses of the transforming Canadian Arctic.