The $17 million Hudson Bay System Study (BaySys), a four year project involving 40 scientists from five universities across Canada has been cancelled due to extreme ice conditions in the Arctic south caused by climate change. The southward motion of hazardous Arctic sea ice suggested that the science team of the Canadian Research Icebreaker CCGS Amundsen, which formed the first leg of the 2017 expedition, arrived too late on site to meet research objectives.
This scenario unfolded despite the fact that vessel departing six days ahead of schedule in order to carry out critical marine safety and security operations in the unusually severe ice conditions in the Strait of Belle Isle and along the northeast coast of Newfoundland before beginning the Science Mission. However, the conditions required much more extended support than anticipated. Fleet management issues, inadequate alternative ships, and the increasing demand for Search and Rescue operations (SAR) and ice escort were also factors in the situation.
Using state of the art equipment onboard the Amundsen to confirm that a significant proportion of the sea ice present originated from the Arctic, the Sea Ice Research Team collected a comprehensive dataset regarding the physics of the ice, ocean and atmosphere in the area. This will be used to understand these events and assist Canada in preparing for climate change driven increases in marine ice hazards. The provision of information is increasingly important for proper planning, decision-making and adaptation to the realities of climate change for which Canada is currently ill-prepared (as seen by the recent events in Churchill, Manitoba).
Dr David Barber, expedition chief scientist and BaySys scientific lead, noted that “Climate-related changes in Arctic sea ice not only reduce its extent and thickness but also increase its mobility meaning that ice conditions are likely to become more variable and severe conditions such as these will occur more often.”
Recent data has clearly demonstrated that the impact of climate change in Canada’s Arctic and Arctic Ocean has begun to affect not only northern ecosystems and communities, but also the environments and people living in the south of Canada—as so dramatically seen off the coast of Newfoundland. The decision to cancel the BaySys 2017 program will affect this information gathering.
“This extremely unfortunate event is not expected to affect the remainder of the 2017 Amundsen Expedition resuming on July 6. We believe that the oceanographic studies will proceed as planned and do not anticipate an impact on the Nunavik Inuit Health Survey. The Amundsen Science Team is committed to working with Canadian Coast Guard and our industrial partners to plan a 2018 BaySys program,” said Dr Louis Fortier, scientific director of the Amundsen and ArcticNet Science programs.