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Canada's Cold Environments

Canada's Cold Environments

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  • Book Info
    Canada's Cold Environments
    Book Description:

    Low temperatures, wind-chill, snow, sea ice, and permafrost have been primary characteristics of Canada's northern and alpine environments during the past two million years. The evolution of Canada's cultural landscapes, the processes of settlement of rural areas, and the present interaction of Canadian industrial society with its biophysical environment are all deeply influenced, directly or indirectly, by the frigidity of the greater part of the country. The phenomenon of global warming, if it occurs, will lessen this coldness, but its impact on temperature extremes, sea ice regimes, vegetation, snow distribution, permafrost, glaciers, lakes, rivers, and mountain hazards are all the subject of intensive research -- the highlights of which are reviewed in Canada's Cold Environments.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6354-4
    Subjects: Geography

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  4. Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Figures
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  6. Contributors
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. Preface
    (pp. xxi-xxii)

    • CHAPTER ONE Canada’s Cold Land Mass
      (pp. 3-28)

      Canada is dominated by cold. Snow and sub-freezing temperatures are rare only along the maritime lowland fringes of the Pacific coast. However‚ the areas along the southern borders where most of the population resides are largely temperate in climate. There‚ seasonal agriculture is possible‚ plant and animal productivity is relatively high‚ and the constraints of cold are temporarily forgotten during the summer months. By contrast‚ in the more remote areas of the country the constraints imposed by coldness persist throughout the year and dominate both the landscape and socio-economic activities‚ especially in more northerly latitudes and at higher elevations. test...

    • CHAPTER TWO Canada’s Cold Seas
      (pp. 29-62)

      Canada’s arctic and subarctic seas form a vital element of the northern environment. The ice-dominated waters fostered the distinctive Inuit culture, with a subsistence basis adapted to the marine environment. These same waters acted as a barrier to exploration for a Northwest Passage and in the last two decades have necessitated adoption of specialized engineering technologies for development of seabed resources. Marine transportation requires ice-strengthened vessels and icebreaker assistance for much of the year; off the east coast, icebergs present a hazard to shipping and drilling platforms. The common element linking the bodies of water with which we are concerned...


    • CHAPTER THREE Northern Climates
      (pp. 65-92)

      Canada’s northern and polar climates can be understood and modelled at a number of scales ranging from large to small. At the largest scale‚ the radiation balance of the Earth-atmospheric system is in perpetual deficit. This deficit fuels a vigorous general circulation of the atmosphere‚ also operating at the largest scale. The general circulation in turn interacts with the unique geographical environment which can be understood in terms of air and ground temperatures‚ precipitation‚ and wind. These elements can be combined with the radiation balance to define climatic zones which‚ on the largest scale‚ are categorized into high arctic‚ low...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Northern Vegetation
      (pp. 93-116)

      Let us at the outset clarify our perceptions about the plant life of Canada’s northern and polar lands‚ particularly the ways in which it differs from the flora and vegetation that surround the southern fringe which contains Canada’s cities‚ transportation routes‚ and recreational centres. A few misrepresentations should be dispelled.

      First‚ it is said that arctic plants show little diversity (numbers of species) because the arctic ecosystems are of recent origin and thus have not had enough time for diversity to evolve. In fact‚ however‚ arctic biosystems have existed for at least four million years‚ roughly the same period as...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Northern Hydrology
      (pp. 117-142)

      The magnitude and timing of hydrological processes vary spatially within the vast regions of northern Canada according to climate‚ geology‚ and vegetation. Yet these northern regions all experience a low level of solar radiation and tremendous seasonal contrast in radiation regime compared with southerly latitudes. With an extended period of radiative loss each year‚ winters are long and cold. This distinctive period of prolonged cold exerts an overwhelming influence on hydrological activities.

      The main effect is that cold-climate phenomena such as snow‚ ice‚ and frost play a major part in the hydrological cycle. Thawing of ice and snow involves latent...

    • CHAPTER SIX Cold-Climate Processes and Landforms
      (pp. 143-168)

      A number of distinct and sometimes unique processes and landforms characterize cold environments. All are associated with freezing and sub-freezing temperatures‚ together with the presence of moisture in its various forms. They may be subdivided further by being associated with either glacial or non-glacial conditions. Because the extent of present-day glaciers is localized‚ it is clear that most of Canada’s landmass is cold‚ non-glacial. Such a condition is commonly called “periglacial” (e.g. French 1976; Clark 1988; Washburn 1980; Williams and Smith 1989).

      Cold-climate processes are intimately linked with the action of intense frost‚ often combined with the presence of permafrost....


    • CHAPTER SEVEN Cold Mountains of Western Canada
      (pp. 171-198)

      The most obvious and distinctive attribute of mountain environments is rugged topography or‚ more precisely‚ great local relief - large difference in elevation between the highest and lowest points within a small area. Great local relief gives rise to steep slopes and high-elevation areas. These three topographic attributes - great relief‚ steep slopes‚ and high elevations - have further implications‚ as recognized by Hewitt (1972). Local relief gives rise to variations in energy and moisture conditions over short distances. Steep slopes result in high “geopotential energy” and high elevations‚ in turn‚ give rise to cold climatic conditions‚ more analogous to...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Karst in Cold Environments
      (pp. 199-222)

      Canada’s arctic and alpine environments display major temporal and spatial variations of climate and climatically controlled phenomena. During the past two million or more years‚ cycles of Quaternary glacier growth and decay wrought greater variety than exists today in the behaviour of the processes that shape landforms and establish or destroy ecological assemblages. From the perspective of a geomorphologist‚ glacial cycles proceed quite rapidly. As a result‚ many modern landforms are polygenetic - they have been moulded by different processes at different times and may preserve (in modified form) features created long ago. The karst geomorphic and hydrologic system is...

    • CHAPTER NINE Mountain Paleoenvironments of Western Canada
      (pp. 223-246)

      Some of the distinctive physical attributes of Canada’s western mountains are attributed to processes and events that took place during the last two million years‚ and earlier. Equally‚ some mountain hazards are partially the result of the Quaternary legacy‚ such as glacially oversteepened mountain walls and glacial‚ lacustrine‚ alluvial‚ and other loose sediments. This chapter focuses on three groups of paleoenvironmental information: landforms‚ sediments‚ and fossilized remains of plants and animals.

      The major endogenous processes that effect landscape change are diastrophism and volcanism‚ linked to plate interactions in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. The region is located at the edge...

    • CHAPTER TEN Mountain Hazards
      (pp. 247-268)

      Natural hazards are understood as those interactions between the natural environmentand society that have net costs to society (White 1974). Usually the natural environmentis seen as the primary actor‚ and people are seen as respondents or victims.Thus when a flash flood occurs as a result of heavy rain in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia and a residential subdivision is damaged‚ we think of the flood as being a natural hazard‚ the event as a disaster‚ and the people and community as victims. However‚ on exploring the event in more detail we may find that the flood was itself caused‚...


    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Climate Variability‚ Change‚ and Sensitivity
      (pp. 271-290)

      The well-publicized trend in background concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and model extrapolations into the future (Figure 11.1) have focused public attention on the possibility of a changing climate and its implications. Within Canada’s cold environments‚ transportation sectors‚ the livelihood of native peoples‚ natural gene pools‚ and the development and use of park reserves will probably be affected. The replacement of highly reflective sea ice with open ocean will amplify the warming trend. To illustrate the consequences of such feedback links‚ Figure 11.2 compares observed temperature departures from the northern hemisphere mean with similar data for the Arctic...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Climatic Change and Permafrost
      (pp. 291-312)

      During the past few thousand years‚ Earth’s climate has been subject to fairly small changes and world temperatures have fluctuated only within a couple of degrees. However‚ higher levels of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse” gases in the atmosphere may progressively increase global temperature by as much as 2 + 0 4C° over the next several decades.

      Current projections suggest that climatic warming in the north polar latitudes would be two or three times greater than this global average‚ although the precise locations and degree of warming may vary substantially between climatic models (e.g. see Etkin 1990). According to the...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Cold Environments and Global Change
      (pp. 313-334)

      The causal links between climate change and global environmental change are not well established. Chapter 11 has explored some of the practical difficulties of establishing the fact of climate change and the need for risk and “scenario” analysis in the face of uncertainty. If the empirical evidence for contemporary climate change is difficult to find‚ then that for global change is even more elusive because of the lagged response of environmental systems to climate change (Rosswall‚ Woodmansee‚ and Risser 1988). This final chapter identifies some technical problems that restrict the ability to predict global change quantitatively. It then examines possible...

  12. Index
    (pp. 335-340)