Ground ice maps from paleogeographic modelling approach, Canada (CA)

O'Neill, H. Brendan; Wolfe, Stephen A.; Duchesne, Caroline

Ground ice melt caused by climate-induced permafrost degradation may trigger significant ecological change, damage infrastructure, and alter biogeochemical cycles. The fundamental ground ice mapping for Canada is now >20 years old and does not include significant new insights gained from recent field- and remote-sensing-based studies. New modelling incorporating paleogeography is presented in this paper to depict the distribution of three ground ice types (relict ice, segregated ice, and wedge ice) in northern Canada. The modelling uses an expert-system approach in a geographic information system (GIS), founded in conceptual principles gained from empirically based research, to predict ground ice abundance in near-surface permafrost. Datasets of surficial geology, deglaciation, paleovegetation, glacial lake and marine limits, and modern permafrost distribution allow representations in the models of paleoclimatic shifts, tree line migration, marine and glacial lake inundation, and terrestrial emergence, and their effect on ground ice abundance. The model outputs are generally consistent with field observations, indicating abundant relict ice in the western Arctic, where it has remained preserved since deglaciation in thick glacigenic sediments in continuous permafrost. Segregated ice is widely distributed in fine-grained deposits, occurring in the highest abundance in glacial lake and marine sediments. The modelled abundance of wedge ice largely reflects the exposure time of terrain to low air temperatures in tundra environments following deglaciation or marine/glacial lake inundation and is thus highest in the western Arctic. Holocene environmental changes result in reduced ice abundance where the tree line advanced during warmer periods. Published observations of thaw slumps and massive ice exposures, segregated ice and associated landforms, and ice wedges allow a favourable preliminary assessment of the models, and the results are generally comparable with the previous ground ice mapping for Canada. However, the model outputs are more spatially explicit and better reflect observed ground ice conditions in many regions. Synthetic modelling products that incorporated the previous ground ice information may therefore include inaccuracies. The presented modelling approach is a significant advance in permafrost mapping, but additional field observations and volumetric ice estimates from more areas in Canada are required to improve calibration and validation of small-scale ground ice modelling. The ground ice maps from this paper are available in the supplement in GeoTIFF format.

Detailed information about the methods can be found in the publication to which this dataset is a supplement.


In order to use these data, you must cite this data set with the following citation:

O'Neill, H. B., Wolfe, S. A., and Duchesne, C.: New ground ice maps for Canada using a paleogeographic modelling approach, The Cryosphere, 13, 753–773, doi:10.18739/A22V2C974, 2019


O'Neill, H. Brendan

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Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Identifier DOI:10.5194/tc-13-753-2019
Institute Natural Resources Canada: Ottawa, ON, CA
Publication Date 2019-03-05
Version 1.0
Product Ground Ice Maps
Sensor Model
  1. Modified surficial material units
  2. Modelled segregated ice abundance
  3. Modelled relict ice abundance
  4. Modelled wedge ice abundance
Variables [Units]
  1. Value: id
  2. Count: pixel count
  3. Code (surficial material): abbreviation of surficial material
  4. Legend (surficial material): name of surficial material
  5. Legend (ground ice layers): ground ice abundance classes in the top 5 m of permafrost [Negligible, Low, Medium, High]
Region Canada
Spatial Reference Custom: North American 1983 CSRS / Lambert Conformal Conic
Spatial Resolution 1000 m
Spatial Coverage Latitude 35.41 to 83.80, Longitude -173.54 to -11.26
Temporal Coverage
Temporal Resolution
Format Geotiff
Is Supplement To

O'Neill, H. B., Wolfe, S. A., and Duchesne, C.: New ground ice maps for Canada using a paleogeographic modelling approach, The Cryosphere, 13, 753–773,, 2019.

Related to

Dataset extent

Map tiles and data by OpenStreetMap, under CC BY SA.