Chancellor's Professor Chris Burn
Permafrost and ground ice; Physical geography of northwest Canada
|Degrees:||B.Sc. Durham, M.A. Carleton, Ph.D. Carleton, D.Sc. Durham, P.Geo.|
|Phone:||613-520-2600 x 3784|
|Office:||A330 Loeb Building|
Chris Burn is the supervisor of Carleton’s Graduate Programs in Northern Studies. He held an NSERC Senior Northern Research Chair at the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies from 2002-12, throughout the program’s life. He came to Canada in 1981 as a Commonwealth Scholar, and completed both the M.A. (Geography, 1983) and Ph.D. (Geology, 1986) at Carleton. He then moved to U.B.C. as a Killam fellow to study with J. Ross Mackay, the world authority in his field. In 1989 Chris was awarded an NSERC University Research Fellowship, which he brought back to Carleton in 1992. In January 2018, Chris was awarded a D.Sc. (Geography) by Durham University, after examination of his published research by an international panel, and in November that year the Polar Medal from Her Excellency Rt. Hon. Julie Payette, Governor-General of Canada. In November 2022, Chris received the Martin Bergmann Medal (2022) of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society for Arctic Leadership and Science.
Chris is committed to long-term field investigations of frozen ground. His research is focused on the relations between climate and permafrost. He has been particularly interested in determining the response of ground temperatures and the active layer to climate warming as observed in the western Arctic since 1970. His program involves partnerships with several northern agencies, particularly the Village of Mayo, the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, and the Departments of Transportation in Yukon and NWT. Dr Burn has been involved with the environmental and regulatory reviews of several northern projects, including the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project and the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway.
His research program strives to provide explanations for the behaviour of permafrost terrain that are founded in field verification of physically based models. Long-term observations at the Illisarvik drained lake field experiment build on Dr Mackay’s work and have given a 45-year record of active-layer development and near-surface ground temperatures that are among the longest in North America. Ground temperatures collected at Illisarvik and Garry Island confirm the effect of regional warming in winter on summer thaw depth. In central and southern Yukon data collection is primarily concerned with the effect of changes in surface conditions on ground temperatures, especially following forest fire in Takhini River Valley, near Whitehorse, and after thaw slumping, near Mayo. Graduate student projects are woven into the general program that covers these themes.
The work has primarily been financially supported by NSERC, PCSP, the Aurora Research Institute, and Transport Canada. Northern agencies also provide critical assistance, especially the First Nation of Na Cho Nyak Dun and the Village of Mayo. Since 1992, 26 Master’s and five PhD theses have been completed in the program, with one Ph.D. thesis and five M.Sc. projects underway.
Chris has served as Chair of NSERC’s Committee 186 (Scholarships and Fellowships Committee for Ecology and Earth Sciences, 2010); as Chair of the Canadian Northern Studies Trust Northern Science Committee for adjudication of Weston Awards for Northern Research (2007-11); as Vice-President of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (2004-09); President of the Arctic Circle (2009-12); Co-Chair of Transport Canada’s Network of Expertise in Northern Transportation Infrastructure Research (2011-14), and co-chair of NSERC’s Committee 1506 (Discovery Grants for Geosciences). He is President of the International Permafrost Association (2020-24).
Marston Lafrance Research Fellowship, Carleton University. April 2023.
Martin Bergmann Medal, Royal Canadian Geographical Society. November 2022.
Polar Medal. November 2018.
Permafrost and ground ice
Physical Geography of Yukon and Northwest Territories
Current Research Projects
Permafrost and infrastructure sustainability (Emma Stockton, Ph.D. student; Pat Jardine, Astrid Schetselaar, Trevor Andersen, Rae Landriau, M.Sc. students, NSERC funded, including PermafrostNet)
Permafrost and climate change in the western Arctic (Loucas Diament Boustead, M.Sc. student, NSERC funded).
2023-2024 On Sabbatical
Burn, C.R. 1997. Cryostratigraphy, paleogeography, and climate change during the early Holocene warm interval, western Arctic coast, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 34: 912-925. DOI: 10.1139/e17-76.
Burn, C.R. 2002. Tundra lakes and permafrost, Richards Island, western Arctic coast, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 39: 1281-1298. DOI: 10.1139/e02-035.
Burn, C.R., and Kokelj, S.V. 2009. The environment and permafrost of the Mackenzie Delta area. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 20: 83-105. DOI: 10.1002/ppp.655.
Burn, C.R. (editor), 2012. Herschel Island Qikiqtaryuk: A natural and cultural history of Yukon’s Arctic island. Whitehorse: Wildlife Management Advisory Council for the Yukon North Slope.
Burn, C.R., Lewkowicz, A.G., and Wilson, M.A. 2021. Long-term field measurements of climate-induced thaw subsidence above ice wedges on hillslopes, western Arctic Canada. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 32: 261-276. doi 10.1002/ppp.2113
Publications 2019-2022 with graduate students
Andersen, T.S., Jardine, P.A., and Burn, C.R. 2021. Long-term (2000-2017) response of like-bottom temperatures and talik configuration to changes in climate at two adjacent lakes, western Arctic coast, Canada. In Permafrost 2021: Merging permafrost science and cold regions engineering: Proceedings of the Regional Conference on Permafrost 2021 and the 19th International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering, 24-29 October 2021. Edited by J. Zufelt. American Society of Civil Engineers: Reston, VA: 1-13.
Bishop-Legowski, S., and Burn, C.R. 2019. Permafrost and Thermal Anomalies in Talus Slopes near Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. In Cold Regions Engineering 2019: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering and the 8th Canadian Permafrost Conference, 18-22 August 2019, Quebec City, QC. Edited by J-P. Bilodeau, D.F. Nadeau, D. Fortier and D. Conciatori. American Society of Civil Engineers: Reston, VA: 508-515. https://doi.org/10.1061/9780784482599
Wilson, A.M., Burn, C.R., and Humphreys, E.R. 2019. Vegetation development and variation in near-surface ground temperatures at Illisarvik, western Arctic coast. In Cold Regions Engineering 2019: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering and the 8th Canadian Permafrost Conference, 18-22 August 2019, Quebec City, QC. Edited by J-P. Bilodeau, D.F. Nadeau, D. Fortier and D. Conciatori. American Society of Civil Engineers: Reston, VA: 687-695. https://doi.org/10.1061/9780784482599
Humphries, J., Burn, C.R., MacDougall, S., and Brais, C. 2019. Storm wind frequency and direction, Dempster Highway, Richardson Mountains, Yukon and Northwest Territories. In Cold Regions Engineering 2019: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering and the 8th Canadian Permafrost Conference, 18-22 August 2019, Quebec City, QC. Edited by J-P. Bilodeau, D.F. Nadeau, D. Fortier and D. Conciatori. American Society of Civil Engineers: Reston, VA: 137-145. https://doi.org/10.1061/9780784482599
Stockton, E.J., Burn, C.R., Idrees, M., Calmels, F., and Elmer, K. 2019. Monitoring Ground Temperatures in Permafrost Along the Dempster Highway, Yukon and NWT. In Cold Regions Engineering 2019: Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Cold Regions Engineering and the 8th Canadian Permafrost Conference, 18-22 August 2019, Quebec City, QC. Edited by J-P. Bilodeau, D.F. Nadeau, D. Fortier and D. Conciatori. American Society of Civil Engineers: Reston, VA: 92-101. https://doi.org/10.1061/9780784482599
12 December 2022 CBC Website; CBC Explains. The world’s permafrost is rapidly thawing and that’s a big climate change problem. By Christy Climenhaga, 12 December. Also broadcast on CBC Ottawa All in a Day and other network stations. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/the-world-s-permafrost-is-rapidly-thawing-and-that-s-a-big-climate-change-problem-1.6674976
2 August 2021. CBC Radio. Yukon Morning with Elyn Jones. https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-393-yukon-morning/clip/15858332-a-permafrost-researcher-says-yukons-permafrost-thaw-reaching
17 June 2019. CBC TV News, The National. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/the-national-permafrost-thaw-inuvik-tuktoyaktuk-1.5179842 See also (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8ynabSmGGs)
Graduate Student Projects
Patrick Jardine (M.Sc.) Management of snow conditions and their effects on permafrost degradation beside highways in central Yukon.
Astrid Schetselaar (M.Sc.) Assessment of increases in maintenance costs associated with climate change for the Yukon Highway system.
Trevor Andersen (M.Sc.) Development of hurricane-force downslope winds across the Dempster Highway near the Yukon-NWT border.
Rae Landriau (M.Sc.) Migration of contaminants from drilling-waste sumps, Mackenzie Delta area, NWT.
Loucas Diament Boustead (M.Sc.). Isotopic composition of hillslope ice wedges near Illisarvik, NWT.
Emma Stockton (Ph.D.) Climate-ground surface temperature relations in the Dempster-ITH corridor, NWT.
Recent Theses (completed)
Jennifer Humphries (M.Sc.): Evaluating the impact of snow fencing on snow conditions and ground temperatures in Hurricane Alley, Dempster Highway, Yukon, Canada. September 2020.
Canadian Association of Geographers
Geological Association of Canada
Canadian Quaternary Association
Canadian Geomorphology Research Group
Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario
Canadian Geophysical Union
American Geophysical Union