River Ice
Ice formation on rivers is a highly complex and dynamic process that eventually leads to complete and continuous ice cover. The significance of river ice is multi-faceted given it controls the winter flow regimes of most rivers; provides seasonal transportation corridors for remote communities, can be hazardous to shipping, can influence weather patterns, and can be an indicator to climate change. The formation of consolidated ice is of particular importance since it can cause ice damming and flooding over large areas. Monitoring river ice provides important information on the location and extent of ice cover.

Developed and tested in Northern Alberta and Northern Quebec, Hatfield’s ice monitoring service helps delineate and identify river ice types, ice breakup, and ice conditions to support ice travel safety, flood risk management, and strategic planning for downstream infrastructures. Hatfield provides governments and companies with accurate and frequent information on river ice conditions and ice phenology to allow for effective decision making.

Our river ice monitoring service includes:

  • Ice front detection;
  • Ice type classification, including consolidated ice, open water, and smooth ice; and
  • Change detection, to determine movement of the ice front and location of ice jams.
Lake Ice
Lake ice formation, growth, and decay is driven by several factors including, air temperature, wind, precipitation, and incoming solar radiation. In addition, lake dimensions, surrounding topography, and geographic location also contribute to ice formation on lakes. Larger lakes can undergo seasonal changes at slower rates than smaller, shallow lake systems; strong wind induced stress can lead to later freeze-up and early break-up by reducing structural integrity; and spring melt is affected by lake depth. Monitoring lake ice provides insights into how ice cover plays a role in and responds to climate variability.

Using our proprietary Grounded Ice Detection (GUIDE) algorithm, developed and tested in the Northwest Territories, satellite data are processed to map the extent of grounded ice. This information provides valuable information on relative lake depth, sensitivity to fish over-wintering habitat, and potential for water withdrawal and use by industry.

Hatfield provides governments and companies with accurate and frequent information on lake ice, including:

  • Timing of freeze up and break up; and
  • Distribution of floating and grounded (bottom-fast) ice.

Case Studies

Mapping grounded ice for cumulative environmental impact monitoring in the Northwest Territories

Hatfield’s ice monitoring services was integral to the development of the GUIDE system, an automated algorithm designed to process large volumes of satellite radar data to map lake ice cover and status, including whether the ice is grounded or floating. These products were provided to the Northwest Territories’ Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program (NWT CIMP) to support environmental baseline characterization of water bodies and water resources for two areas experiences increase resource development.
This information, combined with ice thickness data obtained through empirical modeling, ice coring, or ground penetrating radar technology, offers a spatially continuous snapshot of ice cover status over a large area that cannot be obtained through traditional methods. The GUIDE algorithm delivers information that allows for efficient screening of lakes across large areas, facilitates estimates of ice thickness by relating grounded ice information with indicator lakes of known bathymetry, and integrates a combination of modeled ice thickness and the grounded ice boundary line to estimates lake bathymetry for shallower lakes.

Polar View – Nunavik Lake and River Ice Service

Hatfield Ice Monitoring service is an integral part of the Nunavik Lake Ice service (LIS), an online database that services the Nunavik Research Centre of Makivik Corporation, and selected communities across the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, Canada. The LIS portal consists of eight years of ice data and uses satellite imagery, weather data, and local environmental knowledge to help monitor ice conditions for several key lakes and river sections. These lakes and river sections are important over-wintering habitat for Arctic char; a vital resource for the people of the region.
Understanding current ice conditions and monitoring changes in ice conditions are important for northern communities, and to resource development, environmental management, and climate change research. Using satellites, real-time weather data, and local environmental knowledge, ice conditions for key lakes near the communities of Kangiqusualujjuaq, Kuujjuaq, and Kangirsuk were provided. Information on lake ice conditions such as initial ice formation, complete ice cover, and ice break-up are provided. A Polar View pdf is accessible here

Studying in-stream flow needs (IFN) on the Athabasca River through mapping of river ice using RADARSAT-2 data.

Allowable water withdrawals from the Athabasca River are regulated based on the amount of water in the river at a given period relative to historical conditions. Concerns of insufficient water to maintain aquatic habitat are greatest in winter, when river discharge is at its lowest, the river is typically ice-covered, and many areas of the river are frozen to depth.
Hatfield ice monitoring service provided river and lake ice information to explore the ability of remotely sensed data to measure and monitor available fish habitat and instream flow needs the lower Athabasca River and in the Peace-Athabasca Delta (PAD). The project was funded through the Canadian Space Agency, with support from Parks Canada, the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA), and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The project was successful in confirming use of RADARSAT-2 data as a way to monitor changes in the amount of fish habitat available under ice over winter.

Hatfield provides river and lake ice monitoring services to various clients through the use of satellite remote sensing data and terrestrial systems that are managed by a team of remote sensing and hydrology experts. Derived products are hosted, managed, and delivered through IceMonitoring.com.
Hatfield Consultants is a pioneer in the field of environmental services with a 40-year history of providing innovative solutions to complex environmental challenges. Our winter hydrology services include:
  • Designing and installing networks of climate and hydrometric stations
  • Baseline characterization of water bodies to determine sensitivity of water bodies, potential water sources, or receiving environments
  • River ice conditions for winter transportation planning and hydro-related development
  • Lake and river studies to support fish ecology and overwintering habitat assessment
  • Assessment of water withdrawal potential
  • Climate change studies related to timing of lake ice break-up and freeze-up

Our track record includes successful completion of lake and river ice studies in:

  • Town of Kangiqusualujjuaq, George River, Nunavik
  • City of Fort McMurray, Athabasca River, Alberta
  • Fort Chipewyan, Athabasca Delta, Alberta
  • Town of Aklavik, Mackenzie River Delta, Northwest Territories
  • Town of Hay River, Hay River, Northwest Territories
  • Central Mackenzie Valley, Mackenzie River, Northwest Territories
  • North Slave, Slave Geological Province, Northwest Territories

Service Overview:
  1. mail Rapid Product Delivery
Our custom system uses satellite remote sensing data to characterize lake and river ice across large areas, more frequently, at high resolution, and more efficiently compared to traditional methods. The GUIDE algorithm developed by Hatfield, processes, analyses, and delivers maps and ice data in a fraction of the time.
  1. data Flexible Data Access
Access your data from any web browser or bring the data into your own GIS AutoCAD software, or other planning tools or spatial databases. Hatfield has extensive experience facilitating data sharing in large, complex inter-agency projects, and in setting up of automatic data transmission systems that use international standards (such as OGC’s standards).
  1. network Inter-Organization Data Sharing
Multi-user interface – this allows for efficient data sharing between clients, other companies, and regulators. All datasets are held in a strongly controlled environment with granular access levels, allowing only specified datasets to be shared.
  1. earth Interactive Web Mapping Tool
Image and products are made available through our Web Map and image streaming services that shows the spatial context of your ice data.  We can ensure seamless integration into your geographic information system, AutoCAD software, or other planning tools.
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