Downscaling future oceanography projections in the Canadian Arctic and Subarctic
The Arctic and Subarctic regions of Canada are experiencing rapid climate change. In particular, temperatures are rising and sea ice cover is declining at unprecedented rates. These changes are having impacts on the ocean environment with changes in marine ecosystems as well as human interactions with the environment. For example, Nunatsiavut in northern Labrador has seen a loss of nearly 75% sea ice cover since 1968 – with significant implications on winter travel routes and the ability to fish and harvest marine mammals. Therefore there is great need to understand how the marine environment may change in the future, which is critical for ensuring food security and the preservation of culture across northern Canada.
This project will perform simulations of the future ocean using numerical ocean models. Our ocean modelling system will include three levels. First, a large-scale model covering the Arctic Ocean and the north Atlantic Ocean will be used. This model has been used previously to simulate historical conditions and will be used in this project, along with climate model future projections, to simulate the ocean to the mid-21st century. This model will include the physical ocean, sea-ice and marine biogeochemistry. Second, a regional model for the coast and shelf off Nunatsiavut will be nested within the larger-scale model. This model will provide simulations of the historical and future marine environment on a finer-detail, including changes in landfast ice critical for winter travel, fishing and hunting. Finally, a local model for Lake Melville and Groswater Bay (central Labrador) will be developed and used to test the combined oceanographic impacts of a changing climate and local hydroelectric developments, and be interpreted alongside community knowledge of past changes in sea-ice use. All project components will be used to inform local rightsholders of projected future changes in the marine environment, contribute to marine management plans.