Climate change impact in the North

Danette Dooley
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Arctic researcher seeks help of Labrador residents for thesis project

Arctic Researcher Alexander Strutzke is looking for assistance from Labrador residents as she completes research in environmental changes due to global warming in the North American Arctic and Subarctic for his Ph.D. thesis.

A researcher at the University of Waterloo in Ontario is reaching out to people in the Big Land to help him gather information for his Ph.D. thesis.

Alexander Strutzke is researching environmental changes due to global warming in the North American Arctic and Subarctic.

A student at the university’s Centre for Pavement and Transportation Technology, part of his research will focus on how climate change has affected residents and companies in these areas.

“I’m focusing on everything that’s considered to be a cold environment, where there may be permafrost and where roads are affected by the snow and ice,” Strutzke said during a recent telephone interview.

Strutzke has created two research questionnaires (one for individuals and one for company/institute representatives) which he is asking people to complete and return.

Both surveys, which consist of multiple choice questions, can be found at

The questionnaires can be filled out and sent back to Strutzke online.

The questions are simple, he says, and the survey will only take about ten minutes to complete.

“People actually experience (climate change) in the North and I want to find out how it affected their lives, if they had to make changes in their lives to adapt to climate change.”

Strutzke says he’s hoping his research results will help raise awareness about the effects of climate change – to both the population that is experiencing the change – and to the rest of North America.

“I would like to get 100 questionnaires back and I’ve sent the information to newspapers in Alaska and in Alberta.”

Prior research

Originally from Germany, Strutzke was an exchange student at the University of Saskatchewan in 2004-05. During 2005-06 he worked for the National Water Research Institute (also called the National Hydrology Research Centre) in Saskatoon which is a part of Environment Canada.

“I did my master‘s thesis there. My topic was snow melt runoff models with different landcover classes in the Arctic. The model I used is called Watflood and was invented at the University of Waterloo for runoff of rivers and creeks in warmer regions.“

Strutzke applied the model to an Arctic creek and checked the performance under very different climate conditions than the original intention of the model.


His research has led him to believe that people in the North experience many challenges due to global warming.

There are more extreme weather conditions such as thunderstorms, hotter summers, and colder winters, he says.

Animals and vegetation will migrate North because of generally warmer conditions, he says, while permafrost will continue to melt and is a risk for streets, pipelines, buildings and other infrastructure.

On the other hand, Strutzke says, global warming makes exploration and access to natural resources easier, brings more tourists to the North and therefore new forms of money and work for the residents.

“And of course I expect many local variations especially when I compare Labrador to the far away Alaska.“

While not all of these elements are relevant to Labrador, he says, they do play out in other areas of the North.

“And I believe there will be many more challenges which I don't even know yet. The

survey...will make all these challenges visible.“


Organizations: University of Waterloo, University of Saskatchewan, National Water Research Institute National Hydrology Research Centre Environment Canada

Geographic location: North America, Arctic, Labrador Ontario Alaska Alberta Germany Saskatoon

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