Eric McLeod got an up-close look at the landslide that clogged the Johnson River during a flight on March 1. (Submitted by Eric McLeod)
A power technician from Inuvik, N.W.T., says a massive landslide that pulled up chunks of debris "the size of houses" is blocking a waterway west of the Mackenzie River, creating a lake.
Eric McLeod said he spotted the scene last week in the Johnson River, located between the communities of Wrigley and Tulita, N.W.T., and connects to the Mackenzie River.
He estimates the landslide is about five kilometres from where the two rivers meet.
"I’ve seen quite a few of these slides in the past and normally it’s mostly mud and debris," McLeod said, "But in this case there were actually boulders … and there were still trees on them."
"The amount of earth that moved was just awe-inspiring."
McLeod has spent 15 years travelling to remote locations for his job. He credits a pilot with Great Slave Helicopters for pointing the scene out to him while they were flying over the area on March 1. Landslides increasingly becoming common
Dennis Rusch, the helicopter company’s base manager for the Sahtu region, said he discovered the landslide in late August or early September 2017, before any snow had fallen.
He estimated the blockage in the Johnson River stretches 250 to 300 metres wide and is at least 300 to 400 metres long.
While it’s the widest landslide Rusch has ever seen, it’s not the first.
"We’re seeing these slides quite a bit now, all over the mountains in the Sahtu area," he said, adding they’re creating lakes of all different sizes.
A landslide blocked the Johnson River near the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories after heavy rains in the fall. Scientists say they could become more common as the climate warms. (Submitted by Eric McLeod) Steve Kokelj, a permafrost scientist with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey, hasn’t been to the Johnson River landslide himself, but said these kinds of events are common in the Northwest Territories.
That’s because much of the Mackenzie Valley contains permafrost.
"As the permafrost warms, a lot of slopes can lose stability and you can have landslides," he said, adding they can come in different forms.
The upper and lower Mackenzie Valley, including the Johnson River, are prone to shallow landslides, he said.
"As the climate warms and permafrost temperatures rise and permafrost thaws, these types of phenomena will become more common," he said. "We need to expect that and anticipate that." Changes noticed by area residents It appears to be a mountain range but it’s actually a landslide that’s clogged up the Johnson River in the Northwest Territories. (Submitted by Eric McLeod) Wrigley resident Charlie Talley, 62, isn’t surprised by the increasing number of landslides in the territory.He spends a lot of time on the land and has seen these events happening in the region for some time.But over the last five years, he’s noticed a "big change.""I think it’s impacting the rivers. It’s dropping every summer. The water’s getting lower and lower," Talley said. "There’s all kinds of sandbars that you’ve never seen before. Even from here, there must be about 30 little sandbar islands."While Talley said there’s little he can do about them, landslides are taking a toll on communities."It is impacting our culture, like hunting and fishing," he said. "The riverbed is changing every year."Chris Burn, a geography professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, researches permafrost and ground ice in the Yukon and Western Arctic."That’s a big problem for the communities of the Western Arctic because they rely on groceries coming, they rely on shipment of materials, they rely […]
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