NEXTAW: Climate Change and Marine Transportation in Hudson Bay

Location or Study Area: Port of Churchill, Kivalliq Region (Nunavut), & Hudson Bay
Submitted by: David Babb & Jonathan Andrews

Background & Rationale

As part of Transport Canada’s Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative and the Network of Expertise on Transportation in Arctic Waters (NEXTAW) this project seeks to advance knowledge of the ice pack within the Hudson Bay Complex (Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait & Foxe Basin) and the consequent opportunities and vulnerabilities to marine shipping to and from the Port of Churchill and the Kivalliq region of Nunavut.  In the context of decreased ice cover and lengthened ice free seasons, this three-year (2014-2017) project will examine the opportunities and challenges which changes in sea ice have on: 1) shipping routes to and from the Port of Churchill; 2) operations and infrastructure in the Port; and 3) coastal shipping along the western edge of Hudson Bay to the Kivalliq region of Nunavut.  Projections to 2030 and 205 using the NEMO ice-ocean coupled model will provide insight on future conditions within the Hudson Bay Complex and context for a proposed lengthening of the shipping season.

Project Description & Objectives

In order to serve both the academic interest in understanding and applying the knowledge of the effects of climate change on the human and natural systems of the Hudson Bay Complex and the economic interest in understanding current and future ice hazards to shipping, this project has a combination of private, public and university collaborators.  The project will address four interconnected objectives:

  1. Using knowledge of existing trends and variability, identify and evaluate current climate-related vulnerabilities in the operation and infrastructure of the Port of Churchill and associated shipping routes to export markets and to the Kivalliq region of Nunavut.
  2. Evaluate the effect of future climate change on sea ice using model estimates using the coupled sea ice/ocean NEMO model for the Churchill and Western Hudson Bay transportation corridors (model projection for 2030 and 2050). 
  3. Advance the scientific knowledge necessary to provide the basis for extending the fall period of ship operations through the Port of Churchill and forecast fall ice formation dates with sufficient lead-time to facilitate efficient shipping operations.
  4. Provide a series of education and capacity building opportunities for High School and University Students, and for professional development on the principals of Arctic climate change and its impact on marine transportation.

This project will make use of remotely sensed data from passive and active microwave platforms, historical archives of Environment Canada weather station data, NEMO model data, and in situ data from past and planned field campaigns.

Principal Investigator(s): David Barber
Program Lead: David Babb
For more information contact:

UM Participants
: Jonathan Andrews, Mike McKernan, Greg McCullough, Jennifer Lukovich, George Liu, Oksana Schimnowski, and others.

Others:  Jeff McEachern, Churchill Gateway Development Corporation; Esther Nagtegaal, Erica Vido and Terry Zdan, Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation; Pauline Gerrard, International Institute of Sustainable Development; Sinclair Harrison, Hudson Bay Route Association


Climate Change in the Hudson Bay Complex, 2016

Funding/Other Support

Transport Canada, Churchill Gateway Development Corporation, Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation, ArcticNet, NSERC, CRC.

Arctic Bridge

A conceptual diagram showing the Arctic Bridge, a transportation effort to consolidate and diversify transportation into and out of Winnipeg, and Churchill, Manitoba.  Credit: Centreport.


Amundsen in Churchill

The CCGS Amundsen shown docked in Churchill, Manitoba next to a grain vessel in 2010. Credit: Unknown.



35 year time series of the annual average air temperature at the Environment Canada weather station in Churchill. Note a significant trend (p < 0.01) of +0.54C/decade. Credit: David Babb & Jonathan Andrews.


NEMO output

A preliminary NEMO model output showing the seasonal change in sea ice concentration within the Hudson Bay Complex from 2006-2050 compared to 1981-2000. Credit: George Liu & Jennifer Lukovich.