Linking hydrological and permafrost/groundwater models for improved estimates of climate impacts on northern waters

Climate warming related changes to northern catchments affect quantity and quality of downstream waters through complex interactions among physical and biological processes. Across the Northern Water Futures (NWF) study domain there are ongoing changes in the spatial and temporal variability in active layer thickness, increasing occurrence of taliks and winter flows, changes in vegetation and snowcover, and complex changes in streamflow. As permafrost continues to thaw, the role of increasing taliks and sub-changes and supra-permafrost groundwater flow on streamflow is expected to be enhanced. However, the links between permafrost, groundwater and streamflow are poorly known, and few hydrological models include sophisticated permafrost/groundwater model components. There is growing evidence that lateral flows of water at fine horizontal scales play an important role in controlling permafrost thaw and streamflow. Through this postdoctoral position, we will improve out understanding of, and ability to model the interactions between surface and subsurface hydrology, under conditions of thawing permafrost.

NWF has developed hydrological, geophysical, and remote sensing datasets, and we will use these to test and improve a suite of legacy and next-generation hydrologic models including the semi-distributed Cold Regions Hydrological Model-Arctic and the multi-scale, multi-extent, variable complexity Canadian Hydrological Model. We will consider, and test, a variety of key permafrost/groundwater processes not currently included in CRHM-A and CHM. These could include: the SUTRA-Ice groundwater model, the subsurface components of GEOtop or a permafrost model such as CryoGrid. This effort will determine the strengths and weaknesses of these models as related to the interactions between suface hydrology, sub-surface hydrology, and permafrost, and assess a wide range of future hydrological changes within this rapidly changing environment.

We invite applications for a Postdoctoral Fellow interested in coupled surface hydrology and permafrost/groundwater modelling that will make us of the extensive suite of NWF measurements to support this effort to better understand the implications of climate warming changes on water across the NWT.

Potential activities:

  • Conduct an extensive review of existing GWF/NWF hydrological models and existing groundwater/permafrost models and make recommendations on the best approach to couple such models for climate impact studies,
  • Test GWF/NWF surface hydrology models at key NWF study sites in the NWT,
  • Test appropriate groundwater/permafrost models and key NWF study sites in the NWT,
  • Couple surface hydrology and groundwater/permafrost models, and test at NWF study sites

The candidate will be advised by Dr. Philip Marsh (Wilfrid Laurier University) and will work closely with an advisory group including Drs. Dave Rudolph (University of Waterloo), Jeff McKenzie (McGill University), Chris Spence (Environment and Climate Change Canada), Oliver Sonnentag (Université de Montréal), and Aaron Berg (University of Guelph).

The ideal candidate should have a PhD in a relevant discipline (e.g. geography, environmental science, engineering, physics, atmospheric science) and experience in high resolution, spatially distributed hydrologic, groundwater, or permafrost models. The candidate should possess aptitude and enthusiasm for developing and applying high resolution, physics based hydrological models in order to understand past changes in hydrology and to consider future changes under a rapidly changing climate. Proficiency with appropriate modelling tools is essential. Experience in northern environments is an asset.


A salary of $55,000 per year including benefits, plus a stipend of $2,000/year to cover direct research expenses. This position currently has funding for one year.

How to Apply:

Please submit:

i) a cover letter highlighting relevant experience and your interest in the position;

ii) a curriculum vitae;

iii) names and contact information for two referees.

Email inquiries or application materials to Philip Marsh ( with the subject line “NWF PDF Hydrology Application.” We will begin reviewing applications on December 15th, 2020. We anticipate an April 1, 2020 start date but there is flexibility in this. International and remote candidates will be considered.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

The impact of leaves (e.g. parental leave, extended leaves due to illness, etc.) will be carefully considered when reviewing candidates’ eligibility and record of research achievement. Candidates are encouraged to explain in their cover letter how career interruptions may have impacted them. Diversity and creating a culture of inclusion is a key pillar of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Strategic Academic Plan and is one of Laurier’s core values. Laurier is committed to increasing the diversity of students and postdocs and welcomes applications from candidates who identify as Indigenous, racialized, having disabilities, and from persons of any sexual identities and gender identities. Indigenous candidates who would like to learn more about equity and inclusive programming at Laurier are welcomed to contact the Office of Indigenous Initiatives at Candidates from other equity seeking groups who would like to learn more about equity and inclusive programming at Laurier are welcomed to contact Equity and Accessibility at