B.C. and Alberta's glaciers to decrease by up to 90%: Study

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According to University of British Columbia researchers, Western Canada will lose 70 per cent of its glaciers by the year 2100.

The loss of ice formations in B.C. and Alberta will cause major issues for ecosystems, power supplies and water quality, according to a study out of UBC. With rising global temperatures and changing weather patterns, glaciers and snow packs are decreasing at an alarming rate, but not all glaciers are retreating as quickly as others.

The Rocky Mountains, for example, are predicted to lose 90 per cent of their glaciers while the coastal mountains of northwestern B.C. are expected to lose 50 per cent.

Garry Clarke, professor emeritus in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at UBC says our landscape will look more like mountainous southern states. “Most of our ice holdouts at the end of the century will be in the northwest corner of the province. Soon our mountains could look like those in Colorado or California and you don’t see much ice in those landscapes.”

The 17,000 glaciers in B.C and Alberta provide important hydroelectricity, drinking water and tourism business, but increasing precipitation levels may compensate for the lack of glaciers. The issue with replacing glacier water with rain water is the removal of ice water from ecosystems, causing rivers, lakes and streams to become much warmer.

“These glaciers act as a thermostat for freshwater ecosystems,” said Clarke. “Once the glaciers are gone, the streams will be a lot warmer and this will hugely change fresh water habitat. We could see some unpleasant surprises in terms of salmon productivity.”

According to researchers, our glaciers are thinning at a rate of one metre per year, a 10 per cent annual decrease.

Projected deglaciation of Western Canada in the 21st century

Image: Garry Clarke / UBC

Image: Garry Clarke / UBC

Canadian Rocky Mountains Columbia Icefield projected changes in ice extent in a low emission scenario.

Image: Garry Clarke / UBC

Image: Garry Clarke / UBC

Canadian Rocky Mountains Columbia Icefield projected changes in ice extent in a high emission scenario.

Image: Gary Clarke / UBC

Image: Gary Clarke / UBC

Coast and St. Elias Mountains Frank Mackie region projected changes in ice extent in low emission scenario.

Image: Gary Clarke / UBC

Image: Gary Clarke / UBC

Coast and St. Elias Mountains Frank Mackie region projected changes in ice extent in high emission scenario.

Western Canada’s most beautiful glaciers

 

Mount Robson, Image: Gouldy99 / Flickr

Mount Robson, Image: Gouldy99 / Flickr

Athabasca Glacier, Image: Gouldy99 / Flickr

Athabasca Glacier, Image: Gouldy99 / Flickr

Dome Glacier, Image: Gouldy99 / Flickr

Dome Glacier, Image: Gouldy99 / Flickr

Bow Glacier, Image: Gouldy99 / Flickr

Bow Glacier, Image: Gouldy99 / Flickr

Snowbird Glacier, Image: Gouldy99 / Flickr

Snowbird Glacier, Image: Gouldy99 / Flickr

Saskatchewan Glacier, Image: Gary / Flickr

Saskatchewan Glacier, Image: Gary / Flickr

Lillooet Icefield, Image: Dru! / Flickr

Lillooet Icefield, Image: Dru! / Flickr

Blackcomb Glacier, Image: [i.c.e] / Flickr

Blackcomb Glacier, Image: [i.c.e] / Flickr

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Jill Slattery Jill Slattery was born and raised in Vancouver, where she also earned an Arts degree from UBC in English and Creative Writing. She is an avid TV-watcher and a shameless Taylor Swift fangirl. Jill is a Staff Writer at Vancity Buzz. Contact her at jill@vancitybuzz.com
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