April 12, 2017

Beautiful British Columbia Land of Many Mountains & Dwindling Glaciers

Posted by Mauri Pelto

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jacobsen20122181
Picture 15 of 15

2012 Landsat Image with the 1992 terminus indicated by pink arrows and the 2012 terminus by a blue arrow on the northern margin. The yellow arrow indicates a tributary joining main glacier. Purple arrow indicates an upglacier area of width reduction after 1992.

British Columbia is host to many mountain ranges; Purcell, Monashee, Bugaboo, Selkirk, Cariboo, Coat Range, Kootenay, Kwadacha are just some of the diverse mountain ranges  that host glaciers and span climate zone. A shared characteristic today regardless of climate zone or mountain range is dwindling glacier size and volume.  Bolch et al (2010) found that from 1985-2005 Alberta glaciers lost 25% of their area and BC glaciers 11% of their area.  Tennant and Menounos (2012) examined changes of the Rocky Mountain glaciers including Alberta finding that between 1919 and 2006 glacier cover decreased by 590 square kilometers, 17 of 523 glaciers disappeared and 124 glaciers fragmented into multiple ice masses.  Jiskoot et al (2009) examined the behavior of glaciers of the Clemenceau and Chaba Icefield and found that from the mid 1980’s to 2001 the Clemenceau Icefield glaciers had lost 42 square kilometers, or 14% of their area. Pelto (2016) reported on specific retreat of many of these BC glaciers. Below are links to 31 detailed post examining the changes in recent decades of British Columbia glaciers in response to climate change. 

In the summer glaciers in many ranges are crucial water resources for aquatic life and hydropower.   In BC 92% of electricity is generated by hydropower mainly from large projects.  BC Hydro has 31 such large projects, including several heavily fed by glaciers: Bridge River, Mica, Cheakamus, Ruskin and Stave Falls. There are also run of river hydroprojects with a new one constructed by AltaGas, the 195 MW Forrest Kerr Project.  As spring begins glaciologists will be heading out to measure glacier mass balance a critical input to understanding current and future glacier runoff, such as the Columbia Basin Trust sponsored project overseen by Brian Menounos at UNBC, and field operation direct by Ben Pelto at UNBC.  

There are also numerous salmon fed streams with critical glacier input, such as the Skeena River and Rivers Inlet. Stahl and Moore (2006) identified that discharge from glacierized and nonglacierized basins in British Columbia indicates the negative August streamflow trends illustrate that the initial phase of increase runoff causing by climate warming has passed and runoff is now declining. This is similar to further south in the North Cascades of Washington (Pelto, 2015).

Shatter and Shudder Glacier
Snowcap Creek Glacier
Stave Glacier
Helm Glacier
Warren Glacier
Galaxy Glacier
Icemantle Glacier
Big Bend Glacier
Kokanee Glacier
Toby Glacier
Conrad Glacier
Vowell Glacier
Bridge Glacier
Klippi Glacier
Yoho Glacier
Des Poilus Galcier
Haworth Glaciers

Apex Glacier
Kiwa Glacier
Dismal Glacier
Cummins Glacier
Coleman Glacier
Swiftcurrent Glacier
Bromley Glacier
Sittakanay Glacier
Nass Peak Glacier
Porcupine Glacier
Great Glacier
Hoboe Glacie
Tulsequah Glacier
Melbern Glacier