Most of Western Canada’s Glaciers Will Melt Away by 2100

There’s some dismal news when it comes to the Canadian environment: our mountains could become a lot less interesting by 2100.

Researchers at UBC said yesterday that 70 per cent of the glacier ice in Alberta and British Columbia could disappear by the end of the 21st century. This forecast is based on observational data, computer models, and climate simulations.

If this happens, it will mean major problems for local ecosystems, power supplies, and water quality. 

More than 17,000 glaciers in B.C. and Alberta play a large role in generating energy through hydroelectric power, and contribute to the water supply and agriculture. Current freshwater ecosystems currently rely on the cool water in the late summer from the glacial melt that feeds many headwaters. 

Salmon production would be one of the first things directly affected.

Not to mention, the glaciers are a draw for tourists. Aside from the photo appeal of the stunning snow-topped mountains, would Western Canada be as appealing without its ski resorts? 

The study also found that not all glaciers were retreating at the same rate. In the drier interior, the Rocky Mountains could lose up to 90 per cent of its glaciers, changing the landscape to look more like California or Colorado.

The wetter mountains in Northwestern B.C. are only expected to lose about half of their glacier volume. 

Thanks to an increase in surface air temperatures, the glaciers have already started their retreat – even if it doesn’t look like it. Researchers say that, while the surface area covered by the glacier may not be changing, the glaciers are thinning at a rate of about one metre per year. 

Most glaciers are only 100 or so metres thick – you do the math. 


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