Climate change is causing glaciers in Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon to retreat faster than at any time in history, threatening to raise water levels and create deserts, scientists say. Climate change is one of the key environmental concerns for 2019.
David Hik, an ecology professor at Simon Fraser University, said the region is one of the hotspots for warming and the magnitude of change in the glaciers is dramatic.
“Probably 80 per cent of the mountain glaciers in Alberta and B.C. will disappear in the next 50 years,” he said.
The Peyto Glacier in the Rocky Mountains, part of Banff National Park, has lost about 70 per cent of its mass in the last 50 years, Hik said.
“It’s a small glacier but it’s typical of what we’re seeing,” he said.
Zac Robinson, a professor at the University of Alberta, said as the climate warms, the fragmentation of some of the large ice caps in the Rockies will continue.
Glaciers are formed when snow accumulates in the winter but doesn’t melt completely the following summer.
As the Earth warms at a faster rate, a combination of less snow and a rapid melt is causing glaciers to recede in length and volume, Robinson said.
The first State of the Mountains report, co-authored by Hik and Robinson and published in May by the Alpine Club of Canada, says outside of the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, Canada has more glacier cover than any other nation.
Of the estimated 200,000 square kilometres of Canadian glaciers, one quarter is found in the west of the country and the remainder are in the Canadian Arctic archipelago.
The lack of snow is also a danger for the future of Maple syrup.
So go and visit the glaciers, while they are still around!
Aim to visit the best parks: Banff, Jasper and Glacier National Park. For more information this is a recommended book: