A Yellowstone National Park visitor caught this snow-drenched bison on camera, as the park and other areas of Wyoming were hit with an unexpected amount of summer snow.
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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:
Sugar maples rely on consistent snow cover to thrive, and climate change is threatening that.
Maple syrup is a food that you might have to describe to your great-grandchildren because they won’t be able to taste it themselves. As climate change reduces the amount of snow in the northeastern forests of North America, where sugar maples grow, it will negatively affect the trees’ ability to grow and produce sap, making maple syrup a treat from the past.
This alarming discovery was revealed in a study last week, published in Global Change Biology. The researchers explain how lack of adequate snowpack causes sugar maples to grow 40 percent slower than usual, and when the snowpack returns, they are unable to recover. One biochemist has described the study as a “big deal” and NPR writes, “This spells trouble for the trees — and for humans — as the trees not only give us syrup, but also eat up a chunk of carbon pollution.”
Forests play an important role, sucking carbon dioxide out of the air and storing it. They offset an estimated 5 to 30 percent of U.S. carbon emissions. But right now the forecast is dire for northeastern forests. Climate change is expected to shrink the amount of snow cover by up to 95 percent, which species like sugar maples rely on. In a worst-case scenario, that snow could go from covering 33,000 square miles each winter to a mere 2,000 by the end of the century.
Will the Maple trees be able to adapt somehow? Read more about the Top environmental concerns of 2019 here.