Nature and Biodiversity

These glaciers in Canada are melting at an alarming rate

Glaciers on Canada's Ellesmere Island are seen during a NASA Operation IceBridge survey flight April 1, 2014. IceBridge is a six-year NASA airborne mission which will provide a yearly, multi-instrument look at the behavior of the Greenland and Antarctic ice, according to NASA. Picture taken April 1, 2014.  REUTERS/Michael Studinger/NASA/Handout   (GREENLAND - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ENVIRONMENT)  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - GM1EA490DHF01

Glaciers in Canada's Yukon territory are melting at an alarming pace. Image: REUTERS/Michael Studinger

Lorraine Chow
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Nature and Biodiversity?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Canada is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Canada

Glaciers in Canada's Yukon territory are melting at an alarming pace, causing bodies of water to dry up and whipping up dust storms in the region, CBC News reported.

Researchers have determined that the rapidly retreating Kaskawulsh Glacier in the Yukon's St. Elias Mountain region cannot compensate for the volume it is losing now each year.

In the 2018 report, State of the Mountains, experts estimated that the glaciers in the St. Elias Mountains are losing more ice than any other alpine area in the country. The mountain range runs from British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska, and is part of the largest ice field in the world outside of Antarctica and Greenland.

"We as Canadians are stewards of about a third of the world's mountain glaciers and ice caps, so this is our responsibility," Glaciologist Gwenn Flowers told CBC

Flowers said that the Kaskawulsh glacier is losing a half meter (1.6 feet) of ice a year.

 An aerial view of the ice canyon that now carries meltwater from the Kaskawulsh Glacier, seen here on the right, away from the Slims River and toward the Kaskawulsh River.
Image: Dan Shugar / UW News / CC BY 2.0

"What the glaciers and ice sheets do makes a big difference to global sea levels, and makes a big difference to local environments where they form a water source," she added.

Have you read?

After decades of retreat due to climate change, the Kaskawulsh Glacier's meltwater abruptly switched directions in the first documented case of "river piracy." For centuries, the meltwater flowed north into the Slims River, but over the course of a few days in the spring of 2016, the water started flowing east into the Kaskawulsh River.

The rerouting of the meltwater dried up the Slims River and cut off the main flow of water to Kluane Lake, exposing sediments and making the area more prone to dust storms. Drivers along the Alaska Highway, which bisects the Slims River valley, often encounter dust storms that obscure the road and slow traffic to a crawl, CBC wrote.

Kluane Lake is the Yukon's largest lake and borders Kluane National Park and Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

"We're seeing a 20 percent difference in area coverage of the glaciers in Kluane National Park and Reserve and the rest of the UNESCO world heritage site [over a 60-year period]," Diane Wilson, a field unit superintendent at Parks Canada, told CBC. "We've never seen that. It's outside the scope of normal."

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversitySustainable Development
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Critical minerals demand has doubled in the past five years – here are some solutions to the supply crunch

Emma Charlton

May 16, 2024

2:00

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum