The Illecillewaet Glacier, near Revelstoke in Glacier National Park was one of the glaciers studied. (Submitted)

The Illecillewaet Glacier, near Revelstoke in Glacier National Park was one of the glaciers studied. (Submitted)

Study finds glaciers in Columbia River valley 38 per cent thicker than expected

New study also predicts most glaciers will disappear from the basin within 80 years

Radar surveys on multiple glaciers in the Columbia River Basin found ice to be much thicker than previously estimated, according to a recent study from the University of Northern British Columbia.

Researcher Ben Pelto and his colleagues skied more than 180 km across glaciers pulling sleds loaded with radar equipment to capture tens of thousands of measurements for determining ice depth. On average, they found the glaciers to be 38 per cent thicker than expected.

“It wasn’t surprising that it was thicker, but it was by how much,” said Pelto.

READ MORE: Glaciers in Western Canada retreat because of climate change: experts

The data showed ice volume to be 23 per cent higher than previously shown by computer modeling estimates.

Glacier data in the study was obtained from the Kokanee, Conrad, Nordic, Zillmer, Haug, West Washmawapta Glacier, and Illecillewaet, near Revelstoke in Glacier National Park. While glaciers are important in the Columbia River Basin both economically and ecologically, little is known about them.

From the summit of Mount Conrad at 3290 meters looking into Bugaboo Provincial Park. The Conrad Glacier occupies the lower left of the image, with (left to right) Osprey Peak, Vowell Peak, Bugaboo Spire, Pigeon Spire and Howser Spire. (Photo by Ben Pelto)

Pelto’s study was to advance the current ice thickness database for Canadian glaciers and provide better data for understanding the impacts of climate change on the landscape.

“It’s nice to know how much ice we have up there as glaciers act as water towers,” he said. The ice provides drinking water for communities, for example the Illecillewaet Glacier feeds into the headwaters for Revelstoke’s water supply. Glaciers also keep streams cold, which is important for many fish and plant species.

READ MORE: Shrinking ice: Study looks at the diminishing Illecillewaet Glacier

While Pelto said it’s good news that the glaciers are thicker, it won’t change their fate.

“They’re still doomed.”

The study predicts most glaciers will disappear from the basin within 80 years. Pelto said it’s possible some glacier scraps may persist, such as on the Illecillewaet. However, overall there will be a pitiful amount of ice left in western Canada compared to today.

The extra thickness, only means glaciers will be around for a couple extra decades, said Pelto.

“Even if we all went to Mars tomorrow and there were no more emissions, most glaciers are going to blink out.”

Ben Pelto, Alexandre Bevington and Jesse Milner taking radar measurements while towing the radar high on the Nordic Glacier, across the “Angel’s Traverse”. Nordic Glacier is the ski terrain of Sorcerer Lodge. Ice thickness here was around 60 m. (Photo by Jill Pelto)

There are approximately 200,000 glaciers in the world, 17,000 of which are in B.C. and Alberta.

In the study, the Conrad Glacier had the greatest depth measured at almost 320 metres and Illecillewaet was second at 260 metres. On average, all seven glaciers had an average depth of 92 metres.

READ MORE: Our melting glaciers

BC Hydro supported the study as the company relies on glacier melt to power the province through hydroelectricity.

The company said it’s important for it to have a better understanding of the glacier mass left in the Columbia Basin in particular, as glacier melt can account for up to 30 per cent of the late summer inflow to streams and reservoirs in the Upper Columbia watershed, including the Mica and Revelstoke dams.

More than 40 per cent of the hydro power generated in the U.S., is from the Columbia River Basin.

The study will help the company with its long-term planning on how climate change will impact hydro operations.

Parks Canada also supported the study and said understanding the long-term effects of shrinking glaciers on the ecosystems in Glacier National Park will also help guide future conservation and restoration efforts in the park and throughout the Columbia Mountains.

READ MORE: PHOTOS: Highway 1 improvements restoring fish habitat in Glacier National Park

The agency is in the process of drafting a new management plan for Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks that will likely use glaciers as a measurement of health for the alpine environment.

Long term Parks Canada data shows glaciers in Glacier National Park are overall declining and the most significant loss has occurred over the last 30 years.

Glacier National Park currently has 129 glaciers, down from 337 in less than 40 years.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Environment

 

Radar equipment was mounted on sleds and pulled by researchers to take thousands of glacier depth measurements. (Submitted)

Radar equipment was mounted on sleds and pulled by researchers to take thousands of glacier depth measurements. (Submitted)

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Kimberley residents were treated to the first Farmers' Market of the season, and the feeling of a return to normalcy. Paul Rodgers photos.
WATCH: Kimberley’s first Farmers’ Market of the season

Kimberley residents enjoyed the first Farmers’ Market of the year on Thursday,… Continue reading

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Most Read