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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

Left to right, Wayne Day, AF Ret’d; Doug Prentice, Army Ret’d, Kyle Dalum, Army Ret’d and Randy Kruger. Front, Vicky Kruger. Photo submitted
Veteran donates three quilts to Quilts of Valour after receiving her own

Cindy Postnikoff, who distributes Quilts of Valour to area veterans, as well… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram could be playing for Colorado when the NHL resumes play. (Rik Fedyck/file)
Cranbrook product Bowen Byram makes NHL debut with Avalanche

Highly touted prospect marks first pro game following World Junior tournament in Alberta

Centre 64 in Kimberley. Bulletin file
Kimberley’s Centre 64 receives grant for building improvements

The Kimberley Arts Council/Centre 64 has just received notice that their grant… Continue reading

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

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

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Most Read