May 29, 2006

New research network to study how glaciers will react to climate change

PRINCE GEORGE, BC-A new research network based at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George will undertake a five-year study to project how glaciers will react to future climate change. The new Western Canadian Cryospheric Network (WCCN) will bring together the academic, government and industry sectors to study the links between climate variability and glacier fluctuations in British Columbia and western Alberta. Research will be conducted on glaciers in the Coast, Columbia, Selkirk, Cariboo, and Rocky Mountain ranges to detail how glacier extent has changed over the past 400 years. This information will be used to better understand climate variability and how glaciers will respond to projected climate change over the next 50 to 150 years. "There is an urgent need for this research," says Dr Brian Menounos, a faculty member at UNBC and head of the WCCN. "Over the last 150 years, western Canada has warmed more than anywhere else in the globe outside of the very high latitudes." Glaciers cover 10% of BC's total land mass, a total of 100,000 square kilometres. More than just a tourist attraction, they serve as frozen reservoirs of water, nourishing lakes and rivers during the late summer and fall when runoff from seasonal snow cover is depleted. Glaciers are also important to residents of western Canada since approximately 90% of BC's electricity is generated from melting snow and ice. The WCCN is receiving $2.1 million in funding from the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences. Other participating institutions include the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of Victoria, University of Washington, federal and provincial governments, BC Hydro, and the Columbia Basin Trust.

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