A recent University of Alberta-led project, the 2018 State of the Mountains Report, has sounded the alarm bell of how the rapid loss of glacial coverage in Canada’s mountains is causing rivers to disappear.
One of the examples cited in the report is how the Slims River (Ä’äy Chù) experienced a “Piracy Event” in southwestern Yukon. During the spring melt of 2016, the Slims River, one of the primary water sources of Kluane Lake (Lhù’ààn Mǟn), dried up after the Kaskawulsh Glacier receded so much that its dwindling meltwaters started to flow in a completely different direction. Near the end of that summer, Kluane Lake was a full meter lower than its previous record low level.
“This is one stark example of a very big drainage system that utterly and permanently reorganized itself in a single season,” University of Alberta mountain historian Zac Robinson told Phys.Org. “Kluane Lake is a massive lake that isn’t being fed any longer and is seeing its levels dropping. What does that do to the ecosystem and the communities on that lake that depend on that water?”
Given that more than one-sixth of the entire global population lives in basins of glacier-fed rivers and depends heavily upon them for water for drinking and irrigation, this report is in effect sounding a global alarm bell.
Change Like Nothing That Has Happened “in the Geological Past”
Mountain glaciers are vanishing so fast due to human-caused climate disruption that it isn’t just scientists in Canada who are sounding the alarm.
“The rate of change that we see in the moment, recorded most directly and visibly by mountain glaciers, is way, way, way faster than it was at the end of the ice age,” Joerg Schaefer of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory told Earth Institute’s State of the Planet. “What we …read more