Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Melting Glaciers Dramatically Alter Canada's Yukon

Climate
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. Dan Shugar / UW News / CC BY 2.0

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.

"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. .

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."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heavy industry on the lower Mississippi helps to create dead zones. AJ Wallace on Unsplash.

Cutting out coal-burning and other sources of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from heavy industry, electricity production and traffic will reduce the size of the world's dead zones along coasts where all fish life is vanishing because of a lack of oxygen.

Read More Show Less

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has restricted the ability to gather in peaceful assembly, a Canadian company has moved forward with construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A gas flare from the Shell Chemical LP petroleum refinery illuminates the sky on August 21, 2019 in Norco, Louisiana. Drew Angerer / Getty Images.

Methane levels in the atmosphere experienced a dramatic rise in 2019, preliminary data released Sunday shows.

Read More Show Less
A retired West Virginia miner suffering from black lung visits a doctor for tests. Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images

In some states like West Virginia, coal mines have been classified as essential services and are staying open during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the close quarters miners work in and the known risks to respiratory health put miners in harm's way during the spread of the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Solar panel installations and a wind turbine at the Phu Lac wind farm in southern Vietnam's Binh Thuan province on April 23, 2019. MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP via Getty Images

Renewable energy made up almost three quarters of all new energy capacity added in 2019, data released Monday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows.

Read More Show Less