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Melting Glaciers Dramatically Alter Canada's Yukon

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Melting Glaciers Dramatically Alter Canada's Yukon
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."

Milkyway from Segara Anak - Rinjani Mountain. Mount Rinjani or Gunung Rinjani is an active volcano in Indonesia on the island of Lombok. It rises to 12,224 ft, making it the second highest volcano in Indonesia. On the top of the volcano is a 3.7 by 5.3 mi caldera, which is filled partially by the crater lake known as Segara Anak or Anak Laut (Child of the Sea) due to blue color of water lake as Laut (Sea). This lake is approximately 6,600 ft above sea level and estimated to be about 660 ft deep; the caldera also contains hot springs. Sasak tribe and Hindu people assume the lake and the mount are sacred and some religion activities are occasionally done in the two areas. Abdul Azis / Moment / Getty Images

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