Canada’s glaciers to drastically shrink by 2100

Canada's glaciers

Canada’s melting glaciers in National Park. Creative Commons: Katie Brady, 2013

The Canadian Rockies, one of the world’s most picturesque mountains, could be almost ice-free by 2100 new research has shown.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience, shows that by 2050 there will be widespread ice loss across Western Canada’s glaciers, and then by the end of the century ice cover will have virtually disappeared.

The scientists analysed three areas in Western Canada, the coast, the interior and the Rockies.

Together the regions cover 26,700 sq km of mountains, with a ice volume of around 2,980 cubic km. That’s an area similar in size to the amount of ice in the Himalayas or the whole of South America.

The coastal region would be the least affected, but even that would see a 75% area loss and a 70% volume loss, and the other two regions studied would lose more than 90% of area and volume in comparison with 2005.

The modelled the impact of rising temperatures on the glaciers using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s four scenarios for future greenhouse gas emissions.

In the lowest scenario, global temperatures will rise by 0.3-1.7°C and in the highest scenario, which is based in current trends, it would rise by 2.6-4.8°C.

The increased temperatures will have two clear impacts for glaciers, according to the researchers.

Firstly it would mean an increase in summer melting, while secondly, there would be less snowfall.

While warming temperatures could actually could mean more precipitation, rising winter temperatures it would mean much of this would fall as rain, not snow, which would only increasing damage to glaciers.

Glacier melt could contributed around 6 mm to the sea.

While, this is relatively modest, the researchers warn of multiple impacts of ice melt, including, the effects it would have on freshwater ecosystems that live in streams fed by glacial meltwater, and changes to local climate by the loss of these streams, which often act as a natural thermostat.

The region’s tourism would also decline. The glaciers and emerald mountain lakes are the attractions in the area, and they could vanish.

The glaciers’ decline can be stopped, but only if emissions are cut immediately. Even then they would still diminish.

The latest research offers yet more evidence of the need to urgently address the climate crisis.

It comes as countries prepare for the UN climate talks this December, where they are expected to agree a new global agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions and hold temperature rise below the internationally agreed danger threshold of 2C.

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