Research involving CH scientists has found that major glaciers in the Canadian Rockies are melting increasingly rapidly. This is primarily the result of a combination of less annual snowfall and higher temperatures in spring and summer, leading to the loss of multi-year snow or firn. Without this bright white insulating blanket, which has in the past helped to protect and preserve the glaciers through the warmer months, the ice absorbs greater amounts of solar energy and so melts more rapidly. Estimates from measurementys taken through the summer of 2016 suggest that around one metre of ice depth was lost every month, beginning several weeks earlier than usual as a result of early warm temperatures. This in turn does not bode well for water resources across the prairies through the growing seasons of years to come, as the major river systems rely largely on meltwater to maintain their flows.
In an interview with the CBC, Prof. John Pomeroy has suggested that the decision to rebuild homes in Fort McMurray’s Waterways subdivision following the fire of May 2016 may be setting-up residents for further disruption in years to come.
While this option for Fort McMurray’s oldest subdivision was preferred by a majority of residents, Prof. Pomeroy points-out that while changing climatic conditions may in some cases cause unusually dry conditions (as they did in the spring of 2016, thereby creating conditions for the fire to take hold), they are also predicted to result in a greater likelihood of flooding due to sudden snowmelt or major storms. It follows that those who lost their homes due to the fire, and wish to stay on in this known floodplain, are redoubling the risk of further losses as a result of future natural disasters.
The interview is reported in detail here.