Glaciers as Imprints of Climate Change
Climate change and glacier retreat pose a critical threat to mountain and coastal communities worldwide, as freshwater resources dwindle and sea levels rise. One sixth of the global population relies on its freshwater needs from ice stored in glaciers on land. Accelerated melting of these glaciers transfers freshwater stores from the land to the ocean, driving up sea levels. Ice loss has increased over the past decade, due in part to the dramatic thinning and retreat of glaciers that terminate in the ocean.
Poor understanding of the complex behaviour of glaciers and their vulnerability to ongoing ocean and atmospheric warming limit the ability of researchers to predict future sea levels. Identifying the sensitivity of glaciers to climate variations is critical to predicting change in the coming century and to adapting to that change.
Dr. Michele Koppes, Canada Research Chair in Landscapes of Climate Change, is aiming to understand how glaciers reflect climate and drive landscape change. She is also studying the impact of glaciers on water resources.
Koppes is using field observations of glacier dynamics and glacial sediments in a range of climate regimes to test, refine and verify new models that integrate climate, ice dynamics, oceanography and landscape evolution.
There is a pressing need to examine the vulnerability of the planet’s remaining ice masses to atmospheric and oceanic changes caused by rapid warming. Koppes’ research will increase understanding of the response of glaciers to climate change and lead to improved ways to measure the variability of glaciers.