Western Canada’s Frozen Legacy
Alpine glaciers are beautiful features of the mountain landscape. For Dr. Brian Menounos, Canada Research Chair in Glacier Change, they are also an opportunity to learn about climate change.
Western Canadian glaciers are an important freshwater resource, supporting renewable energy, tourism and ecosystem sustainability. But they are also sensitive indicators of climate change. In fact, human-induced climate change is causing widespread retreat of the world’s glaciers.
Menounos and his research team are measuring changes in area and mass loss among alpine glaciers and using these measurements to develop and improve predictive models that simulate ice loss. Their research will provide valuable knowledge to stakeholders who depend on alpine glaciers as well as those responsible for establishing effective environmental policy.
To improve our understanding of how alpine glaciers respond to climate change, Menounos and his team are quantifying current and projected changes in their area and mass loss. They are also using terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides (isotopes) to better understand the fluctuations of Holocene-era (today’s) glaciers at high latitudes.
This research will enable Menounos and his team to determine how alpine glaciers and snow patches at high latitudes in Western Canada responded to past climate variability and how they are changing in the current climate. It will also support international efforts to establish a network of glacier sites throughout North and South America that enable the ongoing study of how alpine glaciers are responding to climate change.