Athabasca Glacier melting at ‘astonishing’ rate

Experts worry about the speed at which oft-visited glacier is both receding and becoming shallower

The Athabasca Glacier, centre, part of the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park, Alta., is seen in moonlight during a long exposure Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The Athabasca Glacier, centre, part of the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park, Alta., is seen in moonlight during a long exposure Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

COLUMBIA ICEFIELDS, Alta. – What’s believed to be the most-visited glacier in North America is losing more than five metres of ice every year and is in danger of completely disappearing within a generation, says a Parks Canada manager.

The Athabasca Glacier is the largest of six ice sheets that form part of the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park. It is a popular destination for tourists from around the world who climb aboard huge snow coaches to get an up-close look.

While it receives about seven metres of snowfall annually, the glacier has been slowly shrinking for about 150 years.

“It’s astonishing,” John Wilmshurst, Jasper National Park’s resource conservation manager, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“Every year we drive stakes five metres deep into the glacier in the fall. We have to return and re-drill them in mid-summer because a lot of those stakes on the Athabasca Glacier, the one that a lot of people go visit, will be lying flat on the ice at that time.

“We’re losing at least five metres a year on the surface of that glacier.”

The passage of time is clearly visible at the ice sheet’s base. Markers dating back as early as 1890 show the toe of the Athabasca Glacier has retreated 1.5 kilometres, leaving a moonscape of gravel and rock behind.

“We’re doing our measurement close to the toe of the glacier and the amount of growth each year is dwarfed by the amount it recedes,” said Wilmshurst.

Bob Sandford, chairman of the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade, said it’s “mind boggling” because not only is the glacier receding — it’s also becoming shallower.

“I first wrote a tourist book on the Columbia Icefields in 1994 and it was generally held that it was somewhere around 325 square kilometres. That icefield now is calculated to be about 220 square kilometres,” he said.

“Even though this year we will have had a fairly substantial snow year, what we’re finding is that, even with substantial snow years, the summers are warm enough and the fall is prolonged enough that all of that snow goes and we’re still losing five metres,” Sandford said.

“That gives you an indication of how rapidly things are changing.”

A recent American state-of-the-union report has singled out the rapid melt of glaciers in British Columbia and Alaska as a major climate change issue saying they are “shrinking substantially.”

The U.S. National Climate Assessment said the trend is expected to continue and has implications for hydro-power production, ocean circulation patterns, fisheries and a global rise in sea levels.

The report said glaciers in the region are losing 20 to 30 per cent as much as what is melting annually from the Greenland Ice Sheet, which has received far more worldwide attention.

Wilmshurst said it’s estimated that the Athabasca Glacier is about 300 metres deep, but it is slowly disappearing.

Water from the Columbia Icefields flow into the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans and the landscape will be much different if it is eventually gone.

“It is hard to know in the long term what climate cycles mean to people. It does mean we should be preparing for drier conditions in the future. I think long term it’s not good news at all,” he said.

“Absolutely the glacier will be gone. Not within my lifetime, probably, but maybe within my children’s lifetime.”




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Athabasca Glacier melting at ‘astonishing’ rate

  1. Climate change hit Mount Everest as well. We can see it all around us now.

  2. Wilmshurst is a Glo-Bull Warmer cultist.

  3. U.S. National Climate Assessment was established by the Obama administration in 2010, nuff said.

    • You’re only off by 20 years and 3 presidents, Boob – It was 1990 under H.W. Bush.
      And, of course, it’s reviewed and revised by the co-conspirators at the National Academy of Sciences.

      • Lenny swings…………………….aaaaaaaaaaaaaand misssssssssses!

        The NCADAC, whose members are available here (and listed in the report), was established under the Department of Commerce in December 2010 and is supported through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is a federal advisory committee established as per the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972.

        • Sorry, Boob. The Advisory Council may have been. But the U.S. National Climate Assessment(it may be a clue that the lastest report is the 3rd) which we’re discussing was is the result of legislation 20 years ago under H.W. Bush.

          • The legislation you refer to was in 1989.

            This latest incarnation was established under the Department of Commerce in December 2010.

          • Nice try, Boob. It was the legislation you referred to:
            “U.S. National Climate Assessment was established by the Obama administration in 2010″
            But it wasn’t established under Obama, it was established under H.W. Bush by the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990.

          • Wiki for your source, how laughable.

            I’ll go by the organizations own information on it’s own website.

            The point being Obama stacked the EPA, NOAA, the NCA and it’s Advisory Council with his hand picked Glo-Bull Warmers.

          • Legal Mandate

            The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established by Presidential Initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990 to “assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”

          • Yes Boob, Wikipedia is part of the conspiracy. There was no Global Change Research Act of 1990.
            But back in the real world, you’ll find no contradiction from the National Climate Assessment website.
            And the “point” is that you were absolutely full of crap when you claimed, “U.S. National Climate Assessment was established by the Obama administration in 2010″
            We know it was created under H.W. Bush in 1990.
            Denial of of simple and demonstrable facts is obviously something you’ve got a talent for.

          • Lenny, you’re a leftard moron.

            Are you trying to claim that Obama didn’t fill the EPA, NOAA and the NCA and it’s Advisory Council with his Glo_Bull Warmers in 2010 and before?

            Idiot.

            This is from their website;

            Legal Mandate

            The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established by Presidential Initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990 to “assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”

            Take your infantile attitude and shove it up your ass.

          • The U.S. Global Change Research Program has released the Third National Climate Assessment.

            Logo of the National Climate AssessmentA 60-person Federal Advisory Committee (The “National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee” or NCADAC) oversaw the development of the draft climate report. The NCADAC, whose members are available here (and listed in the report), was established under the Department of Commerce in December 2010 and is supported through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is a federal advisory committee established as per the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972. The Committee serves to oversee the activities of the National Climate Assessment. Its members are diverse in background, expertise, geography and sector. A formal record of the committee can be found at the NOAA NCADAC website. A list of the committee’s decisions and actions is available on our NCADAC page.

          • Again Boob, the“point” is that you were absolutely full of crap when you claimed, “U.S. National Climate Assessment was established by the Obama administration in 2010″
            We know that it was created under H.W. Bush in 1990.
            All your weeping and wailing and goalpost-moving won’t change reality.
            If it’s any consolation I did get a chuckle from you calling someone else “infantile”.
            How does it go? Boob swings …………………….aaaaaaaaaaaaaand misssssssssses!

          • You can play your little game all you want Lentard, but it will never change the fact that Obama and his minions stacked the deck with their hand picked Glo-Bull Warmer Cult members in the EPA, NOAA, etc.

            The “O” will soon be history, Keystone will be built, as will the Energy East and a pipeline to the northwest of BC.

            The twinning of the Kinder Morgan to Vancouver is a slam dunk.

            Keep collecting your welfare cheque with the knowledge that all you have is paid for by petro-dollars,

          • Keep flailing, Boob!
            The demonstration of your utter inability to accept a simple, indisputable fact tells us all we need to know about how seriously to take the rest of your unsubstantiated assertions.

  4. But there is NO global warming! …right?

    The intentional redirection on this issue is cute! And SO pertinent to the issue! Nice try….

    To top this off, the tar sands in Alberta will require ALL of the water in the MacKenzie river to fully implement the steam injection extraction as planned.
    I have talked about this with a guide that has worked the area for 30 years, I was told that at the height of summer there were already some ‘dead’ spots along the river. Meaning places where the river did not flow for months at a time.
    It is apparent what the loss of water will do to the tar sands steam extraction plan over time, lets be sure to use up all that is left extracting unsellable oil!

    • “To top this off, the tar sands in Alberta will require ALL of the water in the MacKenzie river to fully implement the steam injection extraction as planned.”

      What utter BS.

      “I have talked about this with a guide that has worked the area for 30 years, I was told that at the height of summer there were already some ‘dead’ spots along the river.”

      Boy, that will be news to NTCL who run tugs and barges up and down the MacKenzie from June until early October.

    • Greenie says:

      “But there is NO global warming! …right?”

      That is exactly right. Satellite data [the most accurate kind] shows conclusively that global warming has stopped for the past seventeen years. Meanwhile, the [harmless, beneficial] trace gas CO2 continues to rise, measurably greening the planet.

    • This is complete nonsense. The Athabasca River (which runs through the oil sands area) is only one of multiple tributaries to the Mackenzie, and is not even a direct tributary. Yes, -it takes about 2 barrels of water to extract 1 barrel of oil from the tar sands, but more than 90% of the water used in the oil sands industry is recycled & used over and over again. Much of the rest is lost to evaporation during processing. Furthermore almost all of the water used for steam extraction is saline formation water, not river water. It is subsurface water, and is returned to the subsurface. I am on the Athabasca River several times every year, and there is NO visible influence in water depth due to water extraction. Whatever your “guide” observes is NOT a result of the oil sands industry.

  5. The one percenters and their government shills will only get action-oriented when the world’s major coastal cities are under water. In the meantime, it’s business as usual.

    • Based on Al Gore’s many failed predictions?

      hehehehe

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