Glaciers are likely to be a thing of the past in the Bulkley Valley area by 2100, according to the authors of a report projecting glacier shrinkage in B.C. and Alberta.
University of British Columbia Professor Emeritus Garry Clarke co-authored the report, which uses high resolution models to project the changes in size and thickness of glaciers across western Canada until 2100.
The study forecasts glaciers across Western Canada will shrink to less than 10 per cent of their current size in the interior and to 30 per cent in coastal regions.
In the study region where Smithers is located, the research suggests glaciers will all but disappear by 2100.
“Your situation is a bit more like the rockies,” said Clarke.
“The lower elevation there means that when you warm up the air the glaciers have no place to retreat to, whereas in other parts where there is high elevation they can just keep shrinking up to the top of the mountain.”
Glaciers near the Alaska and Yukon borders would fare better than most, said Clarke, but he predicts far-reaching consequences overall.
He said glaciers could be compared to a bank where water was deposited in winter to be withdrawn through cool, glacial-fed streams during summer.
Losing the glaciers and associated streams could have a warming affect and reduce flow in important salmon waterways, he said.
“We have not actually studied the ecosystems but our approach has been to just follow the logic of it which is the salmon like cool water and the glaciers are providing that,” he said.
“They also like water flow in the spawning season and glacier melt is one of the things that keeps the rivers flowing at that time of the year so I’m sure that this cannot be the least bit advantageous for those populations.”
He expects an overall shift in the ecosystem will take place as the glaciers recede.
Clarke’s research also forecasts impacts for forestry and alpine tourism, which could include winter sports at resorts which offer summer skiing on glaciers.
He said glaciers were shrinking in almost every mountainous region in the world, and that the trend was directly attributable to climate change.
University of Northern British Columbia professor of earth science Brian Menounos, who co-authored the report, agreed projections for glaciers in the Smithers area were grim.
“The glacier near Hudson Bay Mountain, my suspicion is that it’s not expected to survive until 2100,” said Menounos.