Kiwi Glacier is one of the longest glacier in British Columbia. Located in the Cariboo Mountains, this glacier is 9 kilometers long and drains into a growing lack near the headwaters of the Fraser River, the longest river in British Columbia.
According to an article on AGU100 Blogosphere, this glacier has retreated about 700 meters from 1985-2015. Scientists have found that the proglacial lake has grown significantly during that period, from 700-800 meters long to 1400-1500 meters long today. Author Mauri Pelto wrote that since the lower 300 meters of the glacier is flat, the lake will at least extend that far with increased melting.
Check out this video below by Ben Pelto, PhD student at the University of Northern British Columbia. Hundreds of icebergs of all shapes and sizes can be seen drifting on Kiwi’s lake.
This Photo Friday, catch a glimpse of Mount Baker, a large glaciated peak in the North Cascades, from the area around Bellingham in the state of Washington. Or see what the view was like at spots from which the mountain could usually be seen.
These photos are obtained first-hand from GlacierHub’s managing editor Ben Orlove who is visiting Northwest Washington to interview local residents in the small towns near the peak. The area is known for its spectacular views of Mount Baker, but these views have recently been clouded by haze from devastating forest fires that have swept across British Columbia and eastern Washington.
One afternoon during Orlove’s trip, the winds shifted and the air was a little clearer. Mount Baker was also more visible in the background. But then the winds changed again, and the heavy smoke returned.
Such smoky conditions are historically rare in the region, but this is the second year in a row that they have occurred, according to Orlove. When Mount Baker is visible, its shrinking glacier helps make visitors aware of climate change. After speaking with local residents, Orlove reported that several of them described the situation of smoky air as “the new normal.” The fires that have made the mountain invisible for stretches of time this year have also been widely discussed in the media, with several commentators linking the fires to support for Washington Initiative 1631, a carbon emissions fee measure on the state ballot this fall. In this way, Mount Baker builds awareness of climate change, whether it is visible or not.
Ever since it was first proposed in 1991, the development of the Jumbo Glacier Resort in British Columbia, Canada, has drawn fierce opposition for its threat to the surrounding ecosystem and indigenous population. Now a recent move by developers in the glacier-rich region has added a new twist to the ongoing saga. Following a three-year hiatus, the developers have decided to take the case back to court to overturn the government’s 2015 decision not to renew their environmental assessment certificate, a decision that effectively put the project on ice.
The idea for a mega-resort at Jumbo Glacier was originally launched by Oberto Oberti, an Italian-born, Vancouver-based architect, and Grant Costello, a Canadian ski coach. Costello had long dreamed of opening a year-round, high-altitude ski training center in North America to rival those in Europe. The remote land along the east Kootenay Mountains in southeastern B.C. seems like a prime location, covered in 400 inches of cold snow every winter and boasting glaciers and spectacular landscapes. However, it also serves as a critical grizzly bear habitat and is considered sacred to the Ktunaxa First Nation.
The construction of the proposed resort includes a 3,419-meter high lift service, 6,000-bed lodge, and roads to make Jumbo Glacier accessible to tourists. The developers promised the mega-resort would serve as an economic source to the local communities, but the project has faced ongoing resistance from environmental groups like Wildsight concerned about the region’s wildlife habitat, as well as locals who feel there are already several ski hills in the area.
There has been an intense debate since 1991 within the provincial government on whether commercial activities should be allowed at Jumbo Glacier. By the end of 1994, the provincial government made a decision, designating the area as a special management area, a designation which generally would not allow commercial development such as a ski resort. However, the decision did in fact make a provision for the proposed resort subject to the provincial Environmental Assessment Act. The law meant any major project of large scale like the Jumbo Glacier Resort would need to pass an environmental impact assessment conducted by the provincial Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) in order to gain an Environmental Assessment Certificate (EAC) and conduct actual construction activities.
Mount Monica and Starbird Pass in the Central Purcells (just west of Jumbo) by the amazing photographer Steve Shannon. pic.twitter.com/OaGw6Px3gW
It took the EAO nine years to proceed with their assessment and exhaustive consultations. Withstanding environmental campaigns against the resort and protracted court battles between resort proponents and opponents, the EAO of the B.C. government finally granted a certificate in 2005 with 195 conditions to mitigate the negative impact of the project on the environment. However, by 2015, only two concrete pads had been built on the site. Thus, the B.C. government considered the project to have “not substantially started” and the certificate was set to expire.
But the controversy is far from over. As Robyn Duncan, executive director of Wildsight and the lead of the two-decade environmental campaign against the resort, Jumbo Wild, wrote to GlacierHub, “The developers remain committed to trying to push forward this ill-proposed resort. Challenging the decision that canceled their environmental certificate was one of the only avenues to continue the fight.”
In the developers’ 2017 petition to overturn the government’s 2015 decision, they argue that the construction delays were derived from various factors outside of their control, such as blockades by environmentalists and political concerns from then provincial Environment Minister Mary Polak. The current minister, George Heyman, is expected to defend the government’s 2015 decision in court.
Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society were granted intervenor status in the case in May, which allows the organizations to join the ongoing litigation without permission from the original litigants. “If built, the Jumbo Glacier Resort would fragment a critical section of one of North America’s most important wildlife corridors. Grizzlies depend on this connected habitat to maintain healthy populations regionally and even continentally,” Duncan said.
The law firm that represents them, Ecojustice, said in an interview, “This assessment  that it’s based on is now ten years out of date. Things have moved on, scientific understanding of the impacts that this project would have on grizzly bears, for example, has moved on. That’s why it’s really important that the courts uphold the law and prevent this project from going ahead based on outdated information.”
The case was heard during the last week of June by the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, but it could take months for the court to reach a decision. Several legal scholars in Canada told GlacierHub they prefer not to speak on the case until the matter has concluded in court.
In 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada sided with developers on a separate but relevant case in which the Ktunaxa First Nation claimed a land use change would infringe on their right to freedom of religion. The ruling concluded that the Ktunaxa have a right to their belief that the Grizzly Bear Spirit inhabits Jumbo Glacier and that the spirit would be driven away in the event of permanent development, but that the government is “not required to protect the presence of Grizzly Bear Spirit itself in order to preserve the right to freedom of religion.” There were divided opinions among the judges in the case. Seven judges thought the Ktunaxa did not sufficiently establish that the area is a sacred site to them and that the land should be at the public disposal instead of indigenous territory. Two other justices found that constitutional religious rights could be reasonably infringed in the public interest and that the Ktunaxa should not be granted exclusive ownership over the land. The developers may use this recent court decision in their future legal arguments to justify the legality of the resort.
Meanwhile, Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality, an administrative jurisdiction established in 2012 for the planned resort, remains business as usual, releasing its annual report in late June. The municipality, with no development, population or tax revenues, has received a $855,299 grant from the B.C. government. The possible re-appointment of the municipality major, without a vote, has also gained harsh critics for being undemocratic.
Despite some negative signs in favor of the resort, Duncan told GlacierHub that she remains hopeful. “The Jumbo Wild campaign has been going strong for 26 years. There have been many ups and downs within those years, and I am confident that whatever comes our way, the people of the Kootenays will continue to rally against this ill-proposed resort that threatens grizzly bear habitat and the sacred territory of the Ktunaxa Nation,” she said.
Glacier Melt Buffers River Runoff in Pamir Mountains
From Water Resources Research: “Newly developed approaches based on satellite altimetry and gravity measurements provide promising results on glacier dynamics in the Pamir-Himalaya but cannot resolve short-term natural variability at regional and finer scale. We contribute to the ongoing debate by upscaling a hydrological model that we calibrated for the central Pamir… We provide relevant information about individual components of the hydrological cycle and quantify short-term hydrological variability… We demonstrate that glaciers play a twofold role by providing roughly 35 percent of the annual runoff of the Panj River basin and by effectively buffering runoff both during very wet and very dry years. The modeled glacier mass balance (GMB) of −0.52 m w.e. yr−1 (2002–2013) for the entire catchment suggests significant reduction of most Pamiri glaciers by the end of this century. The loss of glaciers and their buffer functionality in wet and dry years could not only result in reduced water availability and increase the regional instability, but also increase flood and drought hazards.”
Learn more about glacial melt in the Pamir Mountains here.
Retreat of Glaciers in Glacier National Park
From USGS: “In Glacier National Park (GNP), MT some effects of climate change are strikingly clear. Glacier recession is underway, and many glaciers have already disappeared. The retreat of these small alpine glaciers reflects changes in recent climate as glaciers respond to altered temperature and precipitation. It has been estimated that there were approximately 150 glaciers present in 1850, around the end of the Little Ice Age. Most glaciers were still present in 1910 when the park was established. In 2015, measurements of glacier area indicate that there were 26 remaining glaciers larger than 25 acres. There is evidence of worldwide glacial glacier recession and varied model projections suggest that certain studied GNP glaciers will disappear between 2030 to 2080.”
Learn more about glacial retreat in Glacier National Park here.
Runoff in British Columbia’s Coast and Insular Mountains
From Hydrological Processes: “This study examines the 1914–2015 runoff trends and variability for 136 rivers draining British Columbia’s Coast and Insular Mountains. Rivers are partitioned into eastward and westward flowing rivers based on flow direction from the Coast Mountains. Thus, eastward and westward runoff trends and influence of topography on runoff are explored. Our findings indicate that rivers flowing eastward to the Nechako and Chilcotin plateaus contribute the lowest annual runoff compared to westward rivers where runoff is high. Low interannual runoff variability is evident in westward rivers and their alpine watersheds, whereas eastward rivers exhibit high interannual runoff variability.”
Read more about variability in river runoff in British Columbia here.
Located in Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada, Berg Lake tends to be filled with icebergs throughout the year. Visitors often see ice break off or calve into the lake, which is partially fed by Berg Glacier. Known for its glacier, floating icebergs, and bright bluish-green water, the lake is a popular destination for hikers. Berg Glacier sits atop Mount Robson, the tallest peak in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Mount Robson is part of a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains known as the Rainbow Range. Named “Tsitsutl,” meaning “painted mountains” in the local dialect, Rainbow Range is made of lava and rock that comes in hues of red, orange, lavender and yellow, noticeable on sunny days.
Mount Robson Provincial Park, including Berg Lake and Glacier, was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1990. For a visceral experience of the park, attend the 7th Annual Mount Robson Marathon to be held on September 9, 2017. The marathon will take runners up the world-renowned Berg Lake Trail. Below, you can find a video of hiker Phil Armitage on the trail.
After two decades, a proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort in the East Kootenays of British Columbia continues to be controversial among local communities. Now, a documentary about the campaign against the resort highlights the problems the resort could pose to the mountainous landscape.
When the Jumbo Glacier Resort was originally proposed in the 1990s, it was approved under the Environmental Assessment Act of the Province of British Columbia. The resort would feature lifts up to 3,419 metres (11,217 feet) and more than 6,000 beds. It would be the only ski resort in North America to be open year round.
For the fifteen companies behind the project, the resort could rake tens of millions of dollars into the region annually. But many people in local communities think that the project would be a disaster.There are already a number of ski resorts in the nearby mountains, providing opportunities to participate in the sport.
“The problem runs deeper than environmental concerns: there’s a real sense that the Jumbo resort will rip the heart from one of the most cherished wilderness areas in the East Kootenays,” Andrew Findlay, a Canadian journalist, wrote in a blog post. Opponents of the project say that it would desecrate indigenous lands occupied by First Nations long before European settlement, but the issue is complex. The Shuswap First Nations Band, the community that lives closest to the glacier, approved the project for the economic opportunities it could bring, while the Ktunaxa First Nation is against the idea. For the Ktunaxa people, the resort would tear a hole in the middle of grizzly bear territory. Grizzly bears, who hold spiritual significance for the Ktunaxa, are threatened. Environmentalists are also concerned about the effects a large resort would have on the species. Individual bears need as much as 1,000 square kilometers of range, but the resort would fragment that range for many bears.
Environmentalists, First Nations, local communities and skiers say they will continue to fight against the Jumbo Glacier Resort. Last year, Canada’s Environment Minister Mary Polak said the project had not sufficiently advanced. Glacier Resorts, Ltd., the company behind the project, will have to apply for a new environmental certificate in order to continue, she added.
The announcement was a victory for the 90 percent of people from the area who oppose the project. For now, they can continue to visit the Jumbo Glacier — relatively free of human development.
“In the midst of Jumbo you feel like a really small person,” said Leah Evans, a skier who has visited the Jumbo Glacier since she was 14, in the Jumbo Wild documentary. “When you tune into that silence, you become part of the landscape. It’s like a part of you is waking up.”
What do you get when you mix research with a beer company? Deja Brew, the taste of a 1962 batch of Kokanee beer.
In exchange for five liters of meltwater from 1962, the Kokanee Beer company agreed to contribute $10,000 dollars to fund glacier research by Dr. Brian Menounos of the University of Northern British Columbia. The money has been given with no strings attached, Menounos told GlacierHub.
“We don’t endorse products but welcome any industry to contribute to funding research,” he said. “Glaciers are a shared resource and if we can get the word out about why the public should care about them, all the better.”
Like rings within tree trunks, layers within glaciers indicate snowfall from year to year. From these layers, Menounos was able to find ice at the depths associated with the year Kokanee beer was founded, so that a limited edition glacier beer could be brewed from ice from snow that fell then.
Menounos hopes this collaboration will call attention to the urgency of melting glaciers worldwide.
“Like many environmental topics we can’t wait for policy makers to act,” he told GlacierHub in an email. “Politicians typically get elected for four year. Human-induced climate change has accumulated over the past 200 years and will continue unless we commit to substantial mitigation of greenhouse gases. The public’s involvement and interest in a particular topic makes politicians sit up and take notice.”
For a number of years, Menounos has studied the effects of climate change on glaciers in the Cariboo Mountains. His research suggests that by the end of the century, Western Canada’s glaciers will shrink by 70 percent of 2005 levels. Every year, the Zillmer Glacier shrinks by 60 to 70 centimeters.
Kokanee beer will contribute further to this research with the funding. The exchange also allows the company to revive its beginnings.
“Because we were able to grab some of the remaining ice from Dr. Menounos, we were able to, in spirit, look at recreating one of the first-ever batches of Kokanee,” Candy Lee, Kokanee brand manager, told CBC news.
Populations in Central Asia are heavily dependent on snow and glacier melt for their water supplies. Changes to the glaciers in the main mountain range in this region, the Tien Shan, have been reported over the past decade. However, reconstructions over longer, multi-decadal timescales and the mechanisms underlying these variations—both required for reliable future projections—are not well constrained.
A British Columbia scientist is hoping to use a few cold ones to get the public thinking about really big cold ones – glaciers. Brian Menounos, a glaciologist with the University of Northern British Columbia, has teamed up with Kokanee beer for a project that will result in a better understanding of what’s happening to western glaciers as well as a special batch of suds.
There is a growing interest in understanding the relationship between the structure and dynamics of ecological networks. Ecological network changes along primary successions are poorly known: to address such topic, gradient of primary succession on glacier forelands is an ideal model, as sites of different age since deglaciation stand for different ecosystem developmental stages.
Though the Earth often seems solid and fixed, it is not. You’ve probably heard of continental drift—the horizontal movement of continent-sized bodies of rock—but fewer of you may appreciate that the earth can move vertically as well. Studies have shown that North America and Europe are rebounding, slowly but steadily, due to the removal of thick ice sheets which once covered them during the last ice age, which ended about21,000 years ago.
This process of postglacial upward movement is called glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA). Researchers have established that some materials have a viscous response when a surface load is placed on them, flowing like slow-moving honey, and remaining deformed when the load is removed; others have an elastic response, stretching like rubber and bouncing back to their original form. The substances that compose the upper sections of the earth are somewhere between these extremes, and have what is termed a viscoelastic response. As a result, when a mass of an icesheet is removed, the solid Earth underneath may display some degree of rebound. It was observed that the uplift rate in North America and Europe can reach1 cm/yr.
Researchers have established that the formation of icesheets generated pressure on the underlying rocks, pushing them downward. In addition to this downward dislocation of the crust, the mantle beneath might be compressed as well. Previous studies on GIA have seldom included this compressibility of the Earth in their calculations, because of the complexities and uncertainties that it would introduce into quantitative models. But a paper published by Tanaka et al. earlier this year in the Journal of Geodynamics established a model which includes compressibility for the GIA in southeast Alaska and compared this model to another which did not include compressibility.
Southeast Alaska, which is also referred to as the Alaska Panhandle, lies west of the Canadian province of British Columbia. This region is known to have the largest GIA rate in North America, approximately 30 mm/yr. The reseachers anticipated that the compressibility effects would be larger and easier to detect in this region. In this region, models of GIA integrate the effect of ice sheet mass variations over three periods: the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) about 20,000 years ago, the Little Ice Age a few centuries ago (LIA) and present-day (PD).
Measurements of rebound at different locations can serve to test these models, since information is available on the extent of icesheets in different periods. It is known, for example, that icesheets retreated earlier at lower elevations, so effects from earlier periods will be stronger there. In the case of southeast Alaska, rebound results primarily from post-LIA and PD ice melting; the former, larger in magnitude, was incorporated into the compressibility model. This model examined the rheological properties of the Earth’s mantle—the geological processes which allow rocks to flow on long time scales, and a second set of properties, called flexural rigidity, which determine the capacity of the earth’s crust to bend.
The authors conclude that their modeling efforts demonstrate the value of including compressibility. Without this element, the current uplift rate in southeast Alaska would be 27% (4 mm/yr) slower, and as a result would not match field measurements as well. Phrased in simpler language, they show that the vast ice sheets of the past not only pushed the mantle down, but squeezed it as well. This study demonstrates the great power of ice to alter our planet’s surface, and indicates that it can have measurable effects centuries, or millennia, after it melts.
As glaciers the world over melt, some adventure athletes are turning the ice into an extreme playground—and bringing along photographers to record their exploits. One of the new sports they are trying is called glacier boarding, but what that means exactly may depend on who you ask.
In Switzerland, canyon guides Claude-Alain Gailland and Gilles Janin recently took boogie boards out to Altesch glacier, Europe’s largest. Then they donned flippers, wetsuits and helmets, dropped those boogie boards into a freezing liquid channel carved into the ice, and careened around the snaking glacial river while photographer David Carlier snapped shots from above.
This particular form of glacier boarding is a bit like riding a boogie board through a slide at a water-park, only you risk hypothermia, being overtaken by glacial floods, getting hit by falling or protruding ice, or falling into a deep bottomless crevasse, according to a listicle of emergent adventure sports on the website of energy drink maker RedBull. Redbull assigned the sport an insanity level of 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is craziest. Of course, not many people have tried it, so rarity: also a 10. Training required: High.
But the term glacier boarding is also used to refer simply to snowboarding on a glacier, typically one covered in fresh powder, a relatively common sport. A team of snow boarders over in New Zealand was recently dropped onto the glaciers of Methven by helicopter, as part of a shoot for next year’s Burton Snowboards catalogue. They spent the next 10 days exploring the best places to do tricks and get perfect shots. What makes glacier snowboarding different from regular snowboarding is that the terrain can be icier, and ice formations can allow for more dramatic boarding moves, like the one shown below.
Jeff Curtes, who photographed the New Zealand group, told Oceans2Vibe, “We pick terrain that we end up riding because it generally looks ‘right’ and ‘doable’. When Jussi [one of the snowboarders] and the team saw the ice their eyes lit up with possibilities.” They also took extensive safety precautions, he said. But it was so warm that the powder snow had melted, which made the adventure a bit more dangerous, because they “were forced to play and shoot in the ice.”
Glacier snowboarding videos abound on youtube. Here’s one, below, of some snowboarders on Farnham glacier in British Columbia in September 2013.
Glacierhub recently wrote about another extreme glacier sport that was very short-lived: glacier wave surfing. It was so terrifying and dangerous, in fact, that the guys who invented it only attempted it once, and never went back.
This week’s slideshow features live action shots of Requiem for a Glacier, the sound performance and video installation by intermedia artist Paul Walde. The purpose of the work is to pay tribute to British Columbia’s Jumbo Glacier area, comprised of five glaciers. Recently, the area has come under numerous threats including global warming and the possibility of a resort development. The project takes three main forms a) a site specific outdoor performance; b) an exhibition/installation featuring audio and video footage of the performance; and c) a multimedia sound indoor performance.
Click here for more information on this innovative masterpiece.
Photo Friday highlights photo essays and collections from areas with glaciers. If you have photos you’d like to share, let us know in the comments, by Twitter @glacierhub or email us at email@example.com.