Academic journal

British Columbia glaciers have melted 7 times faster in the past decade than in previous years, UNBC study finds

Glaciers in British Columbia and Alberta have melted an average of seven times faster in the past decade than in previous periods, according to a new study by geologists from the University of Northern Columbia. British.

Doctoral candidate Alexandre Bevington and Professor Brian Menounos used new technology to conduct the study.

They fed more than 12,000 satellite images of Google Earth Engine to a computer that can automatically map the rate of glacier retreat between 1984 and 2010 — significant, as there are around 14,000 glaciers in the two provinces, Bevington said.

What they found confirmed other research: that a warming climate is causing glaciers to disappear faster than in the past.

Their paper, which will be published in the academic journal Environmental Remote Sensing, found that the average rate of retreat between 2010 and 2020 was seven times faster than that recorded between 1984 and 2010. Small glaciers on Vancouver Island are shrinking even faster – 32 times faster between 2010 and 2020 than during the period from 1984 to 2010.

“The [are] a lot of reasons for people to be concerned about how fast these glaciers are retreating,” Bevington told Matt Allen on CBC sunrise north. “I think it’s going to affect people quite deeply in different ways.”

Scientists also looked at the growth rate of new lakes that form in front of glaciers as they melt.

Menounos says the accelerated retreat of glaciers could increase the exposure of unstable slopes.

“An increase in the number of lakes adjacent to unstable slopes increases the likelihood of flood risk downstream of these lakes if they were to suddenly fail,” it said in a statement.

Bevington says glaciers also play other important roles, such as providing fresh water to generate hydroelectric power and moderating extreme temperatures.

According to Bevington, given the accelerating rate of melting, the glaciers could eventually disappear in about 70 years, which should serve as a climate change wake-up call for politicians and British Columbians.

UNBC geologist Alexandre Bevington said given the accelerated retreat of glaciers, politicians and British Columbians need to think about what actions are needed now to tackle climate change. (Radio Canada)

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