Learning from the Glaciers


Jun 28, 2012  Comment

Last year, Yukon Energy hired scientists from the Yukon's Northern Climate Exchange, the University of Alberta and the Yukon Geological Survey to gather information for us on the expected impacts of climate change on the glaciers that feed our hydro systems.

That report is now finished.

Here are some of the key findings:

1. Glaciers currently contribute 16 percent and 7 percent of the total annual flow volume of the Upper Yukon River through melt and wastage, respectively. Melt refers to snow and ice that is less than or equivalent to the volume of snow accumulated into a glacier system each year. Wastage is melt that exceeds the volume of snow accumulation into a glacier system in a given year, resulting in a net loss from the glacier.

2. Of these amounts, 46 percent and 39 percent is solely derived from the Llewellyn Glacier near Atlin. This highlights its importance in terms of runoff contribution relative to other glaciers in the region.

3. Snowmelt from non-glacier sources accounts for about 44 percent of the total annual flow of the Upper Yukon River. Rainfall and groundwater make up the remaining 33 percent.

4. Glacier wastage will continue to enhance runoff into the Yukon River for many decades into the future.

5. There will likely be increased annual runoff in the Yukon River, with higher flows in the ‘shoulder’ seasons (i.e. early spring and late fall).

The information from this study is valuable to Yukon Energy. Already it has helped our staff to more accurately predict the volume of water flowing through the Yukon River system this year.

The report suggests more study should be done of the Llewellyn Glacier due to its vast size and its potentially high sensitivity to climate change. Yukon Energy will continue to work with the Northern Climate Exchange to gather more information on this subject.


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