According to Canadian researchers, the glaciers of western Canada, which are one of the world’s most picturesque mountain regions, are likely to substantially melt away by 2100.
The study, which was conducted by the researchers from the University of British Columbia and published in the Nature Geoscience journal, states that 70% of the glaciers of western Canada could disappear by the end of the 21st century. The study also found that not all glaciers are retreating at the same rate. The Rocky Mountains, in the drier interior, could lose up to 90% of its glaciers and the wetter coastal mountains in northwestern B.C. are only expected to lose about half of their glacier volume.
Garry Clarke, professor in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of British Columbia, and the lead author of the study, said, “Most of our ice holdouts at the end of the century will be in the northwest corner of the province. Soon our mountains could look like those in Colorado or California and you don’t see much ice in those landscapes.”
For their study, the researchers analyzed observational data, computer models and climate simulations for nearly a decade to forecast the fate of individual glaciers. They coded and embedded influential factors into the simulation, amounting to high-resolution representations of the glacial degradation in B.C. and Alberta over the years.
According to the study, the entire region currently sustains 3,000 cubic kilometres of ice, that’s projected to degrade between 60 to 80% using the simulation, which charts four possible courses based on standard future climate change scenarios. The study predicts that the maximum rate of ice volume retreat will occur between 2020 and 2040.
The researchers have blamed man-made climate for the decline in the glaciers. They added that the rate of the melting of the glaciers depends on carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas additions to the atmosphere. However, they added that their calculations also showed unexpectedly positive outcomes where some glaciers could outlast the prediction if climate change stabilizes.
“I thought that we might not even have a possibility of a good result, even if we behaved really nicely. But this suggests there is a reward for good behavior,” added Clarke.