It’s losing ice every year. Essentially, as the glaciers shrink, they provide less and less melt water from long-term storage, which impacts seasonal freshwater availability 3. Rivulets of water stream down the glacier’s thin leading edge. Warmer, more humid air means more rain and less snow, which leads to melting and less accumulation of glacier ice. When flows in these rivers begin to decline, the region’s farmers could face a crisis. Higher temperatures may reduce the availability of drinking water by provoking the loss of mountain glaciers and mountain snowpack, and causing earlier spring snowmelts—all of which reduces the amount of available water in streams, rivers, and other bodies of water. The results of the project will have a vast array of implications, including not only for drinking water treatment, but also for ecosystem management and global climate change models. Glaciers represent the snows of centuries, compressed over time into slowly flowing rivers of ice, up to about a thousand feet thick here in the Tien Shan range and even thicker in other parts of the world. Across the Tibetan Plateau and in the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges, the glaciers number in the thousands and the people who rely on them in the hundreds of millions, along rivers like the Indus in Pakistan, the Ganges and Brahmaputra in India, the Yellow and Yangtze in China and the Mekong in Southeast Asia. Thus, even if precipitation remains the same in the high mountains, more of the water will be in liquid form, which evaporates more quickly. It doesn’t all come from melting glaciers; some comes from runoff of rain and melting snow, which some climate models predict may increase in the region. “The headwaters in these proglacial systems are not well understood. Near future work will include collaboration with local indigenous communities, such as the Stony Nation and others adjacent to the glaciers and downstreams. They are never static, accumulating snow in winter and losing ice to melting in summer. As these glaciers contain more water (69%) than all the earth’s rivers and lakes together (.3%) it is a tempting thought that we might be able to ferry water from icebergs to different countries. A melting glacier can at first increase stream flow, but eventually the glacier reaches a tipping point, called peak flow, and meltwater begins to taper. The 20,000 year old glacier, Eyjafjallajokull is the source of the water. Please upgrade your browser. Satellite image for glacial retreat from DigitalGlobe, 3D model and animation by The New York Times. There is the same amount of freshwater on earth as there always has been, but the population has exploded, leaving the world's water resources in crisis. As the Rocky Mountains warm, reduced winter snows are melting earlier in spring and summer, which can lead to a reduction in water supplies for drinking, irrigation, and hydropower production in key power-producing areas like the Columbia River basin in the Pacific Northwest. “Now that they’re melting, there is the potential that DDT will be released into the drinking water.”. 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But in a warming climate melting outstrips accumulation, resulting in a net loss of ice. It is the first interdisciplinary research collaboration of its kind to take on such a robust and multifaceted investigation of the origin of these systems: glaciers in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It’s losing ice every year. Glacier to table: Understanding the effects of melting glaciers on drinking water. The research team has set up 14 sampling stations from the Columbia icefields into three main watersheds in Alberta: the Bow River, the Athabasca River, and the North Saskatchewan River, which provide drinking water for Calgary and area, Northern Alberta, and Edmonton and area, respectively.
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