The Athabasca Glacier: An Indicator of Climate Change in Canada

The Athabasca Glacier: An Indicator of Climate Change in Canada

A Breath of Fresh Air

Recently, I spent a month driving across Canada in my van. Whenever I travel, especially across such amazing landscapes like the Rockies, the geography student in me can’t help but ask questions and think back to what I learned in lectures. On my drive on the Icefields Parkway, I stopped at the Athabasca Glacier.

The Icefields Parkway connects Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta. I highly recommend the drive, it’s absolutely breathtaking! This particular glacier is one of six main “toes” of the Columbia Icefield. When learning about indicators of climate change in Canada, my professors frequently used the Athabasca Glacier as a case study. As a result, I felt compelled to give it a closer look.

The Athabasca Glacier, located in the Columbia Icefield, used to extend past where I stood to take this picture
The Athabasca Glacier, located in the Columbia Icefield, used to extend past where I stood to take this picture [Image: Megan Fuller 11/2021].

On Thin Ice

The Athabasca Glacier is frequently used by climate scientists to monitor the effects of rising temperatures. Since it was discovered in 1844, the tip of the glacier has retreated almost 2 km! Just off the highway, you will see small signs that indicate where the glacier reached in certain years. Seeing this in person really puts into perspective just how big this glacier used to be and how much of it has disappeared. Once this ice is gone, there’s no getting it back.

In researching this topic for my post, I also learned something new! When you hear the word “glacier”, your first thought probably isn’t “India”. Well, as warm and tropical as most of India is, they are heavily affected by melting glacial ice.

Changes in remote Arctic such as glacial and sea ice melting, affect Indian monsoons as they contribute to its year-to-year variability that translates into devastating floods and droughts.”

Sahana Ghosh, 2018.

This is yet another example of how climate change is affecting all regions of this planet. If you want to learn more, check out “How Permafrost Thaw Threatens Canada’s North” by Nicole Bitter.

One of the signs showing where the glacier extended to based on the year. This particular one if from 1908 [Video: Megan Fuller 11/2021].

Connecting the Dots

The other thing I love about travelling is the way it brings certain aspects of my life together. I’m extremely passionate about climate change advocacy and education, as well as exploring our planet’s incredible natural landscapes.

It’s amazing to have purpose and and passion align, serving up some powerful motivation! When these things come together, it reiterates how important and rewarding any work in mitigating climate change really is. So, get outside and explore the nature that is around you! Enjoy it, learn from it, and let it inspire you.


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