Glaciers no longer growing

Undergraduate research at UNBC documents abrupt end to glacier expansion in B.C.

  • Sep. 16, 2012 2:00 p.m.

University of Northern British Columbia

The growth of B.C.’s glaciers abruptly ended in the early 20th Century after slowly expanding for nearly 10,000 years, according to a University of Northern British Columbia geography student who began her research while studying for her undergraduate degree. Lyssa Maurer’s findings were published last month in Quaternary Science Reviews, a leading international peer-reviewed journal.

Maurer and co-authors from UNBC, the University of Western Ontario, the University of Calgary, Simon Fraser University, Geological Survey of Canada, and Alberta Geological Survey reconstructed the extent of glaciers back through time.

“Radiocarbon dating of vegetation overrun by glaciers can tell us when glaciers advanced, but not how far,” says Maurer. “But Castle Creek Glacier near McBride, one of the glaciers we studied, straddles a hydrologic divide. When the glacier is large, it flows over this divide and deposits beds of silt into a lake that otherwise collects organic sediment. One of the most interesting aspects of this work is that Castle Creek Glacier remained close to the limits of the Little Ice Age from about 1,600 years ago until the early 20th century.”

Maurer adds that her undergraduate research experience at UNBC is a big reason she decided to continue as a graduate student.

“UNBC had an amazing effect on my life. I was interested in doing science and my supervisor and collaborators picked me up, pointed me in the right direction, and changed my life.”

 

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada supported Maurer’s research.