Hakai Institute and VIU

Since 2018, I have worked with teams from the Hakai Institute and Vancouver Island University under the Hakai Cryosphere Charter. The Charter is a formal declaration of our intention to fill an important gap in cryosphere research. In conjunction with the ACO (Airborne Coastal Observatory), we are working to understand the role of glaciers and seasonal snow on watershed hydrology on the BC Central and Southern Coast and to quantify mass loss for small glaciers on Vancouver Island and in Garibaldi National Park.

While we work towards our own research objectives, the data that we acquire and process from the ACO helps other researchers from Hakai and beyond. We collaborate with NASA JPL, Ohio State, Global Water Future, GeoBC (BC government), Planet Labs, the RCN Coastal Research Margins Network, the Kwakshua Watersheds Program, FLNRO, ECCC, the Comox Watershed project, and various other laboratories to acquire funding and share data and resources.

As part of our partnership, we access and contribute to an extensive network of weather stations and webcams in conjunction with the Coastal Hydrology Research Lab at VIU, spearheaded by Dr. Bill Floyd, a research hydrologist with the province of BC and an adjunct professor of Geography at VIU. At the beginning of the project in 2018, two new weather stations were installed in the Homathko and Klinkklini watersheds, which drain the largest icefields in the province. The CHRL’s weather stations provide near real-time weather data in 18 locations across BC and daily shots from the webcams are available for six locations.

Our research questions:

  • What are the historical rates of glacier loss, and how have these rates changed over the past 100 and 1000 years?
  • How has winter accumulation, fire frequency and atmospheric deposition of pollutants changed over the past 1000 years in the Southern Coast Mountains?
  • How can we use field campaigns and airborne laser altimetry (LiDAR) to help validate spaceborne estimates of glacier mass loss derived by NASA’s IceSat-2 mission (launch date of September, 2018). 
  • What fraction of discharge from key watersheds arises from glaciers and/or seasonal snowpacks?
  • How variable in time and space is the winter snow cover along the Central and South Coast?
  • What are the best methods to quantify seasonal snow and its evolution through time?
  • Can we use data obtained from geodetic surveys to improve physically-based models that estimate runoff from snow and ice surfaces?
  • Can we use airborne snow and glacier surveys to determine the optimal (representative) locations for future snow/climate station placement?

BC MoF – Remote Logging

In collaboration with a Ministry of Forests project to produce custom low-cost data loggers for remote locations, we have deployed four data loggers on Place Glacier to transmit real-time temperature, humidity, and snow depth measurements. These loggers send data multiple times daily to give us an up-to-date picture of snow melt and glacier ablation once the snow is gone. Data for the Place Glacier sites–the most southerly of the project’s locations–as well as other hydrometric sites across the province, are available below.