Why Cold Matters: The State and Fate of Canadas Ice and Snow – 1st March 2012

The Centre for Hydrology is co-sponsoring a suite of presentations hosted by the Interpretive Guides’ Association on Thursday, March 1 at the Policeman’s Creek Drop-In Centre in Canmore, AB, entitled Why Cold Matters: The State and Fate of Canada’s Ice and Snow.
The evening will feature presentations by Prof John Pomeroy (Director of the Centre for Hydrology), Bob Sandford (CH associate and chair of the Canadian arm of the UN’s Water for Life Decade), and glaciologist Dr Shawn Marshall (University of Calgary): all three presenters are key members of the Western Watersheds Research Collaborative.
“Canadians love their snow and its beauty, but often see it as something to be only shovelled or skied upon,” says Dr Pomeroy. “But, not only is it one of the most beautiful and physically complex natural phenomena, it is the home of many plants and animals, the food source for many more and the provider of water for the alpine summer and for the rivers that drain the mountains to provide water to the parched prairies.”
The role of snow as a part of the mountain ecosystem, how it interacts with forests and alpine vegetation and how it is sensitive to climate warming comprise just part of the focus of the presentation.
Summarizing the recent findings of two networks of cold regions research funded by the Canadian Foundation for Climate & Atmospheric Science that form the basis of his forthcoming book, Cold Matters: The State and Fate of Canada’s Fresh Water, Mr Sandford will focus on how seemingly small changes in temperature are influencing not just Canada’s climate, but also Canadians’ very identity.
“We are likely the first generation of human beings to accurately measure and fully understand how what we may have once thought were very small relative changes in mean temperature – changes as small as a single degree Celcius – can result in changes in the behaviour of the atmosphere noticeable enough to be reflected in the patterns of the seasons,” Sandford said.
“Because the most pronounced warming is occurring in winter, the most visibly obvious changes are related to the extent and duration of snow pack and snow cover. Snow cover, atmospheric circulation and temperature are inter-dependent and relate to one another as feedbacks. Water and temperature define climate. Climate defines ecosystems; and ecosystems define us.”
“In the absence of snow we would be different people living in a different world. It appears that, in the context of where and how we live in Canada, cold really does matter.”
Dr Marshall will discuss the latest research findings related to the effects of contemporary climatic trends on the extent and influence of glaciers in Canada’s western mountains and abroad, while Pomeroy will share the findings of his own research.
“The water security of Western Canada is predicated on the preservation of the natural flows and storage of mountain snow, ice and water,” Pomeroy said. “This controls our natural ecosystems and our ability to provide communities, food and energy throughout Western Canada. We risk everything by losing it, and so must conserve our mountain cold environments.”
Why Cold Matters: The State and Fate of Canada’s Ice and Snow takes place on Thursday, March 1 at the Policeman’s Creek Drop-In Centre. Doors open at 7 with the presentation beginning at 7:30. Admission is free.