Lab Canada

Impact of climate change in cold regions focus of large new study

Calgary, AB – Four University of Calgary researchers – Ann-Lise Norman, Ed Johnson, Masaki Hayashi, and Shawn Marshall – have been awarded a total of $418,100 over five years to explore the impact of climate change on the water cycle and ecosystems of cold regions.

The funding comes from a new Climate Change and Atmospheric Research (CCAR) initiative administered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

The initiative encompasses seven Canada-wide environmental projects and recently awarded more than $32 million in research funding over five years. Research projects involve multi-university researchers, scientists and partner organizations who will collaborate to advance the understanding of climate and the risks related to climate change.

Research projects funded through CCAR involve interpreting earth system processes; advancing weather, climate and environmental prediction; and understanding recent changes in the Arctic and cold region environments.

“The NSERC funding received by our researches to target advances in the understanding of climate change in cold regions will help to fast track the scholarly output, citations and knowledge transfer our institution produces with respect to this important topic,” says Ed McCauley, vice president (research). “These research efforts and their yields will serve as a foundation for supporting strong environmental leadership and deliver benefit for Canadians.”

Associate professor Ann-Lise Norman from the Department of Physics and Astronomy received funding for her research as part of the Network on Climate and Aerosols (NETCARE): Addressing Key Uncertainties in Remote Canadian Environments.

“Defining the source of atmospheric sulfate in the Arctic and its role in cloud and precipitation formation will help bridge the short and long-term effects of clouds and precipitation in regional and global climate models,” she explains.

The CCRN alone brings together the unique expertise of a team of 50 university and government scientists and international collaborators from multiple disciplines to study the cold interior of Western and Northern Canada east of the Continental Divide.

For Canada Research Chair in Physical Hydrology, Masaki Hayashi, this new funding will allow his team to push the research to a new level especially in the realm of understanding alpine groundwater.

“Our goal is to arrive to useful information and tools for water resources managers such as the City of Calgary that takes 100 per cent of its water supply from the Bow River and the Elbow River originating in the Rockies,” he says.

Ed Johnson from the Department of Biological Sciences, Masaki Hayashi from the Department of Geoscience and Shawn Marshall from the Department of Geography, all received grants for projects linked to the Changing Cold Regions Network (CCRN).

Marshall’s group will use the new funding to further study the contributions of glacier meltwater to Alberta’s rivers and how this runoff is likely to change in light of glacier retreat in the Canadian Rockies.

“Glaciers make up a small fraction of the landscape in the Rockies but they provide extensive meltwater runoff and groundwater recharge in the late summer, after the winter snowpack has receded,” states Marshall, the Canada Research Chair in Climate Change and interim director for the Arctic Institute of North America in the Department of Geography at the University of Calgary.

“Our group will study the timing, routing, and storage of glacier meltwater and develop models to simulate these processes for the Bow and Saskatchewan River Basins,” he adds.

Marshall received additional funding for projects associated with the Canadian Network for Regional Climate and Weather Processes. As a group leader for this network, he will focus his team’s efforts on developing improved representation of snow, ice and glacier processes within the Canadian regional climate model.

“The model we’ll work on will support the same platform used by Environment Canada for the national weather forecasts,” he concludes.