Climate change, hydropower generation, flood hazards and control, water supplies, and aquatic ecosystems collectively drive the need to quantify the fraction of runoff from glaciers and snow. Increased emissions of greenhouse gasses will accelerate warming in the decades ahead leading to strong mass loss and subsequent retreat of alpine glaciers. For many catchments glaciers provide cool, plentiful water to streams especially during summer and early autumn when seasonal snow packs have been depleted. Surface runoff from melting snow and ice also provides over 90% of British Columbia’s current electricity needs. Finally, rapid changes in snow cover also poses substantial risk to humans and property. The rain-on-snow floods that impacted Calgary and neighboring communities was the second most costly (over 1.7 Billion in insured losses) natural disaster to impact Canada. Collectively, these examples highlight the important links between the cryosphere and climate and why snow and ice are of great importance to Canada.
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