Theme 1. Climate Change and Water Security

The implications of a changing climate on water in the Nechako

There has been significant amount of uncertainty regarding the impacts of climate change on a host of human activities and natural processes. This uncertainty is slowing becoming a reality as we are currently experiencing extreme climatic events both across the globe and locally in the Nechako River Basin (NRB). In the last 10 years the NRB has experienced significant flooding, significant increases in the intensity and severity of forest fires, as well as extended periods of drought. One of the main concerns in the Fraser River Basin (which includes the Nechako River) is that climate change may drive a shift in the seasonality of the Fraser River, so that it eventually transitions from a snowmelt- to a rainfall-dominated system by the end of the 21st century. This phase shift will have significant implications for a range of issues including, but not limited to low river flows and increased river temperatures that could negatively impact  spawning salmon, and decreased availability of surface and ground water that will cause conflicts between commercial/industrial needs versus environmental, ecological and aboriginal flows. 

Flooding in Vanderhoof

Flooding in the Vanderhoof area (Omineca Express)

Shovel Lake Fire

Shovel Lake Fire (Prince George Citizen)

Our research focuses on how changes in air temperature and precipitation may affect seasonal and longer-term storage in snow and glaciers and hence alter the timing and amount of runoff, as well as changes in water temperature in the NRB. Overall, this work yields important information on the future water resources in the Nechako watershed and helps inform the potential implications of climate change on a range of water-dependent resource sectors such as fisheries (e.g., salmon), tourism, recreation, agriculture, mining, potential gas extraction, and hydro-electric power generation. In addition, our work on extreme weather events assists decision makers to formulate better and more effective plans to respond to such events. Advanced knowledge of such disasters can lessen the large, potentially negative impacts to natural and socio-economic resources of northern communities of BC. Results from the First Phase of our Research can be found here and the goals and objectives of Phase 2 of our research can be found here.

 Data collection and data sharing

Data sets

A large part of the work that we do is the collection, amalgamation, synthesis and analysis of large hydroclimatic data sets.  For example, we have historical gridded climate data from Natural Resources Canada, observational data from the BC River Forecast Centre, BC Wildfire Management Branch, Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, Environment Canada and Climate, Water Survey Canada stations, Rio Tinto, and our own weather stations. If you are interested in these data sets, please contact  Dr. Stephen Dery  (please note that some of these data are proprietary and cannot be publicly shared).

Data collection

 While we work with data from other sources, we also collect climate data ourselves. On September 29th, 2015, we deployed the 11th CAMnet meteorological station near the headwaters of the Chilako (or the Mud) River, on the north shore of TaTatuk Lake weather stationtuk Lake, approximately 80 km south of Vanderhoof, BC. This weather station measures several environmental and atmospheric parameters. Installed on the station are instruments that measure air temperature and relative humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind speed and direction, soil moisture along with soil temperature, incoming solar radiation, snow depth and rainfall. Having a newly deployed weather station in the Chilako River watershed is an invaluable tool that will provide information on the many changing characteristics of this highly modified watershed and will also act as a resource for collaboration with future research and restoration projects.

This research has been supported by grants from the BC Real Estate Foundation Partnering Fund, Global Water Futures, ECCC Science Horizons, MITACS, and NSERC.