The Peyto Glacier in Canada’s Banff National Park has shrunk by around 70 percent over the last half-century, a dramatic change highlighted in newly released satellite imagery from NASA.
Scientists have assembled a wealth of data on Peyto, which was selected as a reference glacier in 1968 for a UN water research initiative. Researchers have tracked changes in the glacier’s mass over the years to help gauge changes to glaciers worldwide as temperatures rise. In most years, Peyto lost more mass from melting ice than it gained from snowfall.
Satellite images show how the glacier has thinned and retreated, with a lake forming from meltwater at the end of the glacier. Rising summer temperatures have accelerated melting, scientists say, as has soot from nearby wildfires, with the dark soot absorbing more of the sun’s heat. While melting has increased in recent decades, snowfall has stayed roughly the same.
Experts predict the Peyto will shrink by another 85 percent by the end of this century, with consequences for those who depend on the glacier for fresh water. Melting feeds the North Saskatchewan River, which supplies water to Alberta and Saskatchewan.