The Comox Glacier is Vancouver Island’s most famous ice field and on a clear day can be seen from around the Comox Valley.
The startling reality however is that its days and the future of all 40 to 50 icefields on Vancouver Island are likely numbered.
“These are small ice masses on Vancouver Island so I would not be surprised to see these disappear by mid-century due to climate change,” said Brian Menounos, professor of earth sciences at UNBC and Canada Research chair in glacier change.
Local photographer Fred Fern has been documenting the shrinking glacier in photos since 2013 and the difference between then and the last picture taken in the fall of 2021 shows a noticeable difference.
“Most of us here in the valley started seeing differences probably in 2005, maybe even 2000 or earlier and if you talk to old-timers. Even before that, they’ll tell you it was disappearing even then in the 1950s,” said Fern.
Menounos says the glacier shrinkage has seen a 32-fold increase in the last ten years compared to the 26 years before that.
“We know the climate has been changing, the important thing is its human-induced climate change largely due to the use of fossil fuels,” he said.
Menounos said contributing to the melt is a winter snowpack that now disappears in June instead of August like it used to, so glaciers are exposed longer.
Also, the increasing number of forest fires are leaving black soot on glaciers meaning they can’t reflect the sun’s rays like they used to.
More information on how glaciers in Western Canada are being monitored can be found here.