Wolf Creek Research Basin honoured by Yukon government

After 25 years, this remarkable research site is proving invaluable towards understanding the relationship between hydrology and climate change in Northern Canada.

Whitehorse – A research site used to study water, ecological, and climate processes in Northern Canada has been recognized by the Government of Yukon during a special tribute in the Oct. 24 sitting of the legislative assembly.

“I rise today on behalf of all members of this House to pay tribute to an important milestone, as this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Wolf Creek research basin,” said the Hon. Pauline Frost, Minister for the Environment. 

“Since its inception, the Wolf Creek research basin has helped to forge new paths of understanding for hydrology and biophysical processes. Today, the basin is an internationally renowned climate change research area, recognized by the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. Scientists from across the world gathered in this corner of Yukon to discover how to adapt their work to northern climates.”

The Wolf Creek research basin was established in 1992 as part of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s Arctic Environmental Strategy, in partnership with Environment Canada’s National Hydrology Research Centre. Today, it is supported by the pan-Canadian Global Water Futures program and the Yukon Government.

yukon river in the fall

Located just south of Whitehorse, the site was originally used as a way to study water flows in northern climates, but after 25 years of climate change, the site has become much more important than many had originally thought.

“It’s a very powerful and important place,” said John Pomeroy, professor of hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan and co-founder of the research basin. “We’ve always been able to keep it supported for a common purpose, and it is a wonderful surprise to be celebrating 25 years of tremendous research and data – information we use around the world to understand and plan for climate change.”

Pomeroy said data from the site is being used to better understand how climate change is causing washouts of Yukon’s Dempster highway by increasing flooding, or predict streamflow down the Yukon River in Whitehorse, and that “this is being used for flood forecasting computer models that advise Yukon Environment give flood forecasts and disaster warnings.”

Sean Carey, professor at McMaster University and lead of the Mountain Water Futures project that operates current Wolf Creek research for GWF says “Wolf Creek provides a northern outdoor laboratory for improving understanding and testing models of the water cycle and how climate change is impacting the flows of water and thaw of permafrost.  It provides a critical and unique facility that is used by scientists from around the world“.

Rick Janowicz, senior hydrologist with Environment Yukon, and co-founder of Wolf Creek research basin says the research conducted at Wolf Creek has helped his department develop climate scenarios ranging from flooding and drought to permafrost thaw along highways.

“Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Wolf Creek research basin is extremely important,” said Janowicz. “The work we do now, and for the next 25 years to study the effects of climate change will help provide Yukoners and Canadians with a sustainable, healthy and educated way to manage and monitor our fresh water resources.” 

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