Yukon Energy, Northern Climate ExChange and INRS partner to study Mayo and Aishihik rivers
July 24, 2017
WHITEHORSE—Yukon Energy Corporation (YEC), the Northern Climate ExChange (NCE) at Yukon College and the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), a graduate school of the University of Quebec’s network, are partnering to study climate change impacts on the Mayo and Aishihik rivers in Yukon.
This three-year research project combines two grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) with funding from Yukon Energy. The total value of the project is close to $1-million with close to half of that in cash and in-kind support coming from the energy corporation.
The research team will look at how long-term changes in temperature, snow, rain and permafrost may impact each river in the decades to come. This project will allow Yukon Energy to better manage water in each hydroelectric reservoir in the short term while planning for the effects of climate change over time. The research team will also develop a range of tools to allow Yukon Energy to forecast inflow in the Mayo and Aishihik hydroelectric power plants on timescales ranging from weeks to months.
“This research is critical to us in terms of helping us plan for climate change and the implications on our ability to generate hydro power,” Yukon Energy president Andrew Hall said. “Because the Aishihik and Mayo facilities are key assets for us, we must be ready for any future changes in the watersheds that feed them.”
“NSERC is proud to support applied research and development in high priority areas such as the environment and climate change,” said Bert van den Berg, Acting Vice-President, Research Partnerships, NSERC. “Connecting industry with applied research expertise at Canadian colleges will result in innovative technologies to help protect our environment and improve the quality of life for Canadians”.
For INRS, this project represents an opportunity to expand their research expertise into a new region where they have not previously conducted hydrologic modelling, and with new academic and private sector partners. INRS personnel will conduct research in northern hydrology and build the professional and technological capacities that will help Yukon Energy address climate change challenges. As well, INRS will train YEC professionals on the operation of an inflow forecasting system.
“Climate change is already impacting Yukon rivers and lakes in ways we don’t fully understand. We’re excited to continue our work with Yukon Energy and other partners to provide tools and information and help plan for these impacts,” said Brian Horton, project coordinator, Northern Climate ExChange at Yukon College.
As the project will study rivers within the traditional territories of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN) and First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun (NND), Yukon Energy and the Northern Climate ExChange are working with each First Nation to determine best locations for the data collection stations. Local First Nations citizens will be invited to work as field assistance, and all data gathered through this project with be shared with the First Nations.
Project researchers are heading into the field this summer to install automatic weather stations in the Mayo and Aishihik river regions. Project teams will also engage local schoolchildren in the project with presentations and interactive experiments in the fall term.
This project follows from a similar three-year study of the Yukon River recently completed by NCE, Yukon Energy, Yukon Geological Survey, and other collaborators. Based on results from that project researchers estimate that over the next 30 years, Yukon River flows will increase in fall, winter, and spring months, but that the timing and volume of summer peak flows will remain relatively unchanged. Monitoring of the weather near Llewellyn Glacier is ongoing and NCE researchers have trained YEC staff in the use of the project software to ensure the models are updated with contemporary data.
For more information visit: yukoncollege.yk.ca/research/hydrology