The Mayo River at the Mayo B dam in August 2010. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)

Researchers to study climate change impacts on Mayo, Aishihik rivers

‘Climate change is already impacting Yukon rivers and lakes in ways we don’t fully understand’

By Jamie-Lee McKenzie

A three-year research project will study the effects of climate change on the Mayo and Aishihik rivers.

“We’re excited to bring together our local expertise in hydrology with an advanced expertise in computer modelling of hydrology,” said project coordinator Brian Horton.

The study will look at how long-term changes in temperature and precipitation might affect the flow of these rivers in the future. This study follows a similar three-year study of the Yukon River that was recently completed.

The $1-million project combines two grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and funding from the Yukon Energy Corporation, the Northern Climate ExChange and the Institut national de la reserche scientifique.

“I hope that it’ll produce a range of tools that can be used by Yukon Energy in the years to come,” said Horton. The research will also help Yukon Energy make long-term plans for generate hydro power by looking ahead two to three decades to project how much temperature and precipitation will change and how that will impact the flow in the Mayo and Aishihik river basins, he said.

“We generate 99 per cent of our energy from hydro in the Yukon, so having a long-term view on how climate change may impact our ability to generate that power is very important for our long term planning,” said Yukon Energy president Andrew Hall.

For rivers with dams, if increased flow happens in the spring or summer, most of that water runs straight through and is not held by the dam, so it can’t be used to generate electricity, said Horton. But if the increased flows are happening more in the fall and winter, that’s actually good news for generating electricity.

“It means if you’re able to generate more electricity in the winter using hydro power you don’t have to burn as much diesel,” he said.

The study of the Yukon River came from concerns about the amount of glacial run-off into the Yukon river from climate change, but the results found that there would be a slight increase in flow, said Hall.

The results from that study estimate that the flow in the Yukon River will increase in the fall and winter months but stay relatively the same in the summer months, said Horton.

“That’s actually a good thing for us because the electric loads are higher in the winter months, so the fact that the increase is expected in the fall and winter actually fits our electric load quite well,” said Hall.

The research project will be studying rivers on the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation and the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun “We are really hopeful that we can get a discussion going with each First Nation,” said Horton.

“Many of the First Nations members are out on the land way more than us, so we’re hopeful that we’re able to have a conversation with them that allows us to check our findings with what the people have been seeing,” he said.

“Climate change is already impacting Yukon rivers and lakes in ways we don’t fully understand.”

Contact the Yukon News at editor@yukon-news.com

Aishihik RiverClimate changeEnvironmentMayo RiverYukon Energy

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

During our recent conversation, John Nicholson showed me snapshots of his time working on the Yukon riverboats 70 years ago. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: Yukon man relives the riverboat days after seven decades

John Nicholson took summer work on Yukon steamers in the 1950s

A city map shows the property at 107 Range Road. The zoning is now in place for developers to proceed with plans for a Dairy Queen drive-thru. If plans proceed on schedule the new restaurant is anticipated to open in October. (Cyrstal Schick/Yukon News)
October opening eyed for Dairy Queen

Will depend on everything going according to plan

NDP candidate Annie Blake, left, and Liberal incumbent Pauline Frost. (Submitted photos)
Official recount confirms tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin riding

Both candidates Pauline Frost and Annie Blake are still standing with 78 votes each

Artist’s rendering of a Dairy Queen drive-thru. At its April 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved a zoning change to allow a drive-thru at 107 Range Road. Developers sought the change to build a Dairy Queen there. (Submitted)
Drive-thru approved by Whitehorse city council at 107 Range Road

Rezoning could pave the way for a Dairy Queen

xx
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for April 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Joel Krahn/joelkran.com Hikers traverse the Chilkoot Trail in September 2015. Alaska side.
The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer

The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer Parks… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at city council matters for the week of April 12

École Whitehorse Elementary Grade 7 students Yumi Traynor and Oscar Wolosewich participated in the Civix Student Vote in Whitehorse on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Yukon Student Vote chooses Yukon Party government; NDP take popular vote

The initiative is organized by national non-profit CIVIX

Yvonne Clarke is the newly elected Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre. (Submitted/Yukon Party)
Yvonne Clarke elected as first Filipina MLA in the Yukon Legislative Assembly

Clarke beat incumbent Liberal Paolo Gallina in Porter Creek Centre

Emily Tredger at NDP election night headquarters after winning the Whitehorse Centre riding. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Emily Tredger takes Whitehorse Centre for NDP

MLA-elect ready to get to work in new role

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Two new cases of COVID-19 variant identified in territory

“If variants were to get out of control in the Yukon, the impact could be serious.”

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

Most Read