Who would have known that Metro Vancouver has its own glacier? Nestled in the rugged terrain high in the Coquitlam watershed sits the Coquitlam Glacier, the sole remnant of the Little Ice Age, which saw the Lower Mainland blanketed in ice somewhere between 650 and 900 years ago.
And during the summer months, a steady stream of water flowing from its base carries the last remnants of our last glacier to the taps and toilet tanks of Coquitlam residents. At its current melt rate, the eight-billion-litre ice pack – covering about 20 hectares – will be gone by the time today’s newborn is blowing out her 80th-birthday candles.
Sure, ice ages come and go, so there’s no return in getting emotionally attached to a glacier. But still, it’s our last one. And who knows? It could be another couple thousand years till the next ice age comes along.
“I have a kind of a soft spot for this one,” admits Dave Dunkley, a UBC geoscientist who spent quality time with the diminishing ice pack last fall, when he dropped in for a visit by helicopter.
Glaciers lack the emotional appeal of polar bears and seal pups, so don’t expect any cuddly plush toys in a save-the-glacier campaign. And besides, this one’s probably a lost cause: even if we reversed global warming today, the effects wouldn’t kick in soon enough to save the Coquitlam glacier.
But still, the giant ice cube that’s slowly melting in our backyard is a potent symbol, says Dunkley: “It’s kind of a hook to get people thinking about climate change.”