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Autumn Aspens in Abraham Lake # 5739

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Date: 2004.09.26
Vantage Point: From shores of Abraham Lake

Caption: Aspens are knee-deep in Abraham Lake's glacial melt.

PhotoDescr: Not just another pretty picture, this view portends disaster. Abraham Lake is a reservoir on the North Saskatchewan River, held back by the Big Horn Dam. In recent years, it has been nearly empty. When I drove by at the end of September, it was full with milky glacier run-off. Full-grown trees near the shore now had their roots covered with water.

The cover story in the October 2004 issue of Explore magazine details the retreat of the glaciers of the Canadian Rockies, the importance of their run-off to the water supply of western Canada, and the drought that will follow their projected disappearance in the next 50 years or sooner.

The colour of the water indicates that its main source is glacier ice, which brings with it the ground-down rock, glacial flour, that is responsible for reflecting blue and absorbing other wavelengths. There has been enough recent melt to fill Abraham Lake to the brim.

Although the retreat of the glaciers will change many standard alpine routes, that's the least of our worries. When the wheat farms of Alberta and Saskatchewan dry up and blow away, a major crisis will be here.

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