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2017 RCGS Independent Research Grant Recipient

Sarah St. Germain
The Evolution of a Supraglacial Stream Canyon on Bylot Island, Nunavut

Sarah St. Germain uses a high precision Real Time Kinematic GPS for her research. (Photo: Brian Moorman)

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, glaciers provide one of the most visible indications of global warming. One of the most dramatic identifying features of rapid glacial melt is supraglacial streams or channels that exist on the surface of the glacier.

Little is known about the consequences of these quickly developing supraglacial streams. More research is needed to understand the rate of streambed erosion on the stability of the glaciers they inhabit. This is important because the difference between the erosion and glacial melt will dictate the size and cut of the stream. When large streams form, water can travel through the glacier, resulting in lubrication of the glacier bed, more glacier flow, potentially greater melt rates, and eventually, it can contribute to higher than predicted sea-levels.

This research project aims to determine the elements that control the evolution of supraglacial stream canyons to better understand their implications for environmental and human disturbance, particularly in relation to rising sea-levels.


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