Changing climate, energy, and the hydrology of northern rivers

Power demands in Yukon are largely met through hydroelectric generation.  Runoff from the headwaters of the Yukon, Aishihik, and Mayo rivers are an important territorial resource. Sound water management and planning is required to ensure future hydro-electric security, but there is currently significant uncertainty regarding the response of the river's flow to climate change. Northern Climate ExChange has led a series of projects to explore methods that make the best use of the limited meteorological data and direct observations that are available.

Project Overview

Outcomes from these projects will establish appropriate monitoring networks and develop predictive tools for Yukon Energy Corporation (YEC), that will form the basis of climate-related risk assessment and management strategies. These tools will allow YEC to operate hydropower facilities more efficiently under various demand scenarios, which is of key economic importance for YEC and Yukon, where a growing economy demands secure power resources.

These projects involve students from Yukon College, thus contributing to the development of highly qualified personnel with valuable experience in Canada's North. Ultimately, the research projects improve our understanding of, and preparedness for, the impacts of climate change in northern Canada, which is of vital importance for continued economic prosperity in Yukon, and in northern Canada.

The initial project ran in 2011/12 and focused on the Llewellyn Glacier as a key water source for the Yukon River.  A second Yukon River project began in 2012 and will last until December 2016. This project expanded from the Llewellyn to include the entire Yukon River headwaters above Whitehorse Dam.  A third project began in September 2016. This project will develop hydrologic modelling tools for the Aishihik and Mayo rivers. 

Collaborators and Technical Advisors

  • Sarah Laxton, Outreach Geologist, Yukon Geological Survey
  • Mary Samolczyk, Instructor, School of Science, Yukon College
  • John Pomeroy, Professor, University of Saskatchewan
  • Alain Rousseau, Professor, Institut national de la recherche scientifique
  • Yukon Geological Survey
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Saskatchewan
  • Institut national de la recherche scientifique
  • Ouranos Consortium


  • Yukon Energy Corporation
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Hydrosecurity of the Yukon River Watershed – A collaborative research project with Yukon Energy Corporation

The Northern Climate ExChange partnered with Yukon Energy Corporation in order to improve hydrometeorologic monitoring and advance research in the headwaters of the Yukon River.

Projected Future Changes in Glaciers and their Contribution to Discharge of the Yukon River

 In 2011, Yukon Energy Corporation (YEC) hired scientists from the Yukon Research Centre's Northern Climate ExChange, the University of Alberta and the Yukon Geological Survey to study the expected impacts of climate change on the glaciers that feed YEC's hydro systems.