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. Our Climate Change Research team, formally known as the 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 University, 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 has developed hydrologic modelling tools for the Aishihik, Mayo and the Yukon River. 

Project Team

Dr. Jos Samuel, Postdoctoral Fellow, YukonU Research Centre

Brian Horton, Manager, Climate Change Research (formerly Northern Climate ExChange), YukonU Research Centre

Maciej Stetkiewicz, Project Coordinator, YukonU Research Centre, Climate Change Research (formerly Northern Climate ExChange)

Dr. Bronwyn Hancock, Manager, Associate Vice-President, Research Development, YukonU Research Centre

Jeffrey Kavanaugh, Adjunct Faculty, Yukon University; Associate Professor, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta

Chris DeBeer, Research Associate, YukonU Research Centre, 

Bob Sagar, Climate Change Research (formerly Northern Climate ExChange), YukonU Research Centre

Collaborators and Technical Advisors

Sarah Laxton, Outreach Geologist, Yukon Geological Survey

Mary Samolczyk, Instructor, School of Science, Yukon University

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