Robson Glacier Length Change:  1911 – 2010

In 1911 the Alpine Club of Canada spent time in the vicinity of Robson Glacier and made the first measurements of its extent (Wheeler, 1912).  They made etchings on rocks indicating the date  and the distance from an arrow scratched in the rock to the glacier’s terminus.  One of these etchings reads “A.C.C., Aug. 10, 1911.  To ice 175 ft. along wall” and can be found today near one of the popular trails between Robson Pass Campground and the current glacier terminus.  Arthur Wheeler wrote this of his early work at the 1911 terminus of Robson Glacier:

“I made some investigations of the Glacier’s forefoot and marked some rocks at measured distances from the ice for future reference as to advance or retreat.”

These investigations of Wheeler’s provides us with our earliest measurement of extent of Robson Glacier.

As an intern at University of Northern British Columbia, Laura Thomson completed analysis of extent and volume change of Robson and nearby glaciers.  This analysis of Laura’s provides us with extents from 1923, 1960, 1977, and 1986, presented here with Laura’s permission.  Laura recently completed a MSc in Geology and Planetary Science at University of Western Ontario, and is currently an intern with the European Space Agency.

Chris Zimmerman is a BC Parks Ranger at Mount Robson Provincial Park and has been measuring annual Robson Glacier length change since 1996.  The photo below shows the “96” Chris etched in the rock at the glacier’s terminus in 1996 (at left) with the glacier  – as of August 2011 –  in the background.  Chris measures the distance from this location to the terminus at the end of each summer.  This diligent work of Chris’ provides us with an annual record of Robson Glacier length change since 1996 and is presented here with Chris’ permission.

Combining these measurements made by the Alpine Club of Canada, Laura Thomson, and Chris Zimmerman we present here a record of length change from 1911 to 2010.   Robson Glacier receded 1,788 m during this period, averaging nearly 18 m per year.  Chris’ recent measurements show an average of 22 m per year since 1996.

Figure 1:  Robson Glacier length change from on-the-ground measurements in 1911 and 1996 – 2010, and from historical aerial photographs in 1923, 1960, 1977, and 1986.  This data was collected by the Alpine Club of Canada (Wheeler, 1912), Laura Thomson, and Chris Zimmerman.  The work of Laura and Chris is presented here with their permission.  Thanks!


Wheeler, A. O., 1912, The Alpine Club of Canada’s Expedition to Jasper Park, Yellowhead Pass and Mount Robson Region, 1911, Canadian Alpine Journal, 4, 1 – 63.


1911 – 2011 Robson Glacier repeat photo pair by Byron Harmon and Roger Wheate

Laura Thomson’s analysis of extent and volume change of Mt. Robson glaciers

Mount Robson Provincial Park

The Alpine Club of Canada