The traditional territory of the Gitksan Nation includes the upper and middle Skeena River watershed in Northern British Columbia. The Skeena River is home to some of the largest number of sockeye and Chinook salmon in the world, but numbers have declined dramatically in recent years. Climate change is expected to accelerate snowpack decline and glacial retreat, which may lead to sub lethal or lethal summer temperatures during the time when salmon migrate into the watershed to spawn. Climate change is expected to accelerate snowpack decline and glacial retreat, which may lead to sub lethal or lethal summer temperatures during the time when salmon migrate into the watershed to spawn. Despite these concerns, there are no measures of climate or weather from the remote upper Skeena River watershed and therefore climate and weather variation in this region is not well-represented in current models. In addition, there is very little information about longitudinal and temporal water temperature dynamics in the upper and middle Skeena river or the role that the numerous glacial-fed tributaries play in thermal refugia to migrating salmon.
To address these gaps in knowledge, GWA has collaborated with external partners from Vancouver Island University Hydrology & Climate Change Research Lab and the Skeena Fisheries Commission in order to install in 2021 and maintain a long-term weather monitoring station in the upper Skeena River. Data from this weather station will complement the existing network of stations run by Provincial and Federal Agencies within and near the Gitksan Territory and will help us better understand weather patterns in the upper Skeena and track the effects of climate change.
The weather station will measure air temperature, soil temperature, total precipitation, rain (tipping bucket), wind speed and direction, net radiation, relative humidity, barometric pressure, and snow water equivalent. The footprint of the weather station is relatively small, made up of two pads (1m x 1m) and a snow scale (2m x 3m). There are two towers (one on each pad) that contain the weather equipment, one is 30ft and one is 20ft tall. The weather station will also contain a camera that will display real-time footage of conditions in the territory at the weather station and available to view on the Gitksan Watershed Authorities website.
Below are photos that illustrate what the weather station looks like and its approximate size (provided by VIU) . We look forward to sharing live footage from the weather station in the near future.
In addition to the climate monitoring program, we have installed a network of water temperature loggers within the upper Skeena, to capture the seasonal and spatial variability in river thermal regimes and better understand tributary contributions and regions of potential thermal stress or cold water refugia. Through additional funding we have been able to extend the temperature monitoring networks within the Kispiox and Babine Watersheds.
In 2020 we consulted with the community to extend this network in the middle Skeena where their fishing is currently most prevalent. Data collections will start to be analyzed in the next few years for initial discussions within the community. The field training capacity has been an asset to both experienced and new staff with GWA and we look forward to including more youth in the process of this program. It is our hope that results will aid in fisheries management and conservation decisions within the Gitksan Territory and beyond.