Skip to content

Canmore-based snow hydrologist awarded prestigious medal

“This will be an opportunity to learn more about the water and climate challenges facing Canada and to work out new ways to find solutions to those. I am also hoping it might inspire young scientists to take up the challenge and find the excitement that I have found about this field of study.”
Athabasca_Glacier-John_Pomeroy-Greta_Thunberg-Oct_22_2019-USask-Mark_Ferguson-07770
John Pomeroy and Greta Thunberg on the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park in October. MARK FERGUSON UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN PHOTO

CANMORE – As director of Global Water Futures, the largest freshwater research programme in the world, John Pomeroy is tasked with finding solutions to water threats in an era of global change.

Last month, Pomeroy was awarded the prestigious Royal Society of Canada Miroslaw Romanowski Medal for how his research has dramatically improved the understanding and prediction of hydrology and climate where snowcovers form and where melting snow and ice provide freshwater.

“His research explores fundamental hydrological processes in the field and predicts future water supply and quality using sophisticated computer simulation models,” said the RSC. “He is the world’s most cited snow hydrologist.”

As GWF director, Pomeroy leads a team of researchers conducting studies focussed on how snow is distributed within a watershed, how the snowcover evolves through the winter season and how this relates to energy balance. These and more studies have helped define current understanding on a global scale of how climate warming is affecting Earth’s cold regions – including the Canadian Rockies.

Learning about the award 40 years nearly to the day since he first saw the Canadian Rockies and climbed onto and into a glacier made the news extra special, he said.

“I was very surprised and am very grateful for the medal,” Pomeroy said. “I have spent much of my life researching water because it is interesting and enjoyable, and because I hoped it would someday be useful to someone. Because water field research is difficult, I have usually worked with teams of researchers and have been very fortunate to have had the experience of working with great teams. It’s wonderful to have our research recognised in this manner.”

Established in 1994, the Miroslaw Romanowski Medal is awarded annually in recognition of scientific work relating to environmental problems. The award includes $3,000, a bronze medal and a lecture series for the recipient. It is awarded for significant contributions toward the resolution of scientific aspects of environmental problems brought about by scientific means.

Pomeroy – who lived in Canmore for a decade prior to returning to Saskatoon to run GWF in 2016, albeit with regular visits to the Rockies – is one of 14 eminent Canadian scientists, scholars and researchers to be presented their 2019 awards or medals at a ceremony in Ottawa in November.

The seven-year GWF programme is led by the University of Saskatchewan in partnership with the University of Waterloo, McMaster University and Wilfrid Laurier University. While based in Saskatchewan, the lab from which internationally recognized and highly valued scientific studies on climate extremes and mountain hydrology are coordinated is in Canmore, with research stations at or near Fortress and Nakiska ski areas, and other Rockies locations.

Learning the Romanowski Medal comes with a cross-Canada lecture tour, which he will deliver next fall, was icing on the cake, Pomeroy added.

“The tour will be a chance to describe the results of our scientific investigations on snow, ice, water and climate from the western and northern Canada to people across the country and to talk to them about their water issues,” Pomeroy said.

“This will be an opportunity to learn more about the water and climate challenges facing Canada and to work out new ways to find solutions to those. I am also hoping it might inspire young scientists to take up the challenge and find the excitement that I have found about this field of study.”