Map of the Peyto Glacier Research Basin, Canadian Rocky Mountains. (Click to see larger version.)
  • Location: Alberta, Canada; 51.67°N, 116.55°W
  • Website: https://research-groups.usask.ca/hydrology/science/research-facilities/crho.php  
  • Operational Management: Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan; Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada
  • Purpose/Scientific Focus: Peyto Glacier is a long-term reference mass balance glacier, contributing to the World Glacier Monitoring Service (https://wgms.ch/), with records dating from 1965 and other glaciological observations since the nineteeth century.  It is the only long-term reference mass balance glacier in the Canadian Rockies.  The site has had a long history of scientific research on glacier surface energy and mass exchanges and meteorology, glacier change detection from remote sesning, glacier hydrology, and hydrological model testing and development.  


  • Location (Physiographic Region): Located in the Park Ranges (Waputik Mountains) of the Canadian Rockies.  Peyto Glacier is an outlet glacier on the northern end of the Wapta Icefield. 
  • Area: 23.6 km2 
  • Elevation: Min. 1,951 m a.s.l. to Max. 3,180 m a.s.l.  
  • Description (Physical–Ecological–Climatic Characteristics): The basin is a high relief headwater basin along the continetal divide of North America with significant glacier cover.  Peyto Glacier has been losing mass and retreating since at least the 1920s, but in recent years it has undergone a considerable acceleration of shrinkage. A proglacial lake ("Lake Munroe") formed at the terminus in the last decade, and continues to grow larger as the glacier retreats.   
  • Drainage/River System: Peyto Glacier contributes runoff to the Mistaya River basin, a headwater of the North Saskatchewan River, which eventually reaches Hudson Bay via the Nelson River.
  • Site History/Historical Context: The first geophysical record of Peyto Glacier goes back to a photograph taken by Walter D. Wilcox in 1896, followed by subsequent photographs and a map from the Alberta-British Columbia Interprovincial Boundary Commission Survey. Significant research on the glacier began in 1965, when it was selected as one of the research sites for the International Hydrological Decade (IHD). The scope and observational resources have varied since then, with more recent advances and restoration of observations.  See https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-13-2875-2021 for further details.    
  • Glacierized Area (% and year(s) measured):  
  • Main Land Cover(s): The basin is mostly barren alpine (rock, alpine grasses/shrubs, small lakes and tarns) with signifiant glacier cover.  
  • Lithology/Soils: Predominantly sedimentary geological region, with surrounding mountains formed from hard, resistant dolomite. 
  • Mean Annual Temperature: 
  • Mean Total Annual Precipitation: 
  • Snow Characteristics: 
  • Years of Data: Data are avaialble since 1965 

Stations & Observations

Observational Stations and Sites

Type Station Name Latitude Longitude Elevation Notes/Details
Meteorological Peyto Main 51.68549°N 116.54495°W 2240 m  July 2013 to present
Meteorological Peyto Lower Ice 51.67669°N 116.53399°W 2173-2183 m  Aug 1995 to present
Meteorological Bow Hut 51.63517°N 116.49031°W 2421 m Oct 2012 to present
Meteorological Bow Summit 51.7000°N 116.4667°W 2031 m Bow Summit data can be downloaded from Alberta Climate Information Service (http://agriculture.alberta.ca/acis/)
Hydrometric Peyto Outlet 51.68111°N 116.54472°W 2150 m Jun 2013 to present
Hydrometric Old gauge: Peyto Creek at Peyto Glacier 51.69361°N 116.53556°W 1951 m Water Survey of Canada gauge 05DA008; 1967 to 1977


Historical data at other stations are available since 1965. See https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-13-2875-2021 for a detailed description of all stations/sensors available and the respective data repositories.

Field Observation Campaigns and Other Measurements

Measurement Instrument Description Spatial/Temporal Resolution and Coverage Notes/Details
Terrestrial Laser Scanner
UAV Sensors Once a year (late august) with eBeeX (multispectral/thermal/RGB) or AltaX (lidar/RGB/thermal/multispectral)
Time-lapse Photographs
Snow Pits/Snow Surveys Yes, infrequent manual snow surveys on ice and moraine, once a year usually
Glacier Surface Elevation
Glacier Mass Balance



Data Availability

Geospatial Data

Elevation Yes, 10 m photogrammetric DEM, 10 m and 1 m Lidar DEMs, and higher resolution from UAV-lidar on tongue since 2019
Landcover and Soils Several landcover classifications based on Landsat images from 1966 to 2018
Stream/River Network
Basin Delineation/Shapefile

Observational Data Availability 

Modelling Activities


  • Aubry‐Wake, C., Pradhananga, D., & Pomeroy, J. W. (2022). Hydrological process controls on streamflow variability in a glacierized headwater basin. Hydrological Processes36(10), e14731. https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.14731
  • Pradhananga, D., & Pomeroy, J. W. (2022). Diagnosing changes in glacier hydrology from physical principles using a hydrological model with snow redistribution, sublimation, firnification and energy balance ablation algorithms. Journal of Hydrology608, 127545. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2022.127545
  • Pradhananga, D., & Pomeroy, J. W. (2022). Recent hydrological response of glaciers in the Canadian Rockies to changing climate and glacier configuration. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences26(10), 2605-2616. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-26-2605-2022 

Contact & Further Information

Additional Information  Contacts