Ric Janowicz was Senior Hydrologist for Yukon Environment, a Senior Research Fellow with the Centre for Hydrology, research collaborator with the Global Water Futures and the Changing Cold Regions Network research programs and hydrology graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, University of Alaska and UBC.
He had been phasing into retirement after a long career as the principal Hydrologist for Yukon since 1985. Rick was the iconic Northern Hydrologist – he conducted northern water and climate research with a unique flair, making many discoveries and many dozens of publications, promoting research in the North through the establishment of Wolf Creek Research Basin in 1992 and by hosting many conferences in Yukon such as the Northern River Basins in 1991, IP3 in 2009, the Wolf Creek 5th and 25th Anniversary Workshops, and several River Ice Workshops. In research, Ric was not bothered about severe weather or adversity, he would be visiting field stations, stream gauging or snow surveying at very remote locations in weather conditions that most scientists would not be able to cope with. He also knew how to get back safely at the end of the day.
He cut through impediments to research that could be logistical, administrative or other and simply got things done as he thought they should. Ric was particularly well known for his famous hospitality to any scientist who wished to conduct research in the Yukon. He would welcome them to Whitehorse, invite them to his house for gourmet supper, tell them about local races, skiing and music opportunities, and possibly an evening around the fire, take them up into remote mountain locations that required expert local knowledge and direct them towards research topics that were important to understanding, conserving, protecting and predicting Yukon’s water resources. Rick promoted and contributed to the development of hydrological models suited for the North and for cold regions hydrology so as to better assess and predict the water resources of the North. He also communicated science results to the public very effectively, often in an urgent flood forecast. He designed the dyke that protects Dawson City and advised much of the current road, industrial and community infrastructure in Yukon so that it is safer from flooding and climate change.
One of his legacies is the new Yukon flood forecasting system – developed at his insistence and with his guidance. He was especially renowned for assessment of climate change impacts on hydrology, river ice breakup mechanics and for a remarkably successful record of predicting floods in Yukon. The understanding of climate change impacts on Yukon’s water, snow and permafrost has had substantial contributions from his research and his early recognition of the massive threat that climate change posed to the North. Rick was recently honoured by the Yukon Legislature for his accomplishments in running Wolf Creek for a quarter century of science and his general contributions to Northern Hydrology. His hundreds of colleagues from across Canada and around the world respected him greatly and will miss him. They do not make hydrologists like Ric any more. As for the future of cold regions hydrology? It must carry on to honour his memory by taking the best advice from Ric himself – “there is no holding back now”.
- Written by John Pomeroy, longtime friend and colleauge of Ric
Ric was prominently featured in the CCRN documentary, The Changing Climate and Environment of Western Canada