Science Grab Bag

Earth Science

Is there gold in the Athabasca River?

Answer: Yes, very fine amount in the river gravels. Watch for our next gold panning event.

How big is the Athabasca River Basin (extends from Jasper to Lake Athabasca)?

Answer: 138,412 square kilometers.

Where is the source and destination of the Athabasca River?

Answer: The Athabasca River starts in the Canadian Rockies at the Athabasca Glacier near Jasper, and empties into Lake Athabasca 1400km away progressing in a north-easterly direction through an elevation change of ~1300 meters (from 1500-210m).

What is the mean annual river discharge of the Athabasca River (in million of meters squared)?

Answer: The average yearly discharge of the Athabasca River is 22 287 millions of meters squared (mms). The highest yearly discharge recorded was 34900 mms while the lowest annual discharge is measured at 15 000 mms. Of all Alberta rivers, the Athabasca river is third only to the Peace and Slave rivers in terms of mean annual discharge.

Are there any major diamond deposits in the Athabasca river basin?

Answer: Although there are in fact some very substantial diamond deposits in certain areas of Canada, most importantly the Ekati Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories (Canada's first diamond mine, circa 1998), no major diamond source has as of yet been discovered in the Athabasca River basin. However, there are ongoing explorations around Jasper, which does lie within the basin.

What is the highest peak in Alberta?

a)  Mt. Robson
b)  Mt. Temple
c)  Mt. Alberta
d) Mt. Columbia

Answer: d) Mount Columbia is the tallest mountain in Alberta at 3747 meters, and also happens to be located near the headwaters of the Athabasca River. The tallest mountain in Canada is Mount Logan, with an elevation of 5959 meters and located in the Saint Elias Range of the southwestern Yukon.

Of the three main categories of rock (igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic) which is the predominant type in Alberta?

Answer: The vast majority of Alberta is covered in sedimentary rock, with the exception of a small portion in the north eastern corner near lake Athabasca where intrusive (a form of igneous) and metamorphic rock can be found.

Are Earthquakes common in Alberta?

Answer: No, but they can occur. There are upwards of 1000 earthquakes every year in western Canada with the vast majority occurring in British Columbia, and only a few dozen of those can actually be felt. However, earthquakes in Alberta do occur, usually near the Rocky Mountains, but can be as far north as Lake Athabasca and in other regions along the Athabasca River Basin. Albertan earthquakes have historically never reached a magnitude of 5, and most fall somewhere in between 2.7 and 3.9 on the Richter scale.

What are the major ecozones of the Athabasca River Basin?

a)  Boreal Plains and Mountain Cordillera
b)  Pacific Maritime and Hudson Plains
c)  Southern Arctic and Mixwood Plains
d) Tagia Sheild and Arctic Cordillera.

Answer: a) Boreal Plains and Mountain Cordillera. The headwaters of the Athabasca River are located within the Mountain Cordillera ecozone, which is mostly rugged and mountainous terrain, and also happens to be the most diverse ecozone in Canada. However, the vast majority of the river basin is actually located within the Boreal Plains ecozone, containing lowlying valleys and prairies rich in timber and oil.

Science Outreach Athabasca - September 26, 2012

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