Terry D. Prowse

Terry D. Prowse
Professor / Research Chair / Senior Scientist

BES (Waterloo), MSc (Trent), PhD (Canterbury)



BES - University of Waterloo, 1976
MSc - Trent University, 1978
PhD - University of Canterbury, 1981

Research interests

  • Climate impacts on hydrology and aquatic systems
  • Circumpolar cold regions hydrology
  • River ice environmental effects, hydraulics, thermodynamics, mechanics


  • Cold regions hydrology, with special focus on river ice, lake ice and snow
  • Impacts of climate change on water resources
  • Hydro-ecology of river systems
  • Hydro-climatology

Ongoing studies and current activities

  • Impacts of climate change on the hydrology and ecology of northern rivers and deltas.
  • Effects of permafrost thaw on the hydrology and ecology of arctic ponds.
  • Circumpolar flow or major rivers to the Arctic Ocean
  • Hydro-climatology and time series analysis of northern river flow.
  • Mackenzie Delta extreme event analysis.
  • Alpine snow resources of the Okanagan River basin.
  • Climate effects on reservoir supply, Sooke Basin, Victoria
  • 2009 - Fellow, Royal Canadian Geographical Society
  • 2009 - Canadian Association of Geographers, CAG Award for Geography in the Service of Government
  • 2008 - Geoff Howell Award for Innovation, Citation of Excellent, Environment Canada
  • 2008 - Citation of Excellece for Teamwork, Partnering and Collaboration, Environment Canada
  • 2008 - Craigdarroch Research Award for Societal Contribution, awarded to IPCC authors at University of Victoria BC
  • 2007 - Nobel Peace Prize co-award winner as multi-year IPCC lead author for substantial contributions to the IPCC; from R.K. Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC
  • 2007 - Government of Canada recognition for significant contributions to the IPCC, 2007
  • 2007 - Doctor of Environmental Studies, Honoris Causa, University of Waterloo
  • Lead Author, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 5th Assessment Report, WGII, Polar Regions Chapter.
  • Executive Committee member, World Climate Research Program (WCRP), Climate and the Cryosphere (CliC) program
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Hydrological Processes
  • Board of Directors, Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium
  • Convening Lead Author, Arctic Council, Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, Snow Water Ice Permafrost Assessment
  • Scientific Steering Group, World Climate Research Program (WCRP), Climate and the Cryosphere (CliC) program; Theme Leader for " The Terrestrial Cryosphere and Hydroclimatology of Cold Regions"
  • UNESCO-International Hydrologic Programme (IHP), Canadian Government Representative
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo
  • Starheim, C., Smith, D. and Prowse T.D. 2013. Multi-century reconstructions of Pacific salmon abundance from climate-sensitive tree rings in west central British Columbia, Canada . Ecohydrology, 6(2): 228-240. DOI: 10.1002/eco.1261
  • Starheim, C., Smith, D. and Prowse T.D. 2013. Dendrohydroclimate reconstructions of July-August runoff for two nival-regime rivers in west central British Columbia. Hydrological Processes, 27(3): 405-420. DOI: 10.1002/hyp.9257
  • Brooks, R.N., Prowse, T.D. and O’Connell, I.J. 2013. Quantifying northern-hemisphere freshwater ice. Geophysical Research Letters. DOI:10.1002/grl.50238.

See our page on Prowse's special national and international reports and books. Or, for a full listing, please download the pdf.

This was my first foray into graduate studies of hydrology.

After joining Trent University, Peterborough, ON as their first graduate student in a new geography-biology program entitled Watershed Ecosystems, I began a summer field program under the supervision of Professor Colin Taylor that focused on field testing of the partial-area theory (or sometimes referred to as variable source/contributing area theory).

I instrumented a small watershed located outside of Peterborough with groundwater wells and a weir to evaluate storm runoff response under varying antecedent moisture levels. The latter included manual mapping for the advance and retreat of an internal swamp, infested throughout the summer with varying populations of flying, biting insects.

Bugs aside, it was a terrific introduction for me to the field, as well as to analytical aspects of hydrological sciences.

The focus of my Masters thesis was winter cover on temperate lakes, supervised by Professor Peter Adams.

The main objectives were to quantify spatial patters in the thickness and composition of lake snow and ice components; the factors that produced such patters of time; and (because this was a joint geography-biology degree) the role of cover components in affecting radiation receipts to the underlying water column.

Over the winter of 19-77-78, I traversed and drilled hundreds of holes on two lakes near Peterborough, ON, and one north of Toronto. I the spent the following summer and fall processing the data using a computer-card spatial analysis program that has now evolved into modern GIS.

Working with Dr. Adams and spending long periods in cold-weather conditions inspired me to continue my graduate research in cryospheric hydrologic sciences.

Part of the reason why I chose to undertake my Commonwealth Scholarship at the University of Canterbury was because New Zealand snow resources remained a frontier area of study. Over a three-year period under the supervision of Dr. Ian Owens, I undertook various alpine field studies that included alpine climatology, snow metamorphism, avalanche generation and snowmelt modelling.

During the latter stages of my study, I was also given the opportunity to work with the later Dr. Mel Marcus on a high-radiation melt study of one of New Zealand’s west coast glaciers.

In the end, and 11-inch rainstorm replaced the sun and my first glacier field study was marked by our team being stranded on the ice by the release of a jokulhaup.

Returning to Canada after my PhD in 1982, I became involved with glacier studies of the Peyto glacier in western Canada. With my background in lake ice, I was also asked to become involved with river-ice studies on the Liard and Mackenzie River systems. I found that surging river-ice breakups had a lot in common with the dynamics of avalanches, a bit slower but just as catastrophic.

After joining Environment Canada as a research scientist, I have worked in Ottawa, ON; Saskatoon, SK and now Victoria, BC, both for the National Hydrology Research Institute and the National Water Research Institute. The Environment Canada and University of Victoria have now jointly sponsored a Research Chair for me in “Climate impacts on water resources” and the related Water and Climate Impacts Research Center (W-CIRC).

Over the past twenty plus years I have been involved with a wide variety of studies, many of them on cold regions processes and including the effects of climate change. Please see my list of publications since 1982 and the description of my various graduate students, which should give you an idea of the foci in the various areas of study noted below:

  • River ice mechanics, hydraulics, hydrology and thermodynamics
  • Climate trends in cryospheric components
  • Flow regulation and climatic impacts on northern deltas, the Peace-Athabasca and Mackenzie deltas
  • Hydrologic and ecologic effects of thawing permafrost
  • Northern river flow and the freshwater budget of the Arctic Ocean
  • Climate effects on the reservoir water supply, Sooke Basin, Victoria BC
  • Snow reserves of the Okanagan Valley