Whitehorse Daily Star

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CELEBRATION OF LIFE PLANNED – Family members, friends and colleagues of Ric Janowicz will gather June 21 to celebrate the life of the veteran hydrologist, seen here at a media briefing May 8 in Whitehorse.

Yukon loses respected flood forecaster

The territory lost a veteran hydrologist and a trusted source for flood predictions last month.

By Palak Mangat on June 12, 2018

The territory lost a veteran hydrologist and a trusted source for flood predictions last month.

Ric Janowicz, a senior hydrologist with Environment Yukon, died May 23 at the age of 65.

Heather Jirousek is the director of the government’s water resource branch. She told the Star Monday afternoon Janowicz will be remembered as the territory’s go-to flood forecaster, particularly for flood-prone areas.

“He was a regular in Old Crow and Dawson during May for each community,” she said. She noted his frequent trips flying over the areas to keep a closer eye on flood possibilities.

Jirousek worked with Janowicz for just under two decades, and was able to join him last spring on one of his fly-outs.

She said many admired him for the work he did, especially for his community approach.

“He prompted and contributed to the development of hydrological models suited for the North, to better understand ice breakup and the impact on communities,” she said.

The Wolf Creek basin was also a significant part of his legacy.

During his 30-plus years with the government, Janowicz co-founded the Wolf Creek research basin, a research site given special attention last year during its 25th anniversary.

Recognized by the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, the site began as a research project in 1992 that focused on water research.

Today, it has grown to include research on vegetation, wildlife, fisheries, forestry and climate change.

Hydrology research continues on the basin, supported by the branch. Jirousek said the person taking over for Janowicz will have big shoes to fill.

“We’ve only had one, and he’s been it,” she said, noting Janowicz was the territory’s lone forecaster.

She shared a tribute document by Robert Sandford of UN University, a fellow contributor and research colleague of Janowicz.

Sandford wrote that the basin “achieved international; profile” and allowed for the “first comprehensive large-scale assessment and synthesis of cold region atmospheric and hydrologic processes in northern Canada.”

The late hydrologist was also ahead of his time in his field of research, Sandford continued.

“Janowicz knew 25 years ago that though the Yukon was remote, if carefully monitored and integrated into large data sets, the hydro-climactic changes that were observed there would be relevant to the rest of Canada and the world,” he added.

He enjoyed giving back to the community, especially by mentoring students like Sean Carey, who has since gone on to become a respected climate scientist.

Janowicz was also a tireless advocate for Yukon-based research, recognizing that it faced particular challenges distinct from the country’s more southern areas.

“At the time it was established, it was recognized that climate models used in southern Canada didn’t work in the North,” Sandford wrote of the basin.

This was especially important, as it led to studying intergenerational impacts of floods on communities, as well as industries like the mining and electrical sectors.

On a personal note, Jirousek added that Janowicz will be remembered for his sense of humour and dedication to his field.

“Research at Wolf Creek illustrated the tenacity of science and scientists, with Rick being one of the ongoing champions,” she reflected, adding that many people knew him as a familiar voice on the radio predicting floods.

Stanford added that “no one, even in Yukon, was more hospitable or had a better sense of humour” than him.

“In this regard, Janowicz was a true Yukoner in the most positive sense.”

After decades on the job, Jirousek noted that he remained steadfast on continuing his work.

“He could’ve retired years ago but he was doing it because he loved it,” said Jirousek.

“And he never grew tired of it.”

A celebration of his life is planned for June 21, with details to be published in the Star later this week.

Comments (4)

Up 2 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Jun 16, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Thanks for your many years of service Ric, may you rest in peace.

Up 5 Down 1

drum on Jun 12, 2018 at 8:23 pm

I worked with him in Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for many years. Great Guy.

Up 4 Down 0

Michael Templeton on Jun 12, 2018 at 3:14 pm

Shocking - I worked with Ric for many years - a wealth of knowledge and advice.

Up 4 Down 0

Sandy Jamesen on Jun 12, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Prayers to the family

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