Saturday, May 13, 2017

Going, Going ... Glacier National Park's Iconic Glaciers Are Melting Away

Rising temperatures over the past 50 years have not been kind to the glaciers.  With climate change continuing, the once-giant ice slabs could soon disappear.

Glacier National Park is losing its glaciers as global temperatures rise. When the park was founded in 1910, it had about 150 glaciers. Today, only 26 still meet the 25-acre threshold to be called a glacier. (Credit: Jinrui Qu/CC-BY-SA-2.0) Click to Enlarge.
The ruggedly stunning landscape of Montana's Glacier National Park will still be stunning and rugged in 50 years, but the glaciers the park was named for will be harder to spot—if they exist at all.

As global temperatures have warmed over the past half-century, the park's major "named" glaciers have receded, shrinking by an average of 39 percent since 1966, according a study released Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Portland State University.

"Over the past 50 years, some of the glaciers have shrunk about 82 percent, so they won't be with us soon," said Daniel Fagre, the lead USGS scientist on the project.  "For others, shrinkage has been more modest — about 13 percent.  But the amount of ice in all cases is diminished, so the long-term prospects for our glaciers are not good."
Sperry Glacier (Credit: Paul Horn/Inside Climate News [Source: USGS]) Click to Enlarge.

Fagre and his colleagues analyzed measurements, taken over the past five decades, of the park's 37 major glaciers and two others on adjacent U.S. Forest Service land.  They found that of those 39 glaciers, only 26 still meet a 25-acre threshold.  Glaciologists consider that amount of mass a convenient cut-off point to distinguish between a glacier (a perennial wedge of ice and snow that moves) and stagnant ice or a perennial snowfield (a wedge of ice and snow that doesn't).

Read more at Going, Going ... Glacier National Park's Iconic Glaciers Are Melting Away

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