Glacier National Park, which was dedicated in 1910, occupies a dramatically beautiful span of the Rocky Mountains at the Montana-Canadian border, which has been covered in ice since time immemorial. 150 thick glaciers were recorded when the park was dedicated, but scientists are warning that they’re all likely to disappear by 2030. Right now there are only 26 ice sheets left, so the park as already lost 124 glaciers, and they’re disappearing quickly.
Climate modelling using computer power has been run by scientists from the USGC, (US Geology Survey), at the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Centre (NOROCK). The results suggest the disappearance of the remaining park glaciers over the next 15 years; this is surprising to the scientists, as the rate of decline is much faster than they originally predicted. The ongoing reporting by the study is enabling climate scientists to extrapolate these findings to understand the wider climate changes taking place. Glaciers are very visual examples of the warming we are seeing globally, and because they’re very sensitive to their surrounding environment, they are very effective indicators of longer term weather trends.
For Glaciers to stay intact and avoid retreating, they require a certain number of days below freezing every year. Over the last 40 years, the mean temperature of the park has risen by 1.33 degrees Centigrade; subsequently, the precipitation that comes with that rise is mainly rain, which causes significant melt-offs. Since the weather doesn’t drop back down again, the glaciers have no chance to recover their previous volume. By examining the ice fields from the air using satellite imagery, the glacial retreat is real and well documented, and when placed alongside historical photos, it’s apparent that those once-icy expanses are swiftly turning into rocky, bare mountainsides. The USGC has been collecting hundreds of “repeat photos” since 1997, and they’re available on the website site for readers to check out. The Glacier National Park isn’t alone in its loss—similar findings are being in other glacial environments such as the Tibetan Yemayundrung Glacier on the Tibet/China border.
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