I've now been to Alaska three times, and on each visit have had the chance to get up close and personal with some of its glaciers. The glacier’s main terminus is the northern terminus (red arrow), though it has southern terminus as well (purple dot), both drain into Behm Canal via different rivers. Alaska’s Columbia Glacier is almost 20 kilometers shorter than it was in 1980. Taku Glacier, Alaska’s thickest, is one of the last in the area to start receding in a warming climate. Alaska and the Canadian Arctic dominated mass loss, whilst the Southern Andes and High Mountain Asia came third and fourth respectively in terms … When the Begich-Boggs Visitors Center was originally built, it was right at the foot … All of the images were acquired by instruments on Landsat satellites: the Thematic Mapper on Landsat 5, the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus on Landsat 7, and the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8. That’s the year by which this park will purportedly be glacier-free. GRACE satellites detect modifications in the gravitational field that result from changes in mass; they therefore can trace the loss of mass from the world’s glaciers into the oceans with unprecedented accuracy. The glaciers of Alaska are melting and retreating: the chief cause is climate change and the loss of ice is unlikely to slow, according to a new study by U.S. scientists. The north end of the image shows Grinnell Glacier, possibly the most-studied piece of ice in the park. World of Change. Climate consensus - the 97% Climate change Glacier loss is accelerating because of global warming As climate scientists predicted, glaciers are vanishing due … Other phenomena have left their mark on the landscape. However “it is politically difficult, because as soon as you’ve finished one mission you are already asking for more, and you must find collaborators and more funding sources.” Looking to the future, he said that “Until we have a Copernicus-type program, we will always be risking gaps.” Copernicus is the European continuous Earth observation program, spanning multiple missions of the European Space Agency. The slight shifting in distance between the satellites as they complete their orbit tells us precise details about mass movements on Earth between each minute. Glacier coverage also controls whether OC export is source (C stock) or transport (runoff) limited at the watershed scale. Velicogna told GlacierHub “this was of great concern because scientists were unaware of what they had missed during those 11 months, especially because glaciers can change a lot from one year to the next.” Though long-term trends are clear, it is the details in annual trends and regional trends which scientists were seeking to uncover during the inactivity of GRACE. It has been followed by its successor, GRACE Follow-On, in 2018. Speaking about the implications of the gap in data and looking beyond GRACE-FO, Gardner said that achieving long-term, decade-scale observations is important. Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) is one satellite mission that has been useful in the study of glaciers. While Alaska glaciers are losing about -50 Gt/yr, it remains unclear what the role marine dynamics have on the regional mass balance. Using alternative data, a new study has helped to fill the gap, creating a continuous record of rates of glacier retreat around the world since 2002 until present. The GRACE satellites observed the greatest rate of mass loss in Alaska. The species is threatened by climate warming induced glacier and snow loss and has been petitioned for protection under the U.S. Although GRACE-FO is producing data that matches the precision and resolution of the original mission, there was an 11 month gap in data between the two missions. We show that glacier loss will shift the dominant size fraction of riverine OC from particulate toward dissolved and potentially alter the provenance of particulate OC. That model took into account the basic parameters, such as warmer summer temperatures and changes in snowfall. Today the number of ice bodies is 25. Wildfires in Glacier National Park and Alberta. Sign me up for the Earth Institute newsletter, so I can receive more stories like this. It is possible for some seasonal snow to persist into August, but most of the blue color in these images is “permanent” snow and ice. It has been reported that Trump’s 2021 budget will see an 11 percent cut to science and research carried out at NASA, with many other major science agencies facing similar, if not greater, cuts in funding. Geological records date back to the early 1940s. Scientists have been concerned about a gap in satellite data that was being used to monitor mass balance changes of the world’s glaciers. But the change is still apparent; so, too, is the sense of how the shrinking of the glaciers fits into broader ecosystem changes. Changes in river hydrology and morphology caused by climate-induced glacier loss are projected to be the greatest of any hydrological system, with major implications for riverine and near-shore marine environments. Johns Hopkins Glacier May 27, 2020 JPEG In southeast Alaska, “glacier change is continuing with no pause or slowdown apparent in the data,” said Chris Larsen. Glacier coverage also controls whether OC export is source (C stock) or transport (runoff) limited at the watershed scale. Some of the best glaciers in Alaska Hubbard Glacier. For now, the clearest reflection of climate change is the ice. In a funeral-like gathering, scientists memorialized the glacier, known as Ok, with a plaque that read: "Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. Alaska and the Canadian Arctic dominated mass loss, whilst the Southern Andes and High Mountain Asia came third and fourth respectively in terms of greatest mass lost per year. Alaska’s Muir Glacier, like many Alaskan glaciers, has retreated and thinned dramatically since the 19th century. The agreement between GRACE and MERRA across the data gap is a success story for future scientists who recognize the importance of consistency and uniformity in science. Long-Duration Drought Variability and Impacts on Ecosystem Services: A Case Study from Glacier National Park, Montana. Snow and Ice Glacier Bay. !!! Posted by Mauri Pelto. There’s nothing quite like historical photos of glaciers to show what a dynamic planet we live on. It maps variations in Earth’s gravity field by taking measurements of the distance between two identical satellites separated in polar orbit, 500km above Earth. ), making it difficult to compare averages yielded by the various studies. To see if a glacier is growing or shrinking, glaciologists check the condition of snow and ice at several locations on the glacier at the end of the melt season. Glacier mass loss in Alaska has implications for global sea level rise, fresh water input into the Gulf of Alaska and terrestrial fresh water resources. NASA Goddard Space Lemon Creek Glacier in Juneau is one example of rapid ice loss. Retreat of Glaciers in Glacier National Park. This website uses cookies as well as similar tools and technologies to understand visitors' experiences. The two glaciers once ran together, as this photograph from 1914 shows; by 2009, they had retreated into separate valleys. Endangered Species Act due to climate-change-induced habitat loss. We can expect to see another big shrinkage in its footprint very soon, maybe by the end of this summer.”. Photographs and ground-based surveys have played an important role in tracking the park’s glaciers. As the hostile environment surrounding scientific funding may lead to future data gaps in our satellite records, studies like these that find plausible alternative sources of data may become even more useful and important in the future. McBride Glacier, the only tidewater glacier in the East Arm, is approximately 40 nautical … Image: EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY / ADAPTED FROM ZEMP ET AL. The Trump administration announced significant spending boosts over several years to cut the original 2028 target for a lunar landing by 4 years, to 2024. 2 Observations of glaciers losing mass are also consistent with warming trends in U.S. and global temperatures during this time period (see the U.S. and Global Temperature indicator). In 2006 you can see the burn scar from the Red Eagle fire, which burned 34,000 acres. The area covered by glaciers in Alaska is slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. Tyndall Glacier became separated from the retreating Guyot Glacier in the 1960s and has retreated 24 km (15 mi) since, averaging more than 500 m (1,600 ft) per year. Rick Brown owns an adventure tour company called Adventure Sixty North in Seward, Alaska, a small town on an inlet of the Kenai Peninsula. In addition to shrinking in area, Grinnell has rapidly thinned. Icy Bay in Alaska is fed by three large glaciers—Guyot, Yahtse, and Tyndall Glaciers—all of which have experienced a loss in length and thickness and, consequently, a loss in area. The GRACE satellites observed the greatest rate of mass loss in Alaska. Glacier National Park: Glaciers/Glacial Features. The GRACE mission ended in October 2017, after extending 12 years beyond its intended service. Artist impression of the GRACE satellites in orbit. The team calculated that the world’s glaciers and ice caps lost an average of 281.5 gigatons of ice per year, which equates to 13mm of cumulative sea level rise. The southern portion of the image shows the Blackfoot-Jackson Glacier Basin, an area of the park that contains the largest concentration of glaciers. “There is a lot of noise in the system from short-term weather patterns, and we need to reduce this noise” in order to capture trends in climate, he explained. They offer guided hikes and kayaking tours of the surrounding country, including ice hikes on the Exit Glacier.. Alaska leads the race with over 3019 gigatons lost in total, or 816 million 747s. Isabella Velicogna told GlacierHub the success of MERRA-2 “shows reanalysis and global climate models have come a long way and are getting more and more reliable.”, Menagerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. “All of a sudden, it’s as flat as a pancake compared to its previous bulk,” Fagre said. In Seward, Alaska, Exit Glacier is melting at an astonishing rate. Measurements of Glacier Change. Warm summer temperatures are causing this glacier to lose about 2 to 3 acres per year, and sometimes as much as 10 acres. “These tiny remnants could last 10 to 15 years past that time if they are in sheltered places, but the park will no longer really have viable glaciers.”, Land Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Search for information on Montana’s Glacier National Park, and you will likely come across the date 2030. Numerous studies of glacier mass loss have used GRACE data across different time series (such as this 2019 study by Wouters et al. It is a joint mission by NASA and the German Aerospace Centre, launched in 2002. We show that glacier loss will shift the dominant size fraction of riverine OC from particulate toward dissolved and potentially alter the provenance of particulate OC. Flight Center. This series of false-color satellite images chronicles change in the park about every five years between 1984 and 2015. A new review of glacier research data published in the Journal of Glaciology predicts Alaska's 25,000 glaciers will lose between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of their mass by the end of this century. This particular pair of images shows the glacier’s continued retreat and thinning in … “On a glacier only 115 acres in size,” Fagre said, “that’s a huge loss.” The change here is slightly more noticeable because of the stark contrast with Upper Grinnell Lake, which has grown in the past few decades as the glacier has retreated. In the northern watersheds, however, glacier retreat may create new salmon habitat that could be similar to the southern watersheds prior to the glacier loss. The glacier and surrounding landscape is protected as part of the 5,815 acres (2,353 ha) Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, a federally designated unit of the Tongass National Forest. “These glaciers will be more or less gone in the next several decades.”. Menagerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. Fire and Burn Scar in Glacier National Park. In addition to shrinking in area, Grinnell has rapidly thinned. As we approach 2030, most of these glaciers will be “small insignificant lumps of ice on the landscape,” Fagre said. Priorities have consistently shifted away from climate change-focused research towards space exploration and investing in technological advances for the future, such as artificial intelligence and quantum information science. Photo credit: U.S. Glaciers of North America: Glaciers of the Conterminous United States: Glaciers of the Western Unites States. Glacier National Park: Crown of the Continent. A glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier) on a snowy backdrop in Glacier National Park. GRACE-FO acquires data in the same way as GRACE, with a few slight modifications. “The reduced mass from thinning makes this glacier particularly vulnerable. “People focus too much on the date, but the basic story is still true,” said Daniel Fagre, a research ecologist for the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Remote sensing (which acquires information about Earth without making direct contact with it, such as through satellite and drone imagery) has revolutionized the study of glaciers. Most were still there when the national park was established in 1910. In the 2015 image, burn scars are visible from the Thompson fire (bottom) and Reynolds Creek fire (top). Each image was acquired in late summer or early fall to reduce the amount of seasonal snow in the scenes. These are not behemoths like Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland or Columbia Glacier in Alaska, so change here is not quite as obvious in satellite imagery. Trends for the three benchmark glaciers are consistent with the retreat of glaciers observed throughout the western United States, Alaska, and other parts of the world. It is important to monitor changes in mass balance — the net changes in a glacier’s mass, after accounting for gains from snowfall and losses from melting and iceberg calving — in order to generate robust predictions of sea level rise. Alex Gardner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory highlighted the importance of the continuity in this data, telling GlacierHub, “continuity is by far the most important thing, beyond the novelty of engineering.”. But despite its simplicity, the model painted an accurate, if broad, picture of the situation: the shrinking of the ice in Glacier National Park is real and happening fast. Muir Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park thinned more than 700 feet in the 23 years between 1980 and 2003. It could eventually send icebergs to downtown Juneau. Modeled Climate-Induced Glacier Change in Glacier National Park, 1850–2100. Here we examine Landsat images from … Source: National Park Service Filling the gap gives scientists an almost two-decade-long record of world glacier mass loss. “On a glacier only 115 acres in size,” Fagre said, “that’s a huge loss.” The change here is slightly more noticeable because of the stark contrast with Upper Grinnell Lake, which has grown in the past few decades as the glacier has retreated. Portage Glacier. Mendenhall Glacier (also Sitaantaagu) is a glacier about 13.6 miles (21.9 km) long located in Mendenhall Valley, about 12 miles (19 km) from downtown Juneau in the southeast area of the U.S. state of Alaska. Maps of the glaciers in 1968—surveyed by airplane by the USGS—counted 83 ice-and-snow bodies with areas greater than 0.1 square kilometers. Alaska Facing Mass Glacier Loss at Record Pace August 7, 2020 Alaska’s glaciers are disappearing at a record pace as 2019 is shaping up to be the state’s hottest year on … They addressed the data gap by using MERRA-2 reanalysis data, which assimilates various observational data. We map all glaciers (>4000 km 2) on the Kenai Peninsula, south central Alaska, for the years 1986, 1995, 2005 and 2016, using satellite images. Remote Sensing The loss of ice from Alaska and the Canadian Arctic remains small when compared to the losses seen in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. GRACE satellites are extraordinary in the way they track each other in perfect orbit, moving in a tug and pull motion as they are deflected by the gravity field. By comparison, pre-satellite ground measurements are spatially coarse, while physical models often do not capture local change with enough precision. A top agenda for the White House is to speed up plans for NASA’s Artemis Program, to land the next people on the Moon by 2024. At Wolverine Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, loss was the second highest in a record that goes back to the 1960s. The University of Alaska Fairbanks LiDAR Altimetry Program has flown repeat surveys of glaciers in Alaska from 1994 to 2014 and has made direct assessments of glacier mass balance on 46% of Alaska's glacier area and 81% of the tidewater glacier area. In 1850, there were about 150 documented glaciers in this area of the Rocky Mountains. Even before this image series begins, glaciers in this area had decreased from 21.6 square kilometers (8.3 square miles) in area in 1850 to just 7.4 square kilometers (2.9 square miles) in 1979. By continuing to use this website, you consent to Columbia University's usage of cookies and similar technologies, in accordance with the, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), MPA in Environmental Science & Policy Fall Final Briefings, Student-Only Virtual Roundtable Discussion: Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and Special Representative, UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, Columbia University Website Cookie Notice, echo do_shortcode('[instagram-feed]'); ?>. In regards to maintaining the data continuity into the future, Gardner told GlacierHub that “As soon as one mission is launched, you have to start preparing for the next.” Discussions at NASA are underway for what is to be GRACE-2. Gracey Creek Glacier is a small glacier in southeast Alaska that terminates near the Canadian border. The scenes show just a portion of the park’s full extent, which spans 4,100 square kilometers (1,583 square miles) in northwestern Montana. The area shown is the central portion of the park, extending from the Lake McDonald area (west) to the St. Mary area (east). Year-to-year weather variations matter somewhat, but most of the loss is a response to decadal trends in warming. Glaciers gain mass through snowfall and lose mass through melting and sublimation (when water evaporates directly from solid ice). Watch an alaskan glacier melt. Glaciers that terminate in a lake or the ocean also lose mass through iceberg calving. These activities demonstrate the value in both GRACE satellite data and MERRA reanalysis data. The increasing rate of glacier mass loss, with eight out of the ten most negative mass balance years recorded after 2010, during a period of retreat indicates alpine glaciers are not approaching equilibrium and retreat will continue to be the dominant terminus response (Pelto, 2019; WGMS, 2020). The glaciers of Alaska are melting and retreating: the chief cause is climate change and the loss of ice is unlikely to slow, according to a new study by US scientists.

glacier loss in alaska

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