Anyone planning on visiting Montana’s 107-year-old Glacier National Park to see its famed glaciers may want to take that trip sooner rather than later. Recent studies show that the park’s 37 glaciers are melting away, and quite rapidly.
Montana’s Famed Glaciers are Shrinking Faster Than Initially Believed
While glacier sizes always tend to reduce over time, a recent study by the USGS and Portland University found that Montana’s famed glaciers have been shrinking at a faster than expected rate. Several of its glaciers have diminished by as much as 85 percent. This is 46 percent more than the average reduction, determined to be at 39 percent. Also, all of this has been happening since 1966.
The scientists based their study on digital maps of the area. These were created using aerial photography and satellite imagery, which helped measure the glacier perimeters. Such measurements are taken in late summer.
At the time, all the seasonal snow has already melted away, and the full extent of glacial ice should be on display.
Still, the glaciers’ diminishing size is alarming. It even calls into question whether these formations can be classified as glaciers anymore. Scientists conclude that the standard benchmark, set at larger than 25 acres, is only met by 26 of the famed glaciers. For comparison, last century, 150 glaciers met the criteria.
It’s no secret that climate change is melting ice all over the world. As a bellwether, these glaciers melting away can be used as a gauge for predicting changes in other areas. It is possible that just about all the glaciers in the lower 48 states in the US could disappear by the middle of the century.
If this prevailing pattern continues, the park could have no active glaciers as soon as 2030. This melting away will also alter the park’s wildlife.
“The park-wide loss of ice can have ecological effects on aquatic species by changing stream water volume, water temperature and runoff timing in the higher elevations of the park,” stated Daniel Fagre, lead USGS researcher.
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