Chickamin Glacier Retreat, North Cascade Range, Washington

Chickamin Glacier covers the north slope of Sinister Peak in the North Cascade Range of Washington.  The glacier has a valley tongue that descends to an outwash plain.  Here we examine retreat of the glacier from 1979 to 2012. The glacier had advanced from 1955-1975, before commencing retreat.

Chickamin Glacier (Tom Hammond)

chickamin map

USGS Map of Chickamin Glacier

In 1979 the glacier terminus was at the pink arrow, several hundred meters beyond a prominent buttress, red arrow, where the glacier turns west.  The lowest icefall is indicated by a green arrow. In 1991 the glacier has retreated from the pink arrow, but still is turning the corner beyond the buttress.  The lower icefall is still extensively crevassed.  By 1998 in a Google Earth image the terminus is outlined with yellow dots and has retreated 230 m from the 1979 position.  The lower icefall is still crevassed.  By 2005 in a photograph from Tom Hammond (North Cascades Conservation Council), the glacier has retreated to the buttress. in a 2006 Google Earth image the terminus position is indicated by yellow dots, with a retreat of 50 m since 1998.  The lower portion of the glacier has limited crevassing.  In the 2012 image the glacier terminus no longer reaches the buttress and has retreated 360 m since 1979. We observed exceptional ablation conditions in the North Cascades in 2013 and 2014, which combined with exceptionally low snowpack in 2015 will lead to a continued significant retreat of this glacier.  The crevassing in the lowest icefall has declined and is now superficial. All 47 glaciers observed by the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project have been retreating and four have disappeared (Pelto, 2011). This glacier is similar in size and retreat to Boston Glacier and Honeycomb Glacier.


Chickamin Glacier 1979 (Austin Post)chickamin glacier1991

1991 Chickamin Glacierchickamin 1998 geterminus

1998 Google Earth image


2005 Chickamin Glacier (Tom Hammond)chickamin 2006 geterminus

2006 Google Earth imagechickamin 2012 geterminus

2012 Google Earth Image

Eiriksjökull Reeat, Iceland

Eiriksjökull  is an ice cap just west of Langjökull In central Iceland.  Here we examine its main western outlet the Braekur using Landsat imagery from 1989 to 2014.  The Icelandic Glaciological Society website on terminus variations is the source of the map for the glacier. The IGS program monitors 50 glaciers, all of them are currently retreating.  Eiriksjökull ,  is not one that is in this monitoring program. eiriksjokull map

In 1989 the Braekur outlet flowed over the edge of a lava cliff at the red arrow.  The glacier terminated on the bench between the upper and lower cliff.  In 1994 the glacier still extended  to the edge of the cliff.  By 2010 the Google Earth images indicates a retreat from the edge of the cliff.  In 2014 the glacier has receded 200 m from the edge of the cliff and 300 m from is 1989 position and terminates at the yellow arrow. The high snowlines in recent years will lead to continued retreat. The retreat and area loss of Eiriksjökull is less than on nearby Norðurjökull a primary outlet of Langjökull or on Porisjokull a small ice cap just south of Langjökull.

eiriksjokull 1989

1989 Landsat image

eiriksjokull 1994

1994 Landsat image

eiriksjokull 2010

2010 Google Earth image

eiriksjokull 2014

2014 Landsat image

Southwest Brazeau Icefield Retreat, Alberta

The Brazeau Icefield straddles high peaks southeast of Jasper, Alberta.  The northern outlet glaciers drain into Maligne Lake and the southern outlet glaciers drain in to Brazeau Lake and the Brazeau River.  The Brazeau River flows into Brazeau Reservoir a 355 MW hydropower facility, before joining the Saskatchewan River. An inventory of glaciers in the Canadian Rockies indicate area loss of 15% from 1985 to 2005 (Bolch et al, 2010).  The more famous Columbia Icefield to the west has lost 23 % of its area from 1919-2009 with ice loss at a minimum during the 1970’s (Tennant and Menounos, 2013). Here we examine an unnamed outlet glacier at the southwest corner of the Brazeau Icefield from 1995 to 2014 using Landsat imagery.

brazeau Icefield map

In 1995 the glacier terminated at the red arrow and was 1900 m long, orange dots mark the upper boundary.  The glacier had limited retained snowpack in 1995.  The poor clarity is do to forest fire smoke in the region.  In 1998 the proglacial lake where the glacier terminates is much clearer, snowpack is again limited, but more extensive than in 1995.  In 2002 retreat is evident as the lake is expanding as the glacier retreats.  The glacier still ends in the lake and still has limited snowcover.  In 2013 the glacier has retreated completely from the lake and snowcover is again limited.  The lack of snowcover is persistent in the satellite images which are typically not from the end of the melt season, hence even more snowcover will be lost.  Lack of a significant persistent snowcover area indicates a glacier that will not survive (Pelto, 2010). In 2014 the area experienced considerable forest fires, which leads to poor image clarity.  The glacier terminus is now significantly separated from the lake and terminates at the yellow arrow.  The distance from the yellow to the red arrow represents a 350-400 m retreat in 20 years.  The glacier has lost 20% of its length in this period.  This retreat is similar to that of Fraser Glacier and more significant given the small size of the glacier than for Saskcatchewan Glacier

brazeau icefield 1995

1995 Landsat image

brazeau icefield 1998

1998 Landsat image

brazeau sw 2002

2002 Landsat image

braeau sw 2013

2013 Landsat image

brazeau sw 2014

2014 Landsat image

Anderson Glacier, Olympic Mountains, Washington Disappears

Anderson Glacier was the headwaters of the Quinault River in the Olympic Mountains of Washington. A century ago the glacier was 2 km long, and a half kilometer wide. Retreat of this glacier in the first half of the 20th century exposed a new alpine lake as the glacier retreated 1 kilometer. From 1950-1980 the glacier diminished slowly. From 1959 to 1990 the glacier thinned and retreated from the shore of the lake trapped behind the Little Ice Age moraine. The 1959 picture below was donated to me by Austin Post. Since 1990 the glacier has begun to shrink rapidly. The Google Earth image from 1990, indicates Anderson Glacier has retreated 200 m from the 1959 terminus position near the lake shore, green arrow to the 1990 position, pink arrow. The red arrow indicates a future location of a bedrock outcrop.
1959 Austin Post image
anderson Glacier 1990
1990 Google Earth image

Investigating this glacier in 1992 we measured its area at 0.38 square kilometers, down from 1.15 square kilometers a century before. Ten years later the glacier had diminished to 0.28 square kilometers, but had thinned even more, leaving it poised for a spectacular change, over the next five years. Large outcrops of rock appeared beginning in 2003 and further exposed in 2005 and 2007 in the middle of the glacier. Note the outcrops in the 2007 image from Kathy Chrestensen. The 2009 Google Earth image indicates the 1990 terminus position, pink arrow, and the fact that there is no longer a ribbon of snow that is even 50 m wide. The snow patches have insufficient size or thickness to be classified as a glacier.  The largest outcrop at the red arrow had been beneath the ice in 1990, giving a scale to the thinning.  The glacier at this point no longer exists. In 2014 an Eric Hovden image indicates some seasonal snow in the basin, but the thin ribbon of snow has numerous holes in it as well, indicating the thin nature of the remaining snow patches, with a month left in the 2014 melt season.

Kathy Chrestensen Image

anderson glacier 2009
2009 Google Earth Image

anderson glacier 2014
2014 Eric Hovden image.

This glacier had become a series of small disconnected relict glacier ice patches in 2005 and by 2009 had disappeared. It is not the only glacier that is disappearing, which has led to a visual model for forecasting glacier survival (Pelto, 2010). The key is observed retreat of the margin of the upper portion of the glacier and emerging rock outcrops in the upper part of the glacier where snow should accumulate and be retained through the melt season. If a glacier does not have a significant persistent accumulation zone it cannot survive. Anderson Glacier was not the only glacier feeding the Quinault River, all the others are retreating as well. The result of this glacier retreat is reduced late summer and early fall streamflow, impacting salmon runs at that time of the year. This is primarily the fall Coho, Chum and Chinook salmon and Steelhead summer run. During the spring and early summer runoff increases as snowmelt still occurs, but is not retained in the glacier system.To get a sense of the special nature of this area Out of the Mist is an excellent start

Nizina Glacier Retreat, Lake Formation, Alaska

If you have heard of Nizina Glacier in the Wrangell Mountains of Alaska it is probably because you have contemplated a float trip down the Nizina River from Nizina Lake.  In 1990 there was no lake, since 2000 the lake has provided a good location for float planes to land.  In 2014 the lake has reached a new maximum in size and minimum in icebergs on its surface.  Here we examine Landsat imagery form 1990-2014 to identify changes in the Nizina Glacier.  The main tributary of the Nizina Glacier is Regal Glacier indicated by the dark blue flow arrows.  The light blue flow arrows are from the Rohn Glacier tributary that no longer reaches the terminus area.

nizina ge

Google Earth image

In each image the yellow arrow marks the 1990 terminus, red arrow the 2014 terminus location and pink arrows the summer snowline.  In 1990 the glacier had narrow sections of fringing lake evident, though the glacier reached the southern shore of the developing lake at yellow arrow.  By 1995 the lake had developed to a width of 100-300 m fringing the shoreline around the terminus of Nizina Glacier.  In 1999 the main lake has developed and is 1.6 km long and 1.3 km wide though it is still largely filled with icebergs.  In 2013 there are a few icebergs left in the lake.  In August, 2014 the lake is free of icebergs for the first time, which does mean more will not form. The lake is 1.4 km wide and 2.3 km long.  The glacier has retreated 2.1 km from 1990 to 2014, a rate of 150 m per year, red arrow marks 2014 terminus. A close up view of the terminus in Google Earth from 2012 indicates numerous icebergs but also substantial rifts, green arrows, that will lead to further iceberg production and retreat.  The snowline in this late July or early August images is typically at 1800-1900 m, pink arrow, with a month still left in the melt season. The retreat of this glacier is similar to that of glaciers in the Talkeetna Range to the west South Sheep Glacier and Sovereign Glacier and Valdez Glacier to the south.

nizina glacier 1990

1990 Landsat image


nizina glacier 1995

nizina glacier 19991995 Landsat image

nizina glacier 1999

1999 Landsat image

nizina glacier 2013

2013 Landsat image

nizina glacier 2014

2014 Landsat image

nizina lake 2012

Google Earth image 2012


Kuh-E Myana Glacier Retreat, Afghanistan

Kuh-E Myana Glacier is in Hindu Kush Range in Badakhshan Province of northeast Afghanistan.  This region of the Hindu Kush has not been the focus of detailed glacier study. Northeast of Takhar Province in the Wakhan Corridor a group of glaciers was examined by Umesh Haritashya and others (2009) and found 28 of thirty had retreated. Examples are Zemestan Glacier and Tchap Dara Valley. The Hindu Kush follows the pattern of the high mountains of central Asia including the Himalaya
Kuh E Myana map
kuhemyana ge
2004 Google Earth image
Here we examine the changes of the glacier from 1998-2014 using Landsat imagery.  In 1998 the glacier ended in a small proglacial lake, red arrow.  A nunatak is at Point A. In 2002 the glacier still reaches the edge of the proglacial lake.  A small niche glacier is indicated by the yellow arrow.  The 2004 Google Earth image indicates an expansion of the proglacial lake, and that the glacier terminus is quite thin.  By 2014 the glacier has retreated 250 from the proglacial lake, red arrow. The majority of this retreat has occurred in the last decade. The glacier has retreated 1200 m from the Little Ice Age moraines to the 2004 terminus, green arrows on 2004 terminus image.  The retreat since 2004 is much faster than the overall retreat. The nunatak at Point A has expanded.  The niche glacier at the yellow arrow has developed a pair of substantial bedrock gaps as the thinning glacier disappears. kuhemyana 1998
1998 Landsat image
kuhemyana 2002
2002 Landsat image
kuhemyana terminus
2004 Google Earth Image
kuhemyana 2014
2014 Landsat image