Glacier Index List
Below is a list of the individual glacier posts examining our warming climates impact on each glacier. This represents the first 2.7 years of posts, 180 total posts, 166 different glaciers. I have worked directly on 40. The others are prompted by fine research that I had come across, cited in each post or inquiries from readers and other scientists. I then look at additional often more recent imagery to expand on that research. The imagery comes either from MODIS, Landsat, Geoeye or Google Earth.
McDonald Glacier is in the Mission Range of the Montana southeast of Flathead Lake. It is the largest and one of only two significant glaciers in this range. The glacier is tucked under the north side of McDonald Peak. The glacier was over 1 kilometer long in the 1966 USGS map of the region. By 2005 the glacier has lost 45% of its area, retreating 200 meters on average and losing one of its accumulation areas. A comparison of the map image, 2003 and 2005 image illustrate this retreat, orange line is the map terminus, black lines the terminus in 2003 and 2005. Two closeup views indicate a key exposure of rock in the midst of the glacier, black arrow. Three former areas of accumulation A,B and C are also noted. At this point area C is no longer part of the glacier. A and B both still indicate some minor crevassing indicating the glacier is not stagnant, and that these areas have been an accumulation area in the years prior to 2005. Accumulation area B in the first closeup looks to have a minimal connection to the main glacier, and is such a small area, that it is on the path of accumulation area C to disappearance. In Montana there are many glaciers that are rapidly disappearing (Hopper Glacier, and a few that are only shrinking slowly (Harrison Glacier). McDonald Glacier is in between these two paths retreating steadily, but not on the verge of disappearing, Sperry Glacier is another example of this response type.
There was the Yukon Gold Rush and then there are a number of surging glaciers in the Yukon. These two have drawn our attention. In Kluane National Park, besides the large surging outlet glaciers draining the St. Elias Mountains (Donjek, Lowell, Kaskawulsh etc.) there are numerous smaller alpine glaciers in ranges just east of the St. Elias. In a recent ice core study in the Eclipse Icefield it was found that the Gold Rush led to higher fire activity (Yalcin et al., 2004). This post examines several of these glaciers that have not been the focus of any detailed study, in the are of Airdrop Lake and Snowshoe Peak. Each of the glaciers is 1.5 to 2.0 kilometers long, beginning near 2100 meters the summit area of Snow Peak and terminating between 1800 and 1900 m. This is relatively small elevation change for alpine glaciers. In the 2003 Google Earth Imagery the lack of snowcover is evident. The blue line is the terminus position from the map of 1970’s and the brown line a 1998 satellite image. There are a few outrops of rock in the midst of the glacier that formerly terminated at Airdrop Lake. Comparison of a 1987 (top), 2003 (middle) and a 2010 (bottom) Landsat image indicate that the two key outcrops that were in the midst of the glacier in 1990 are at the terminus in 2010. Two others have expanded and with terminus retreat are markedly closer to the margin of the glacier in just seven years from 2003-2010. The lower section of each glacier is quite thin and uncrevassed. The lack of snowcover during many recent years indicate a mass balance loss and glacier thinning that is driving the retreat. It does not appear the glacier that flows toward Airdrop Lake can survive, with thinning high on the glacier and limited retained snowcover. There are some patches of stagnant ice near the terminus of the Airdrop Lake Glacier, this glacier has retreated 250-450 meters from the map to 2003, 20-30% of the glacier length and is still retreating quickly as the 2010 imagery indicates. The Snowshoe Peak glaciers have retreated 150 m to 300 meters which is 10-20% of the glacier length. The retreat of the small glaciers here parallels that of the larger glaciers nearby such as Melbern Glacier.
Samudra Tupa Glacier is one of the largest in the Chenab Basin, India. Pink arrow indicates the terminus in a glacier lake and A mark the accumulation zone with the red line indicating the equilibrium line in 1998. In a glacier inventory in the basin by Kulkarni et al (2007) the 466 glaciers in the basin were observed to have lost 21% of their total area from 1962 to 2001. This program coordinated by the Space Applications Centre of the Indian Space Research Organization, has combined field observations of the glacier with remote sensing to observe the changes in area and length of the glaciers, immediately below is a 2006 picture of the glacier terminus and proglacial lake from Kulkarni. . The terminus ends in an expanding proglacial lake. The lower glacier is heavily debris covered, has a low slope and is essentially stagnant. These factors will lead to continued retreat. In this post we use 1998, 2002 and 2011 Landsat imagery to examine the terminus of this glacier. The glacier terminates at 4225 meters, the snowline in 1998 is 5200 meters and 2002 is 5300 meters, neither of the images is at the end of the ablation season. An ELA of 5200-5300 meters leaves an accumulation area insufficient to maintain the current glacier size. In 1970 the ELA was at 4900 meters Kulkarni et al (2007) . A close up view of the termini of Samudra Tupa-pink arrow and a nearby unnamed glacier-green arrow indicate the changes in 1998, 2002 and 2011 in that order. The green arrow points not to the terminus but to a prominent knob near the end of the glacier in each image, it is the control point. The last two images illustrate the changes from 2002 to 2011 in an image overlay. The last image is the 2011 termini of Samudra Tupa Glacier from (Kulkarni, 2009). The retreat is noted by Kulkarni, 2009 as 13 meters/year during the study period. From 2002 to 2011 the glacier retreated nearly 200 m, closer to 20 meters/year. The retreat of this glacier is less than that of other large glaciers nearby Sara Umaga and Gangotri. The loss in glaciated area in the basin of 21% is also similar to other areas in the Altai, Tibet, Nepal Himalaya, Khumbu Nepal and Tien Shan.
Icemantle Glacier is on the north side of Greenmantle Peak just north of Snowcap lake in southern British Columbia, viewed from the northeast in the Google Earth image below. It is not an often visited area and the glacier has not been previously assessed for its response to climate change. Other glaciers in the area have, the outlet glaciers of Snowcap Iceﬁeld lost 17% of there area in from 1987-2007. Stave Glacier has retreated 840 meters from 1977-2002 (Koch et al, 2009) . Just to the north Freshfield Glacier has retreated since. The glacier was mapped in 1987 and at that time no lake existed close to the terminus. The lake in 2006 is 500 meters across. The glacier is 160 meters from the lake, indicating a retreat of 660 meters from 1987, blue line. In a 2009 Ikonos image the glacier has retreated an additional 75 meters. The last image in the sequence indicates the 1987 terminus position blue and 2009 terminus red. The snowline on the glacier has been at least as high as 2000 meters in 2003-2006 and 2009. This leaves less than 35% of the glacier in the accumulation zone consistently. This is insufficient to maintain equilibrium and will drive continued retreat. The ongoing retreat is also evident from the thin nature of the current terminus, a small lake is also forming at the current terminus.
Glacier Index List
Below is a list of the individual glacier posts examining our warming climates impact on each glacier. This represents the first 2.5 years of posts, 166 total posts, 152 different glaciers. I have worked directly on 39. The others are prompted by fine research that I had come across, cited in each post or inquiries from readers and other scientists. I then look at additional often more recent imagery to expand on that research. The imagery comes either from MODIS, Landsat, Geoeye or Google Earth.
Petrov Glacier flows north down the slopes of Ak-Shiyrak in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan. The glacier ends in Petrov Lake which continues to expand as the glacier retreats. The glacier is 12 km long has three main tributaries each beginning at 4600-4700 meters and descending to the lake at 3700 meters. The lake in particular has been the focus of an extensive research project by a group Czech scientists, Cerny et al (2009)and Jansky et al (2009). This research for Geomin is driven by interest in a potential outburst flood event, the water level in the Petrov Lake and the moraine-ice dam are monitored and proposals on how to decrease the water level are being developed. Petrov Glacier is the largest glacier in the Naryn River watershed, Jansky et al (2009) report that the glacier retreated at a rate of 24 meters/year from 1957-1960, 40 meters/year from 1980-1999 and 61 m year from 1999-2006. Using two satellite images from 2001 (top) and 2011 (bottom) and Google Earth imagery from 2005 (middle) here we look in detail at the current condition of the glacier. The glacier has retreated 300 meters during the 2001-2011 period. Notice the Peninsula extending from the glacier into Petrov Lake (T). . A snapshot of the glacier at three different locations indicate the extent of the ablation zone. For points A,B and C the red arrow indicates lateral moraines, green arrows surface wind scour features that have trapped dust, and the blue arrows surface streams. Lateral moraines and surface streams cannot exist in the accumulation zone, and the wind scour features indicate locations where accumulation is not retained. Each of these feature types at A,B and C extend to 4300 meters. A glacier such as Petrov that lacks substantial avalanching and is in a region of low annual precipitation generally needs 60% of its area in the accumulation zone to be in equilibrium. The glacier has insufficient accumulation zone size recently and will have to continue to retreat. Petrov Glacier reflects the trends of the region where glaciers have lost 2 cubic kilometers per year of volume from 1955-2000, as documented by Harrison and others, University of Newcastle
For the last 27 years the first week of August has found me on the Columbia Glacier in the North Cascades of Washington. Annual visit pictures up to 2008 can be seen at bottom of post.
This is the lowest elevation large glacier in the North Cascades. Columbia Glacier occupies a deep cirque above Blanca Lake and ranging in altitude from 1400 meters to 1700 meters. Kyes, Monte Cristo and Columbia Peak surround the glacier with summits 700 meters above the glacier. The glacier is the beneficiary of heavy orographic lifting over the surrounding peaks, and heavy avalanching off the same peaks. Over the last twenty seven years the annual mass balance measurements indicate the glacier has lost 14 meters of thickness. Given the average thickness of the glacier of close to 75 meters in 1984 this represents a 20% loss in glacier volume. During the same period the glacier has retreated 135 meters, 8% of its length. Most of the loss of volume of this glacier has been through thinning not retreat. The glacier remains thick, but cannot survive current climate, which has left the glacier without any snowpack by the end of the summer in five of the last 10 years. This lack of persistence is the sign of a glacier than cannot survive. We can look at the past of the Milk Lake Glacier near Glacier Peak in 1988, 30 miles northeast of Columbia Glacier, and the present of Milk Lake without the glacier. The green arrow points to the forming lake filled with by both icebergs and the still evident glacier. The upper margin of the glacier is indicated by the red arrow. The lake in 2009 still is a nice jade green from glacier erosion. This lake will slowly become more azure in color as no new glacier sediment is added. In the same respect we can look at the past and present of Columbia Glacier comparing a 1986 and 2010 photograph. The blue arrows indicate moraines that the glacier was in contact with in 1986, and now are 100 meters from the glacier. The green arrow indicates the glacier active ice margin in 1986 and again that same location in 2007 now well off the glacier. The red arrow indicates the same location in terms of GPS measurements, this had been in the midst of the glacier near the top of the first main slope in 1986. In 2007 this location is at the edge of the glacier in a swale.. To look to the future Jill Pelto, (see marvelous destiny blog) my daughter painted the glacier as it was in 2009 (top) and then what the area would like without the glacier in the future, at least 50 years in the future (middle), and Jill at the sketching location (bottom), turned 180 degrees to view Blanca Lake. The lake is colored by the glacier flour from Columbia Glacier to the gorgeous shade of jade. Clearly the area will still be beautiful and we will gain two new alpine lakes with the loss of the glacier. After making over 200 measurements in 2010 we completed a mass balance map of the glacier. This summer we will be back again for the 28th annual checkup.
The Presena Ski Resort in Italy utilizes the Presena Glacier for its upper lifts and to extend its season. The warm summer of 2012 has been hard on this glacier. In 2008 this resort followed the example of Stubai, Austria and Les Arcs, France in utilizing an insulating blanket to reduce melting. Presena Glacier has lost a third of its volume since 1993. This led to adoption of wrapping the glacier in a 4 mm thick blanket of polypropylene matieral that in a test at the area reduced melt by 60%. The insulated blanket is apparent particularly along the lift in the image below. In 2012 the areas that were not protected by the blanket or groomed preferentially are evident as bare glacier ice. The insulating blanket is supposed to cover 90,000 square meters. The plan is to leave the blanket in place through the summer until mid-September. The entire glacier lost its snowcover in 2003 and 2005. The lower section of the glacier has separated into several thin sections that are rapidly melting away. In the photograph below the three separate terminus areas that are nearly completely detached from the upper glacier are noted with a T. The Lift (L) goes up the center of the upper glacier this area has lost its snowpack frequently as well by summer’s end in recent years. The Presena Glacier is responding to the warming climate in the same way as other Italian glaciers Forni Glacier and Dosde Glacier, and as the Italian Glacier Committee has noted observing that of glaciers observed in Italy in 2009 95 of the 111 glacier observed are retreating, 11 stationary and two advancing. The mass balance of Italian Glaciers in 2010 was again negative due to the high summer temperatures.
Seco Glacier descends magnificently towards Lago Argentina and is a site enjoyed by many visitors to the region from boats. A new website is being developed on the Glaciers of Argentina that features this view. The glacier has retreated 1050 meters in the last century exposing a still barren rock landscape. The terminus is still heavily crevassed indicating considerable movement at the tongue. The recently deglaciated terrain that extends one kilometer beyond the terminus abruptly ends in forest. A series of photographs from the Glaciers of Argentina indicate the retreat of this glacier from 1953 to 2009. Also note the development of vegetation around the precipitation gage. The rate of development of vegetation on newly deglaciated terrain is the ecesis rate. In a wet temperate climate such as this with seed sources simply uphill of the deglaciated terrain on the valley walls usually leads to incipient trees developing within 20 years of deglaciation. . The glacier front is still actively crevassed, indicating considerable flow, this is not a stagnant rapidly melting glacier tongue. The glacier ends at 450 meters, its top elevation is at 2300 meters. The snowline is at 1300 meters. In the images from 1953 to 2009 there is a rock outcrop in the upper right near the snowline that has expanded relatively little. This indicates that the accumulation zone at this elevation and above is maintaining its thickness. . This is a glacier that is retreating due to regional warming, but it not a glacier that is in danger of disappearing with current climate.
In mountain ranges around the world glacier retreat is leading to the formation of new lakes. In the Antarctic and Greenland retreat is leading to the formation of some new islands. Palmer Station on Anvers Island just off the Antarctic Peninsula is largely surrounded by glaciers. It has been called ground zero for climate change. Hard to argue, except I have seen that term applied to many other locations, that are also hard to argue with. To the north of the base a new island formed in 2004. Amsler Island was named in 2007, it used to be just part of Norsel Point. Below is a 1999 image and a 2004 image from Google Earth. The channel now connects Arthur Harbor to Loudwater. The channel is now over 200 meters wide. The ice front is quite heavily crevassed. The crevasses indicate a terminus ice cliff that is not currently in a stable position and additional calving should lead to continued channel expansion. There are still a couple of small ice patches on Amsler. This change lacks the magnitude of those seen on Fleming Glacier.
The Lower Curtis Glacier on Mount Shuksan advanced from 1950-1975 and has retreated 150 meters from 1987-2009. A longitudinal profile up the middle of the glacier indicates that it thinned 30 meters from 1908-1984 and 10 m from 1984-2008. Compare the 1908 image taken by Asahel Curtis (glacier named for him) in 1908 and our annual glacier shot in 2003. The thinning has been as large in the accumulation zone as at the terminus, indicating no point to which this glacier can retreat and achieve equilibrium with the present climate. However, the glacier is quite thick, and will take 50-100 years to melt away. This glacier is oriented to the south and fed by avalanches from the Upper Curtis Glacier and the southwestern flank of Mt. Shuksan. This allows it to survive in a deep cirque at just 5600 feet. Because of its heavy accumulation via avalanching the glacier moves rapidly and is quite crevassed at the terminus. Image below is a 2009 sideview, note the annual dark layers in the ice. The number of crevasses in the nearly flat main basin of the glacier has diminished as the glacier has thinned and slowed over the last 20 years. The glacier lost nearly all of its snowcover in several recent years 2005, 2006 and 2009. In one month we will back on this glacier investigating its mass balance and terminus position. It is a key glacier this year, as the winter was quite warm yet wet, spring was not. Thus, snowpack was much below average below 5000 feet and likely above average above 7000 feet, where the transition will be is the key. In the google earth images below Lower Curtis Glacier is in the left center. The terminus is exposed bare glacier ice and is heavily crevassed. Typically the terminus loses its snowcover in mid-June. Below the terminus there are frequent ice and rock falls, so it is best not to go below the terminus. For our measurements we need to, but we always finish by 9 am. .