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


Chickamin Glacier, Alaska Extensive Retreat

Chickamin Glacier in southeast Alaska has undergone a 3 kilometer retreat since 1955. The glacier drains south from an icefield near Portland Canal and straddling the border with British Columbia. The glacier ended on an outwash plain in 1955 at 250 meters. The Through Glacier at this time is a large tributary feeder joining Chickamin at the elbow where it turns west, (bottom image) Shortly thereafter a lake began to form, and by 1979 a Landsat image indicates a lake that is 1300 meters long. A this point the Through Glacier is just barely in contact with Chickamin Glacier. . By 2004 in an Ikonos image the glacier has retreated 1400 meters from the 1979 position, top image. This image is from the USGS and has been further annotated. In a 2009 Geoeye image the glacier has receded an additional 300 meters, 3000 meters since 1955. Just as impressive is the retreat of Through Glacier that now terminates 1500 meters from its former Junction with Chickamin Glacier. This separation and retreat has occurred during a period of higher snowlines in the region. The snowline of the glacier has averaged 1200 meters in recent years, 100 meters higher than before, and the summit of the glacier is at 2000 meters. The retreat and thinning of this glacier follow that of Sawyer Glacier, Gilkey Glacier and Lemon Creek Glacier. The current terminus region indicates considerable rifting in the lower 500 meters indicating this will be rapidly lost, note the red arrow. The blue arrow indicates a zone below which the glacier appears stagnant with no active crevasse features. The green arrow indicates the transition to a zone of active flow and crevassing. At meters kilometers above the terminus a basin has developed, orange arrow, this is filled periodically becoming a lake, which then drains beneath this glacier. This lake and basin will continue to expand.