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Glacier will turn 100 next month, but it won’t be as whole as it was a century ago. The number of named glaciers in the park has shrunk from 37 to 25, after scientists discovered two more glaciers this year that shrunk to less than 25 acres. At that size, glaciers largely stop moving and get demoted to inert snowfields.
To make things worse, Glacier’s glaciers are melting faster than most climate models predicted: Original projections showed all of them gone by 2030, but the rate of melting appears to be outpacing the model. Scientists say we should brace ourselves for their disappearance much sooner than that.
“We are going to go toward a virtually glacierless state in the next few decades. They’re not going to be ameliorating stream temperatures in summer. We’ve already lost glaciers entirely from some basins…That’s the inevitability,” says (USGS research ecologist Dan Fagre). “We don’t care whether it is 2033 or 2029 or 2035. It’s just what’s happening.”
The absence of glaciers in the park could alter the ecosystem dramatically. They release cold water in hotter months, which helps propagate species like trout, and without their general cooling affect, the area will get hotter and drier as a whole.
That’s more reason to get out and see those glaciers—that way, at least you can lord it over your grandchildren.
Image Credit:Alaskan Dude