NASA: Glacier National Park Could Lose All Its Glaciers By 2030

Chris Wallner | BackcountryBackcountry | Industry NewsIndustry News
Before and after images of Glacier National Park, MT's glaciers disappearing.
Before and after images of Glacier National Park, MT’s glaciers disappearing.

Glacier National Park, MT’s glaciers are melting away.  There were once 150 glaciers in the park.  Now, there are only 25.

“This area is warming at 2 to 3 times the rate of the global average rise in air temperatures.” – Dan Fagre, a USGS research ecologist, who has been studying climate change in the park for more than 20 years

According to a recent study conducted by NASA, Glacier National Park could lose its glaciers by 2030 due to warmer summer temperatures and decreased snowfall that is projected in the future. Scientists came to the conclusion of 2030 based on a simple geospatial model that was run on software from the 1990s. The model showed the change is expected to occur to glaciers in the Blackfoot-Jackson basin, an area that is home to the largest concentration of glaciers in Glacier National Park. The research backing these claims began in the 1990’s, so it is very reliable.

“It was conjectured that if the largest glaciers disappeared by 2030, most of the smaller ones would probably disappear too,” said Daniel Fagre, a research ecologist for the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey.

In these two images, the blue marks permanent snow and ice that is associated with glaciers. As you can tell, glaciers in this area have significantly decreased over the past 30 years and its only getting worse.

GIF of Glacier National Park quickly losing it's glaciers since 1986. image: nasa
GIF of Glacier National Park quickly losing it’s glaciers since 1986. image: nasa

The retreat of these glaciers are very evident through this statistic, glacial coverage in the park has decreased from 8.3 square miles in 1850 to 2.9 square kilometers in 1979. As global and regional climate continues to warm, fires in the park will increase and attribute to the loss of the glaciers. These glaciers play a crucial role in the environment in the park, so lets hope something changes and they stick around longer than expected.

As we approach 2030, most of these glaciers will be “small insignificant lumps of ice on the landscape,” Fagre said. “These tiny remnants could last 10 to 15 years past that time if they are in sheltered places, but the park will no longer really have viable glaciers.”

Before and after in Glacier National Park, MT.
Before and after in Glacier National Park, MT.

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