Disappearing Frontier: Alaska’s Glaciers Retreating at Record Pace

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Alaska will quickly shut a 12 months that’s shaping up as its hottest on document, with glaciers within the “Frontier State” melting at document or near-record ranges, pouring waters into rising international seas, scientists mentioned after taking fall measurements.

Lemon Creek Glacier in Juneau, the place information return to the 1940s, had its second consecutive 12 months of document mass loss, with three meters erased from the floor, U.S. Geological Survey glaciologist Louis Sass advised Reuters.

Melt went all the way in which as much as the summit, mentioned Sass, one of many consultants who journey to benchmark glaciers to take measurements within the fall.

“That’s a really bad sign for a glacier,” he mentioned, noting that high-altitude soften means there isn’t a accumulation of snow to compact into ice and assist offset lower-elevation losses.

At Wolverine Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, loss was the second highest in a document that goes again to the 1960s. Sass mentioned it didn’t match the document set in 2004 solely as a result of a lot of the glacier had already melted.

“The lower part’s completely gone now,” he mentioned.

FILE – U.S. President Barack Obama views Bear Glacier on a ship tour of Kenai Fjords National Park in Seward, Alaska, Sept. 1, 2015.

Drastic melting was additionally reported at Kenai Fjords National Park, which former President Barack Obama as soon as visited to name consideration to local weather change. There, Bear Glacier, a well-liked vacationer spot, retreated by practically a kilometer in simply 11 months, in accordance with August measurements by the National Park Service.

“It’s almost like you popped it and it started to deflate,” mentioned Nate Lewis, a Seward-based wilderness information who takes vacationers into the brand new lake that has fashioned at the foot of the shrinking glacier.

Even one of many few Alaska glaciers that had been advancing, Taku simply southeast of the town of Juneau, is now dropping ice at a quick clip.

Particularly ominous is the excessive altitude at which Taku is melting, mentioned Mauri Pelto, who heads the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. This 12 months, the summer time soften reached as excessive as 1,450 meters, 25 meters above the earlier high-altitude document set simply final 12 months, he mentioned.

Casting off chunks

Now that it’s retreating, Taku is predicted to begin eliminating massive ice chunks, rising Alaska’s already important contribution to rising sea ranges, in accordance with a research co-authored by Sass and Shad O’Neel, a glaciologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. The research is scheduled to be introduced at the annual convention of the American Geologic Union subsequent week in San Francisco.

Chugach National Forest ranger Megan Parsley holds photos showing this summer's ice loss at the face of Portage Glacier, Alaska…FILE – Chugach National Forest ranger Megan Parsley holds images displaying this summer time’s ice loss at the face of Portage Glacier, Alaska, Aug. 17, 2019.

Alaska recorded its warmest month ever in July and the development has continued.

“Alaska is on pace to break their record for warmest year unless December is dramatically cooler than forecasted,” Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center, mentioned in a Dec. 1 tweet.

Alaska’s glaciers account for a lot lower than 1 % of the world’s land ice. But their soften contributes roughly 7 % of the water that’s elevating the world’s sea ranges, in accordance a 2018 research revealed within the journal Geophysical Research Letters and co-authored by O’Neel.

There are additionally native impacts. Scientists say glacial soften impacts salmon-spawning streams and harms marine fish and animal habitats. It is creating new lakes within the voids the place ice was, and outburst floods from these lakes are taking place extra often, scientists say.

Changes within the glaciers and the ecosystems they feed has been so quick that they’re exhausting to trace, mentioned O’Neel at USGS, who measured the soften at Wolverine Glacier in September.

“Everything’s been pretty haywire lately.”
 

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