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Another climate impact coming faster than predicted: Glacier National Park to go glacier-free a decade early

By Joe Romm  

"Another climate impact coming faster than predicted: Glacier National Park to go glacier-free a decade early"

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[I welcome your ideas for a new name for the park. The pictures below are Grinnell Glacier circa 1940, top, and 2004, bottom.]

glacier-monument.jpg

National Geographic News reports the oft-repeated statistic that the glaciers at Montana’s Glacier National Park will disappear by the year 2030 is being revised:

But Daniel Fagre, a U.S. Geological Survey ecologist who works at Glacier, says the park’s namesakes will be gone about ten years ahead of schedule, endangering the region’s plants and animals.

The 2030 date, he said, was based on a 2003 USGS study, along with 1992 temperature predictions by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“Temperature rise in our area was twice as great as what we put into the [1992] model,” Fagre said. “What we’ve been saying now is 2020.”

Yet another climate impact occurring faster than the models had projected.

As noted in my November post Himalayan glaciers “decapitated,” glaciers all over the world are melting faster than previously expected, such as the Naimona’nyi Glacier in the Himalaya (Tibet):

If Naimona’nyi is characteristic of other glaciers in the region, alpine glacier meltwater surpluses are likely to shrink much faster than currently predicted with substantial consequences for approximately half a billion people.

Significantly, the UK’s Guardian reports, “China plans 59 reservoirs to collect meltwater from its shrinking glaciers.” The article warns, however, “It is unclear, however, how long the water can be stored without replenishment.”

For more on what is happening around the world, see “World’s Glaciers Shrink for 18th Year” and “AGU 2008: Two trillion tons of land ice lost since 2003.” For some amazing pictures, see “Photographing Climate Change.”

The Glacier National Park story notes:

The 2020 estimate is based on aerial surveys and photography Fagre and his team have been conducting at Glacier since the early 1980s. A more standardized measure of what’s happening to a glacier comes from arduous documentation of its mass, which requires–among other techniques–multiple core samples.

Fagre said the 2020 estimate could be slightly revised after his team conducts the mass measurements–hopefully this year–and their computer models are retooled with current temperatures.

Nonpolar ice is disappearing all over the globe, Fagre said. Major glaciers have entirely disappeared from the Andes, and the Himalaya have lost a third of their snow. (See video of Alpine glaciers melting.)

It is possible, of course, a few small pockets of ice could survive longer, depending on local topology, but I doubt anybody will be calling them glaciers in 2020.

Indeed Glacier National Park will need a new name very soon (see here). Al Gore has already suggested: “The Park Formerly Known as Glacier.” I have a few ideas of my own:

  • “It’s not ice to fool with Mother Nature,” National Park
  • “Glaciers? We don’t need no stinkin’ glaciers!” National Park
  • Glacier-free National Park
  • Global Warming [or Greenhouse] National Park
  • “Hey, if you like ice so much, bring a cooler” National Park
  • George W. Bush National Park

Your suggestions are welcome.

Other climate impacts happening faster than the models had projected:

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‹ The NYTs climate coverage in 1970s was a megaphone for science, not ‘global cooling alarmism

Apology to John Sopko ›

42 Responses to Another climate impact coming faster than predicted: Glacier National Park to go glacier-free a decade early

  1. Alan says:

    How about:
    Inhofe’s Hoax National Park
    or
    Glacier Memorial National Park

  2. Nancy says:

    How about inviting Kevin Costner to the renaming ceremony for “Waterworld National Park”

  3. Lewis says:

    Even National Geographic at provided link above can’t resist the urge to be balanced:

    But he’s cautious about predicting the demise of any glacier.

    In some situations, local topography can balance out climate change, he said.

    “Take the Colorado Front Range, for example,” he said.

    “There is no reason for glaciers to inhabit Rocky Mountain National Park, climatically speaking. If it were not for … the drifting snow from the high plateau into the cirque basins”—valleys hollowed out by past glacial erosion—”you would not have glaciers there. But they are holding on fine.”

    So an article about how Glacier National Park will cease to have glaciers sooner than expected ends saying that some glaciers are ‘fine.’

  4. paulm says:

    Lewis, unbelievable. They just haven’t grasped the desperate situation also.

    Are they almost as bad as Will?

  5. Brewster says:

    I’ve always liked “Big Muddy Puddle National Park”…

  6. paulm says:

    Count us lucky for the moment…think of the Spanish.

    Climate change lays waste to Spain’s glaciers
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/feb/23/spain-glaciers-climate-change
    Spain loses 90% of its glaciers thanks to global warming, threatening drought as rivers dry up

  7. john says:

    How about “Glacierless Park”

  8. Umlud says:

    “Park Earlier Known As Glacier National Park”: PEKA G-N-P.

  9. TedN5 says:

    One More Dead Canary National Park

  10. Lewis says:

    Human Hubris National Monument

  11. DavidONE says:

    ExxonMobil Memorial Park

  12. Lewis says:

    paulm Says:

    March 3rd, 2009 at 11:04 am
    Lewis, unbelievable. They just haven’t grasped the desperate situation also.

    Are they almost as bad as Will?

    I don’t think so. It isn’t an out and out lie or denial bunk. It just illustrates how deeply for journalists at any rate the idea of ‘balance’ overrides the concept of emprical scientific fact.

    The media seems quite incapable of reporting that 2+2=4 if they can’t find someone to say that in some cases 2+2= well something else. No matter how unlikely.

  13. DB says:

    “Spain loses 90% of its glaciers thanks to global warming”

    It is worthwhile noting that the peak in Iberian glaciers was in 1700, during the Little Ice Age. The glaciers have been disappearing for 300 years. This research

    http://news.mongabay.com/bioenergy/2008/09/pyrenees-glaciers-may-disappear-in-less.html

    indicates that between 1880 and 1980 the Iberian glaciers disappeared at a rate of at least 0.94 per year. Since 1980 the rate has slowed to 0.68 per year.

  14. mauri pelto says:

    I wish I could say this is sound science, but it is not. All of the glaciers in Glacier National Park have retreated significantly in the last 40 years, and a number have disappeared. This is a compelling story of glacier loss. However, about a third of the remaining glaciers, 10 of 30, have lost less than a quarter of their area since 1966 when the USGS first mapped these glaciers. At this rate they will last well past 2020 or 2030. The focus has been on the rapidly shrinking glacier by this team of non-glacier scientists and they are correct that the Sperry and Grinnell are rapdily declining and will not last for long. However, glaciers such as Jackson and Harrison have lost less than 15% of their area in the last 40 years and will survive well past 2020. This is not the best of science.

  15. Dean says:

    The bigger story is that much of the forest between the Cascades and the northern plains will be disappearing. It’s burning and it isn’t wet enough to grow back. So even though they aren’t going to really change the name, maybe Tundra National Park will be most apt.

  16. paulm says:

    DB the whole thing is complicated.

    Bear in mind , however, that Humans have been influencing the climate for a long time. Agriculture, tree felling, peat and coal burning etc. The current upswing in CO2 starts around 1750.

    Oh, just because the glaciers where retreating earlier does not now mean that AGW is not also having its impact on them too. Which it is.

  17. paulm says:

    Climate Crisis Park

  18. Brewster says:

    A more serious new name for Glacier NP:

    “Arrhenius” National Park

    The man should be honoured for his early work…

  19. mauri – not sound science? At what level? You seem to narrow discussion. What are your motives?

    Does that mean that mountain melt will provide all the needed water downstream? And do you expect that to be OK past 2030?

    You might want to call the Governor of California and tell him that your sound science says there is no water problem unfolding.

  20. John Hollenberg says:

    Richard,

    If you click on Mauri’s name, you will be taken to his web site, “North Cascase Glacier Climate Project”, of which he is the director. Based on this, and his posts over at Realclimate, I would say his motive is very simple–scientific accuracy. I believe he is saying that yes, the problem is quite real, but this isn’t a particularly good example.

  21. Sasparilla says:

    I vote for the Glacier-Free National Park, you still have a tie to the original name, so our future grandchildren can ask what a Glacier is when they see the name, but the irony that we’ve eliminated the Glaciers isn’t lost.

  22. hapa says:

    attendance will be down. reframe the purpose and sell the name to offset gate fees and your family might get to visit “peabody clean coal national glacier refuge.”

  23. Nancy says:

    hapa:

    Love it!

  24. Dano says:

    “Human Inaction National Park”

    Best,

    D

  25. EricG says:

    Umlud Says:

    March 3rd, 2009 at 11:36 am

    “Park Earlier Known As Glacier National Park”: PEKA G-N-P.

    Pretty close Umlud, but I prefer:

    “The National Park formerly known as Glacier”

  26. DB says:

    paulm wrote:
    “DB the whole thing is complicated. Bear in mind , however, that Humans have been influencing the climate for a long time. Agriculture, tree felling, peat and coal burning etc. The current upswing in CO2 starts around 1750. Oh, just because the glaciers where retreating earlier does not now mean that AGW is not also having its impact on them too. Which it is.”

    True, but the conclusion one derives from 300 years of glacier retreat is that even if we were a zero-emission civilization the Iberian glaciers would still be melting and be almost all gone.

    It is important (politically, scientifically and ethically) to attribute effects to the proper causes, particularly if one wants to change the effects.

  27. paulm says:

    “…but the conclusion one derives from 300 years of glacier retreat is that even if we were a zero-emission civilization the Iberian glaciers would still be melting and be almost all gone.”

    DB but you dont know that for sure, and you shouldn’t draw that conclusion.

    I think, from the current scientific consensus and data, the accelerated melt we see now is probably is due to AGW.

  28. “What, Me Worry? National Park”

  29. I’m wondering why in arguments with deniers the retreat of glaciers does not come up more often. Here is a tangible visible sign of a warming planet…yet we get caught up in discussions of sea ice levels (important) or the occasional cold winter in some area without reference to something that you can easily show comparative photographs of.

    Note on this thread that there are no denier comments…. They would look utterly foolish here.

    I rest my case.

  30. David B. Benson says:

    “Glacier National Sacrifice Area”

  31. IANVS says:

    Like the lady says on the Extenze commercials, “This could be fun!”

    Climate Denialist National Park

    Global Cooling National Park

    Inconvenient Truth National Park

    Plaintiff’s Exhibit No. 1850

  32. Call it Granite National Park. That’s what you’ll find there in abundance.

  33. IANVS says:

    Dirty Lie National Park

    Clean Coal National Park

    Coal-Fired National park

    Peabody-Massey Memorial Park

    OK, OK, I’ll stop.

  34. paulm says:

    I think it should just be … Car Park.

  35. mauri pelto says:

    John is exactly right with respect to my motives. Scientific accuracy is the best answer. This is not a study that is backed up with good field data. note the World Glacier Monitoring receives no data from these glaciers. That is because no detailed data has been reported out. Thus, some rather basic extrapolations have been made, that are not based on a sound knowledge of glaciers, long term data or a thorough look at all of the glaciers in the park. When we exaggerate, or look narrowly at the topic we can make statements that will prove to be wrong, and that is not helpful. The statement that the glaciers will be gone in 2020 in GNP will not come true. Take a look at the changes in area of some in Google Earth and you will see some have some legs. I have watched glacier disappear and have published as much on this as anyone in North America, but the data must speak for itself and hear the data is generally non-existent beyond Sperry and Grinnell Glacier.

  36. kyan says:

    China plans to build 59 reservoirs to collect meltwater from its shrinking glaciers:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/mar/02/china-glacier-reservoir-water

  37. jon eden says:

    Anthropocene Park

  38. Cecilia Bowerman says:

    It is soooooooo Sad! still will always have hope, we ca do the right thing for this planet!! is up to us!!

  39. KEN From SD says:

    I just visited Glacier last summer for the third time in about 30 years. In the late 70s the Flathead Valley was sparsely inhabited and Kalispell and Whitefish are were just tiny burgs, slow and easy. Now simply disgusting with cookie cutter development of businesses and housing. This of course means more vehicles, more exhaust, etc. I could see the noticeable deterioration of the glaciers when I compared my old pictures with the new. I have always considered humans a peculiar form of parasite on this planet with the appalling assumption that we are intelligent. I am embarrassed to belong sometimes. as to a name how about After Life as We Knew It Memorial Park. Not that there will be many interested or having the time for a leisure trip to visit the hinterlands as scratching out an meager agrarian existence will be the preoccupation. Namaste.

  40. MrPete says:

    I am curious — is there any data on thickness of these glaciers over the last 1-2000 years?

    In Europe, they’re discovering glaciers in the Alps were thinner than today less than a thousand years ago. And that treeline was further north than today.

    Do we have contrary evidence for the glaciers in Glacier National Park? If not, perhaps the loss of these glaciers is not so unusual or alarming.

  41. Mark says:

    How about Chemtrail National Park?

    Or Persistent Contrail National Park?

    Look up and notice the sky, We have been sprayed for close to 2 decades under a multitude of off budget or Black Budget programs for defense, weather modification, and/or…..now that people are starting to notice they came out with the term “Geo engineering” The stuff is full of Barium, Aluminum, and, …. you don’t want to know.

    Google Chemtrails before you discount my hypothesis! What the average person thinks are contrails is holding the heat IN exacerbating “Climate Change”. Contrails do not spread out and last for HOURS! It is the 800 lb. Gorilla in the room no one wants to mention…