[I welcome your ideas for a new name for the park. The pictures below are Grinnell Glacier circa 1940, top, and 2004, bottom.]
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  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:
- “The recent [Arctic] sea-ice retreat is larger than in any of the (19) IPCC [climate] models” — and that was a Norwegian expert in 2005. The retreat has accelerated in the past two years.
- The ice sheets appear to be shrinking “100 years ahead of schedule.” That was Penn State climatologist Richard Alley in March 2006. In 2001, the IPCC thought that neither Greenland nor Antarctica would lose significant mass by 2100. They both already are.
- Sea-level rise from 1993 and 2006 — 3.3 millimetres per year as measured by satellites — was higher than the IPCC climate models predicted.
- The ocean carbon sink is saturating sooner than expected.
- The subtropics are expanding faster than the models project.