Investigating Glacier National Park's disappearing ice - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Investigating Glacier National Park's disappearing ice

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Water and bear spray in hand, we approached the Grinnell Glacier trail head at 7:30 AM.  Ready for a long hike to the Grinnell Glacier to study the effects of climate change.  Eleven miles round trip with US Geological Survey specialists Dan Fagre and Lisa McKeon.  Fagre and McKeon do this hike regularly to map the ever changing glacier.  

On the way up Fagre tells me Glacier National Park once had 150 glaciers, now the park only has 26 and those are rapidly disappearing.  

Fagre points to a vast mountain and basin and tells me years ago the entire basin would have been completely filled by the Grinnell glacier.  Now only a sliver of it remains. 

Fagre tells me, “So had you been here in 1887 it would’ve filled this whole basin.”

Once we arrive at the glacier McKeon and Fagre get to work.  McKeon’s job is to take photos in the same spot on each return.  This way scientists can compare changes in the glacier over time.  Lining up prominent features in each picture to ensure the exact picture is taken each time.  McKeon shows me some pictures from years past.  The changes are significant. 

McKeon says, “Barren landscapes you know just like we’re sitting in here it’s just rock where it used to be hundreds of feet of ice.”

Fagre points out a thick black band of sediment hundreds of feet above our heads on the side of the mountain.  He tells us that’s where the top of the Grinnell glacier used to rest.  Fagre tells us the Grinnell glacier has only about 30 years left.  Soon, the glacier will be so melted it won’t even classify as a glacier.  Once the glaciers are gone the ecosystem will be one of the first things to be affected.  

Fagre says, “So, trout species will also be negatively affected by Glaciers disappearing and snow packs being less in the winter and melting earlier in the summer.

Without glaciers the park’s iconic blue lakes will no longer be blue.  Glaciers grind and deposit a sediment into the lakes called rock flower.  Without rock flower the lakes will become clear.  
Fagre explains “One consequence of the Glaciers disappearing is that the lakes downstream from them will actually change in color.” 

In a few months McKeon and Fagre will make the trip back to Grinnell to take these same pictures.  Crucial in our understanding of climate change. 
 

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