Hikers explore Glacier National Park in Montana, which is predicted to be nearly glacier-free by 2030. Matt McKnight/Reuters

The park could be almost glacier-free by 2030.

Montana’s Glacier National Park might soon need a new name, as its titular rivers of ice are melting away like white chocolate in a smelting furnace.

Back in the mid-1800s, the Rocky Mountains enclave—which last year enjoyed more than 2 million visits—sheltered some 150 glaciers. That number had plummeted to 83 by the 1960s, and today has hit a dismal low of 25. Blame the increasingly balmy climate for the park’s balding peaks, which could be nearly glacier-free as soon as 2030.

The endangered ice is the subject of a NASA comparison of satellite images showing the rapid pace of change over the past 32 years. First, here’s the park’s central region in August 1984. Stable masses of snow and ice show up as blue in the false-color image:

NASA/USGS

Fast-forward to August 2015 and you’ll notice some of the smaller frozen masses have completely disappeared, while larger glaciers show signs of severe atrophy (the bruised-looking areas at bottom are wildfire scars):

A 2010 report from the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization found that for the first decade of this millennium, the park endured a heat increase twice that of the global average. “The effects of this warming threaten Glacier National Park’s resources,” the organization warned, “from glaciers and snow-capped mountains to wildlife and forests, as well as the Montana jobs and tourism revenue the park generates.” Here’s another historical comparison, provided in that report, giving a closer view of the vanishing ice—specifically, Grinnell Glacier in 1981…

(RMCO)

...and in 2009:

(RMCO)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a tiny house in Oregon
    Design

    How Amazon Could Transform the Tiny House Movement

    Could the e-commerce giant help turn small-home living from a niche fad into a national housing solution?

  2. The downtown St. Louis skyline.
    Perspective

    Downtown St. Louis Is Rising; Black St. Louis Is Being Razed

    Square co-founder Jack Dorsey is expanding the company’s presence in St. Louis and demolishing vacant buildings on the city’s north side.

  3. Environment

    What U.S. Cities Facing Climate Disaster Risks Are Least Prepared?

    New studies find cities most vulnerable to climate change disasters—heat waves, flooding, rising seas, drought—are the least prepared.

  4. Warren Logan
    Transportation

    A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

    Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.

  5. a photo of Housing Secretary Ben Carson in Baltimore in July.
    Equity

    How HUD Could Dismantle a Pillar of Civil Rights Law

    The Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to revise the “disparate impact” rule, which could fundamentally reshape federal fair housing enforcement.  

×