Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Iconic glaciers dwindling as Glacier National Park reaches its 100th year

Nicholas K. Geranios in the Seattle Times: Age has not been kind to Glacier National Park. The gorgeous million-acre park in northwestern Montana celebrated its 100th birthday Tuesday. But many of its glaciers have melted, and scientists predict the rest may not last another decade. The forests are drier and disease-ridden, leading to bigger wildfires. Climate change is forcing animals that feed off plants to adapt.

Many experts consider Glacier Park a harbinger of Earth's future, a lab where changes in the environment will likely show up first. Average temperatures have risen in the park 1.8 times faster than the global average, said Dan Fagre, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist.

The change is visible to the naked eye, with the vast moraines left behind as the giant glaciers melt away. Climate change is blamed for the increasing size and frequency of wildfires, and lower stream flows in summer. What this all means for the bears, wolves and other big predators in the park is unclear, Fagre said.

A birthday ceremony Tuesday focused on the wonders of the nation's 10th national park. Several hundred tourists and employees listened in the crisp mountain air as speakers extolled its virtues as one of the world's most intact and diverse ecosystems.

Glacier remains perhaps the only place in the Lower forty-eight where all the big wild animals that Lewis and Clark saw in 1804 can still be seen, said Steve Running, a University of Montana professor and co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in 2007 for his work on climate change….

As it was -- the Grinnell Glacier in 1938, in Glacier National Park

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