Most Alaskan glaciers retreating, thinning, and stagnating

October 6, 2008

Most glaciers in every mountain range and island group in Alaska are experiencing significant retreat, thinning or stagnation, especially glaciers at lower elevations, according to a new book published by the U.S. Geological Survey. In places, these changes began as early as the middle of the 18th century.

Although more than 99 percent of Alaska's large glaciers are retreating, a handful, surprisingly, are advancing.

The Glaciers of Alaska, authored by USGS research geologist Bruce Molnia, represents a comprehensive overview of the state of the glaciers of Alaska at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century. Richard Williams Jr., an emeritus senior research glaciologist with the USGS, said the 550-page volume will serve as a major reference work for glaciologists studying glaciers in Alaska in the years and decades to come.

The report uses a combination of satellite images, vertical aerial photographs (black-and-white and color-infrared photos taken from airplanes, looking straight down), oblique aerial photographs (color photos taken from the air at an angle, such as most regular photos), and maps, supported by the scientific literature, to document the distribution and behavior of glaciers throughout Alaska.

The author concludes that, because of the vast areas encompassed by the glacierized regions of Alaska, satellite remote sensing provides the only feasible means of monitoring changes in glacier area and in position of termini -- the end of a glacier -- in response to short- and long-term changes in the marine and continental climates of Alaska.

Alaskan glaciers are found in 11 mountain ranges, one large island, one island chain, and one archipelago. Details about the recent behavior of many of Alaska's glaciers are contained in this richly illustrated book, with multiple photographs and satellite images, as well as hundreds of aerial photographs by Molnia, taken during his more than four decades of work in Alaska.

Source: United States Geological Survey

Explore further: Robot spelunkers go for a dip

Related Stories

Robot spelunkers go for a dip

September 28, 2017

NASA has changed the perspective of science, building satellites to study Earth's surface. Deep below that surface, where it's harder for satellites to see, is another story—but robotic technology might change that.

Retreating glaciers spur Alaskan earthquakes

August 2, 2004

In a new study, NASA and United States Geological Survey (USGS) scientists found that retreating glaciers in southern Alaska may be opening the way for future earthquakes. The study examined the likelihood of increased earthquake ...

Then and now: How glaciers around the world are melting

April 3, 2017

Over the past decade, scientists and photographers keep returning to the world's glaciers, watching them shrink with each visit. Now they want others to see how a warming planet is melting masses of ice in a series of before-and-after ...

Glaciers on Svalbard behave differently

February 1, 2016

Many glaciers on Svalbard behave very differently from other glaciers worldwide. They advance massively for some years and then quickly retreat – and then remain quiescent for fifty to a hundred years – before they once ...

Recommended for you

The world needs to rethink the value of water

November 23, 2017

Research led by Oxford University highlights the accelerating pressure on measuring, monitoring and managing water locally and globally. A new four-part framework is proposed to value water for sustainable development to ...

'Lost' 99% of ocean microplastics to be identified with dye?

November 23, 2017

The smallest microplastics in our oceans – which go largely undetected and are potentially harmful – could be more effectively identified using an innovative and inexpensive new method, developed by researchers at the ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

GrayMouser
5 / 5 (2) Oct 14, 2008
What about when they were retreating a mile a year? Or when it hit 100 degrees F above the Arctic Circle?

"http://atoc.color...050/1050 ppt/Global warming quiz.ppt"

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.