North Cascades Glaciers: Mass Loss Continues

August 13, 2013

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Blanca Lake below the Monte Cristo peaks. The Columbia Glacier, seen nestled below the peaks, is about 1.5 kilometers long and .75km wide. [L-R: Columbia Peak, E Wilmans, Monte Cristo Pass, Monte Cristo Peak, Kyes Peak]

Tom Hammond of the North Cascades Conservation Council has hiked for many years with Dr. Mauri Pelto of the North Cascades Glacier Climate project. He just got back from a short stint with the team this year, and tells me weather this year was “sub optimal”, and the only glacier he was able to get on, Columbia, was ‘woefully thin on snow”.

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Thursday morning–we’re camped on the far side of the lake, and headed up to the Columbia Glacier. This would be the last time we saw the lake, as sodden clouds engulfed the area.

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The (new) terminus of the Columbia Glacier. 10 years ago I would have been standing on steep blue ice 30 feet thick. Now it is a lake.

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This new lake is about the area of a football field.

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Note ice-shelf on left. Nine years ago at this same location I was standing on steep blue ice 50 feet thick. The mass and volume the Columbia Glacier has lost in such a short time is stunning and troubling.

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Measurements using heavy steel probes provide the most accurate means by which to evaluate mass balance of glaciers. By accurately measuring snow depth, we can tell how much a glacier will gain or lose in a year. 30 years of annual measurements indicate glaciers of the North Cascades have lost 30% (yes, THIRTY PERCENT!) of their volume/mass in that time.

more pictures here

I went along with Dr. Pelto, Tom Hammond, and the team last year, and this is one of the videos that came out of  that trip.

More on Dr. Pelto and the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project here.

North Cascades Conservation Council website:

Board member Tom Hammond volunteered for The National Park’s effort in glacier research the inaugural year (1993) of the project run by Jon Reidel, park geomorphologist for the National Park Service. Dr. Reidel’s efforts continue to this day, with disturbing facts and images.

More recently (2004 – present), Tom has been working closely with Dr. Mauri Pelto, director of the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. This is one the most comprehensive studies of slope and alpine glaciers in the world. Spanning 25 years Dr. Pelto and some 40 assistants have closely measured glaciers throughout the North Cascades–gathering mass balance, longitudinal profiles and other relevant facts annually. This is high resolution data, both in terms of spatial considerations, as well as time. The data are conclusive: the glaciers of the North Cascades are receding, many with a predictable outcome of complete melting. Indeed, some have already disappeared, including a huge lobe of the White Chuck Glacier, and the Lewis Glacier closely above Highway 20

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3 Responses to “North Cascades Glaciers: Mass Loss Continues”


  1. […] 10 years ago I would have been standing on steep blue ice 30 feet thick. Now it is a lake. North Cascades Glaciers: Mass Loss Continues | Climate Denial Crock of the Week Sign in or Register Now to […]


  2. […] 2013/08/13: PSinclair: North Cascades Glaciers: Mass Loss Continues […]


  3. […] Glacier Climate Project has completed his 30th annual survey of glacier mass and conditions in the rugged region near the Canadian border in Northern Washington […]


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