Glacier National Park

Hey National Parks fans! No, the government shutdown isn’t over yet, but this post should help you with your National-Park withdraw!

In September, I was fortunate enough to take the 2.5 hour trip with a couple of girls from my graduate program. We drove around Flathead Lake and entered the park in West Glacier and drove around the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

View of the road cut-out in the side of the mountain.
View of the road cut-out in the side of the mountain.

After an hour of switch backs along the mountains, we stopped and did a 12 mile hike to Gunsight Lake, which overlooked the Gunsight Glacier (and others along the trail). Here are a few photos from that hike: Of course, we have all heard that glaciers are disappearing from climate change, and you can see from my photos that the glaciers seem to be retreating into the mountains (and into thin air, as they are melting).



Of course, due to the shutdown, I couldn’t get to the statement by the National Parks Service (but perhaps this link will work in the future). However, the USGS does have information about why glaciers are retreating, and the reasons for melting:

  • “The retreat of these small alpine glaciers reflects changes in recent climate as glaciers respond to altered temperature and precipitation. It has been estimated that there were approximately 150 glaciers present in 1850, and most glaciers were still present in 1910 when the park was established. In 2010, we consider there to be only 25 glaciers larger than 25 acres remaining in GNP”
  • “While occasional big winters or frigid weeks may occur, the glaciers of GNP, like most worldwide, are melting as long term mean temperatures increase.  Glaciers are like a visual checking account of the status of the cold part of the ecosystem.  Analysis of weather data from western Montana shows an increase in summer temperatures and a reduction in the winter snowpack that forms and maintains the glaciers.”
  • “The loss of glaciers in GNP will have significant consequences for park ecosystems as well as impacting landscape aesthetics valued by park visitors.”
Photo of glaciers in GNP retreating: from 1914-2009

As these quotes explain, glaciers are melting because of rising global temperatures (global warming) and will continue to melt as the Earth warms. For a longer story about glaciers, read this story by Stephen Nash. Also, two environmental science students, who recently graduated from a masters program, guest blogged for National Geographic and explained their trip and their knowledge on the shrinkage of glaciers in GNP.

As a side note, these two girls,  Kirsten and Allie, traveled around the United States to various National Parks and blogged, tweeted, and posted to Facebook about their experience. I want to do that when I graduate from graduate school!)

While I am here in Montana, I hope to visit GNP a few more times, and I hope that everyone gets to visit it some day! It is one of my favorite National Parks, and I have been to several.

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