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Glacier National Park loses two more
Warmer temperatures have reduced the number of named glaciers in the northwestern Montana park to 25, said Dan Fagre said, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He warned many of the rest of the glaciers may be gone by the end of the decade.
"It's continual," Fagre said. "When we're measuring glacier margins, by the time we go home the glacier is already smaller than what we've measured."
The meltoff shows the climate is changing, but does not show exactly what is causing temperatures to go up, Fagre said.
The park's glaciers have been slowly melting away since about 1850, when the centuries-long Little Ice Age ended. They once numbered as many as 150, and 37 of those glaciers eventually were named.
A glacier needs to be 25 acres to qualify for the title. The two that no longer classify were named the Shepard Glacier and the Miche Wabun Glacier.
If a glacier shrinks any smaller, it does not always stop moving right away. A smaller mass of ice on a steep slope would still continue to grind its way through the Rocky Mountains.
Fagre led a team that updated a 2005 USGS review of glaciers in the park. Back then, 10 glaciers had been found to have disappeared in recent decades.
Local warming cited
The USGS work was mentioned in a report released Wednesday by two environmental groups, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Their report cited data from a weather station inside Glacier National Park that shows the average temperature for the last decade there was 2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the station's 1950-1979 average.
"That is exactly double the average global temperature increase of 1 degree F in the past decade, again compared to a 1950-1979 baseline," the groups stated.
Fagre's team estimates that in 1850 some 150 glaciers were in the boundaries of today's park. A 2003 study predicted that all remaining park glaciers would vanish by 2030, but the team now states that "their disappearance may occur even sooner, as many of the glaciers have recently retreated faster than their predicted rates."
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