Photo Friday: Taku Glacier Is Finally Receding

The Wikipedia page for Taku Glacier needs updating.

Taku Glacier, the deepest and thickest alpine temperate glacier in the world, is no longer the only major glacier advancing in the Juneau Icefield––it is finally receding. Taku, which measures 4,845 feet (1,477 m) and 36 miles (58 km) long, was long heralded as a symbolic holdout to the melt that has most glaciers in retreat.

Taku Glacier on August 20, 2014 (Source: NASA)
Effects of Taku Glacier mass loss is visible at the boundaries between the glacier and river. Image taken on August 9, 2019 (Source: NASA)

Mauri Pelto is a professor of environmental science at Nichols College and director of the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. “This is a big deal for me because I had this one glacier I could hold on to,” Pelto told NASA. “But not anymore. This makes the score climate change: 250 and alpine glaciers: 0.”

Pelto’s finding was published in the journal Remote Sensing on October 14. The following day GlacierHub published a post by Pelto, “A Two-Century-Long Advance Reversed by Climate Change.”

The determination that Taku has succumbed to the warming climate was made after completing annual end-of-summer snowline measurements. Surface melt is responsible for the glacier’s turnaround, according to Pelto. The Juneau Icefield Research Program has been watching and reporting Taku’s yearly mass balance to the World Glacier Monitoring Service since 1946.

The glacier had been expected to continue advancing through the rest of the century. “To be able to have the transition take place so fast indicates that climate is overriding the natural cycle of advance and retreat that the glacier would normally be going through,” Pelto said.

An entry at the bottom of Taku’s Wikipedia page reads “Taku Glacier was reported to be in retreat as of 2019.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Read More on GlacierHub:

A Two-Century-Long Advance Reversed by Climate Change

What the 2018 State of the Climate Report Says About Alpine Glaciers

Glaciers Account for More Sea Level Rise Than Previously Thought

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