Photo Friday: Losing Ice and Ecosystems

A recent New York Times interactive article documents the changes of glaciers around Washington State and Alaska. The melting of these glaciers has a heavy impact on more than just sea level rise. It impacts salmon spawning, river and stream patterns, and nearby landscapes. Changes to glaciers also impact the nutrient balance and temperature of glacier-fed watersheds. These disruptions can shift a whole ecosystem.

Climate reporter Henry Fountain and photographer Max Whittaker ventured to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest to evaluate the impacts of melting glaciers on local ecosystems.

Glacial ecosystems have adapted to fit this cold water environment. As the temperature of the water rises, it becomes more difficult for smaller species to remain in their habitat and could potentially cause them to die out.

The impact on glacial melt on salmon, however, is more complex. Salmon are major income source in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Though temperature is also important to salmon migration and reproduction, there could be some temporary benefits for salmon in terms of glacial melt. The melt brings rocks and boulders that were not in the river bed before, providing excellent spawning sites. Because of this, some areas could actually see an increase in salmon populations.

Read more on GlacierHub:

Drying Peatlands in the Bolivian Andes Threaten Indigenous Pastoral Communities

Measuring the Rise and Fall of New Zealand’s Small and Medium Glaciers

Advances in Developing Peru’s National Policy for Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems

Mount Rainier: More Than Just A Holiday Destination

In preparation for the upcoming summer holiday, here are some pictures of Mount Rainier from Mount Rainier National Park in the state of Washington. The park has over 1 to 2 million visitors annually with 260 miles of maintained trails. Being the tallest volcano in the United States, Mount Rainier comprises at least 25 major glaciers and many unnamed snow or ice patches. The mountain provides headwaters to at least six major rivers.

Apart from being a great holiday destination for hikers, the glaciers are important indicators of climate change with extensive studies conducted by the USGS to track annual changes in glacier extent. Unfortunately, gradual loss of ice has been noted annually through satellite images and on the ground surveys.

 

View of Mount Rainer from Alta Vista (Source: US Trekking/Pinterest)
View of Mount Rainier from Alta Vista (Source: US Trekking/Pinterest).

 

Mount Rainer’s glacier covered peak even during the summer (Source: Kelly / Instagram)
Mount Rainier’s glacier covered peak even during the summer (Source: Kelly/Instagram).

 

Hiking through Mount Rainer National Park (Source: Scott Kranz/Instagram)
Hiking through Mount Rainier National Park (Source: Scott Kranz/Instagram).

 

Hiking the Emmons Glacier at Mount Rainer (Source: Timberline Mountain Guides/ Instagram)
Hiking the Emmons Glacier at Mount Rainier (Source: Timberline Mountain Guides/Instagram).

Photo Friday: Vanishing Glaciers by Project Pressure