Glaciers in the Olympic Mountains Could Vanish by End of This Century

Blue Glacier on the north side of Mount Olympus in the Olympic Mountains (Source: Aaron Linville / Wikimedia)

Visitors to Washington’s Olympic mountains stand in awe of glaciers that have carved the landscape. But what tourists see today is different from 100 years ago.

Back then, Blue Glacier descended from Mount Olympus like an icy hand reaching out, over the rock. Now that hand has retreated up the mountain.

Nearby at what was once Lillian Glacier, only snow patches remain.

“It kind of reminds me of a birthday cake,” says Andrew Fountain of Portland State University. “You have this gorgeous birthday cake and then two days later, it’s just crumbs.”

Using glacier maps and historical photos, Fountain estimates that the glaciers of the Olympic mountains have shrunk by about 75% since 1900.

Early in the century, much of the melting could be attributed to natural causes. But Fountain says now carbon pollution is warming the climate, and that’s accelerating the glaciers’ retreat.

“From 1981 to 2015, they shrunk about 40%,” he says.

He says without climate action, their future looks grim. By the end of this century, he expects the glaciers of the Olympic mountains will be gone.

“Maybe a few ice patches left in little nooks and crannies, but as far as we can see they’ll vanish,” he says.

This story was originally published by Yale Climate Connections. Reporting credit: Deborah Jian Lee/ChavoBart Digital Media

Photo Friday: US Glaciers Seen from Space

The International Space Station may at first seem unrelated to Earth’s cryosphere—but it’s not. NASA astronauts flying in low-Earth orbit aboard the artificial satellite have captured images of America’s majestic national parks, including those shaped over thousands of years by the imperceptibly slow movements of glaciers.

While experiments on ISS often focus on robotics, the human immune system, and even methods for growing lettuce, the satellite’s cameras capture live video and still images as it orbits Earth at an altitude of 250 miles above the planet’s surface.

Take a look here at majestic views of the US National Park system captured by NASA astronaut Jeff Williams. His images depict glacier-rich landscapes such as Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Denali National Park, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, and Washington’s Olympic National Park, among many others.

A composite image of Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska captured from the International Space Station. (Source: NASA)
A composite image of Mt. McKinley, Denali National Park, Alaska captured from the International Space Station. (Source: NASA)
A composite image of Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming captured from the International Space Station. (Source: NASA)
A composite image captured from the International Space Station of Olympic National Park, with Seattle and Tacoma, Washington in the background. (Source: NASA)

Read More on GlacierHub:

Illustrating the Adventures of German Naturalist Alexander von Humboldt

The Dead of Mount Everest Are Seeing the Light of Day

Glaciers Get New Protections with Passage of Natural Resources Act