Search form

Donate Today

Play Video


Climate Change Definitely Shrinking Alpine Glaciers: Research

“Glaciers are very clear indicators of climate change, specifically climate warming.”

December 21, 2016

A Western Washington University professor is beginning to monitor the alpine meadows of Mount Rainier to determine the effects climate change is having on butterfly populations.

Climbers and hikers in the Pacific Northwest have seen first-hand how our glaciers have been shrinking in recent decades. But, until now, scientists couldn’t prove those changes were due to climate change.

Scientists have long known that, globally, glaciers are shrinking because of climate change. But looking at individual glaciers is a different matter, says Gerard Roe, a professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington.

“Because of their complications,” he explains, “glaciers might just be a bit messy on the landscape and have large fluctuations even if the climate wasn’t changing.”

Watch A video of the melting Easton Glacier

So Roe and his colleagues designed a technique to separate the long-term effects of climate change from the year-to-year influences of weather. It’s “kind of a unique way to look at how glaciers are responding to climate and deserves a lot of attention,” says Andrew Fountain, a glaciologist at Portland State University who was not involved in the study.

Roe’s team looked at 37 glaciers in different regions throughout the world, estimated their natural variability, and concluded that, for all of those glaciers, “their retreat is far, far, far larger than we would expect from natural fluctuations,” Roe says.

In other words, “glaciers are very clear indicators of climate change, specifically climate warming,” Fountain says.

So all of those side-by-side photos of glaciers? We can now say it’s certain the changes are caused by climate change.


A view from the edge of the Eliot Creek drainage, looking up toward the glacier.


Katie Campbell

There are 0 comments

Read Comments Hide Comments

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <xmp><em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd></xmp>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
As a public media organization, KCTS 9 is committed to presenting a diversity of voices and perspectives through the stories we produce. We invite our readers to participate in an active and respectful discourse through our comments feature. All comments are moderated before posting to our website; if we deem a comment to be inappropriate and/or threatening, it will not be published.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.