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Alpine glaciers have existed in North America for thousands of years. They represent important, frozen reservoirs for rivers – providing cool, plentiful water during hot, dry summers or during times of prolonged drought.
Glaciers are faithful indicators of climate change since they shrink and grow in response to changes in precipitation and temperature. The first comprehensive assessment of glacier mass loss for all regions in western North America (excluding Alaskan glaciers) suggests that ice masses throughout western North America are in significant decline: glaciers have been losing mass during the first two decades of the 21st century.
Findings - Changes - North - America - Glaciers
Their findings, entitled Heterogeneous changes in western North America glaciers linked to decadal variability in zonal wind strength, was been published today in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
The research team included scientists at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), the University of Washington, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ohio State University and the Université de Toulouse in France.
Research - Team - Archives - High-resolution - Satellite
The research team used archives of high-resolution satellite imagery to create over 15,000 digital elevation models covering glaciers from California to the Yukon. These elevation models were then used to estimate total glacier mass change over the period of study. Over the period 2000 – 2018, glaciers in western North America lost 117 Gigatonnes of water or about 120 cubic kilometers – enough water to submerge an area the size of Toronto by 10 meters each year. Compared to the first decade of the 21st Century, the rate of ice loss increased fourfold over the last 10 years.
UNBC's team involved in...
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