The Death of a National Park?
Glaciers move slowly, but global warming is ambling right along: all the glaciers in Glacier National Park could be gone as early as 2030. When President William Taft dedicated the park in 1910, 150 Glaciers graced the northern Montana mountainsides. Over the last century, rising temperatures have devastated the landscape. Today, just 37 glaciers remain, but they too are rapidly melting.
Montana’s Glacier National Park is one of America’s most majestic treasures. Each year, some 2,000,000 visitors visit the park, pumping millions of dollars into the state’s economy, but this national landmark—and its tourist dollars—will soon vanish forever. A recent New York Times Travel article warned, see the remaining glaciers “While Supplies Last.” (6/26/05)
Across the world, glaciers are difficult to reach and even harder to measure. Because Glacier National Park is protected and accessible, it’s a perfect study ground for experts eager to discover the secrets of climate change. Until recently, just 1,000 of the world’s 160,000 glaciers had been adequately examined, leaving huge holes in the Global Warming puzzle.
NASA is changing that. Scientists from 23 countries have teamed up with the space agency to form the Global Land Ice Measurement Project (GLIMS). Using a sophisticated satellite called ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer), they are carefully photographing and studying all of the world’s glaciers.
Early results from the research are disheartening: glaciers across the world are receding at alarming rates.
Glacial melting doesn’t simply wipe out beautiful tourist parks. The introduction of large volumes of melting ice can cause severe, seasonal local flooding. Globally, melting glaciers will dump enormous amounts of fresh water into the oceans. That will reduce the amount of salt in the sea water, and could well disrupt the ocean’s delicate ecosystem.
Glacier National Park should serve as a poignant reminder to us all; our climate is delicate.