2014-11-22. Climate Change Threatens to Strip the Identity of Glacier National Park.

posted Nov 25, 2014, 9:08 AM by Alan Gould
By Michael Wines, The New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mont. — What will they call this place once the glaciers are gone? A century ago, this sweep of mountains on the Canadian border boasted some 150 ice sheets, many of them scores of feet thick, plastered across summits and tucked into rocky fissures high above parabolic valleys. Today, perhaps 25 survive. In 30 years, there may be none. A warming climate is melting Glacier’s glaciers, an icy retreat that promises to change not just tourists’ vistas, but also the mountains and everything around them. Streams fed by snowmelt are reaching peak spring flows weeks earlier than in the past, and low summer flows weeks before they used to. ...Many of the mom-and-pop ski areas that once peppered these mountains have closed.  ...For wildlife, Dr. Fagre said, the implications are almost too great to count. Frigid alpine streams may dry up, and cold-water fish and insects may grow scarce. Snowfall may decline, and fewer avalanches may open up clearings for wildlife or push felled trees into streams, creating trout habitats. ...A hummingbird that depends on glacial lilies for nectar may arrive in spring to find that the lilies have already blossomed. Dennis Iverson runs a 140-head cow-and-calf operation on several thousand acres about 25 miles northeast of Missoula, Mont. Five hundred acres are hayfield, irrigated with water from the Blackfoot River about one and a half miles away. Twenty years ago, the water flowed through an open ditch, and from the time the irrigation pumps were started on May 20, “we were able to irrigate the whole ranch,” he said. “There was always enough water, even to do some irrigating in July and August.” Now, Mr. Iverson starts the pumps on May 10, because a hotter spring has already dried out his pasture. The open irrigation ditch has been converted into an 8,000-foot underground pipe to prevent evaporation. “If we hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t even be getting water to the ranch,” he said. “There’s that much less water in the stream than there was 20 years ago.”....  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/us/climate-change-threatens-to-strip-the-identity-of-glacier-national-park.html.


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