Glacier National Park

Page - December 10, 2009
In 1850, Glacier Park had 150 glaciers. In 1968, there were 38 glaciers. Today there are 26, and they are much smaller in size than in previous years. One of the most famous in the park, Grinnell Glacier, has been reduced by nearly 90 percent over the past century. At this rate, scientists predict all the park's glaciers could be gone by 2030.

Greenpeace image Glacier National Park

More climate impacts:

• Warmer temperatures mean less snow, and more rain, which causes earlier snowmelt and spring runoff. The National Park Service estimates that spring runoff in the Pacific Northwest now occurs two weeks earlier than in the past, and that will likely mean an increase in spring flooding. It also means less water later in the year when it is most needed, and the possible drying out of rivers, which would have far-reaching effects on the entire ecosystem.

• Climate change and retreating glaciers uniquely threaten endangered Canadian lynxes that prey on Snowshoe hares. This hare is major food source for the lynx and is at risk because of its white fur that camouflages it on snow during winter months. A longer warm season leaves it vulnerable to prey early in the winter and later in the spring when their fur is still white but snow is gone. Researchers have found more and more compromised hares in recent years every spring and fall. If hare populations decrease, so will populations of lynxes that prey on hares.

• Glacial runoff influences stream temperatures and flow, which can impact aquatic insects and fish, as well as the animals that feed on them. Of particular concern, warmer waters pose great risks for threatened bull trout, which only spawn in icy waters.

• Warmer weather will shrink alpine tundra as treelines move higher up the mountains. Scientists predict that treelines could climb 300ft for every degree of warming. Shrinking tundra would threaten many tundra animal species, such as ptarmigan and marmots, and possibly big horn sheep and mountain goats.

• The park's expansive meadows are also at risk. Meadows rely on a combination of heavy snow cover in the winter and a brief growing season in the summer, which make it difficult for tree seedlings to survive. Warmer temperatures would make conditions more tolerable to tree species, and would lead to forests squeezing out the meadows.