Human-induced global warming is real and the problem is likely worse than you think. I took this photo of north Whitechuck basin on my climb of Glacier Peak in August. Twenty years ago, the entire basin was filled with ice. Now, there is merely a remnant ice patch in the upper corner. Check out these aerial photographs courtesy of the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project (a fantastic, informative website). See the difference between 1988 and 2005.
The photo above is from 1988 and the photo below is from 2005. Huge retreat left new lakes.
For some more information on the death of the Whitechuck glacier see the awesome description here, part of the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project.
The rapid retreat of glaciers in North Cascades is alarming and tragic. With scorching summers a commonality now, the demise of many glaciers is accelerating. In the past, the summers were cooler and cloudier. Now, sky high freezing levels all summer and inconsistent winter snowpacks are wrecking havoc on the accumulation zones of many glaciers. When the accumulation zone turns to glacial ice by the end of the summer, that means no new ice is being added to the glacier. With no new ice, the glacier cannot maintain its size as ice in the terminus melts off. I see accumulation zones melting out more and more.
The difference in glaciers from one year to the next is apparent and it is very sad. The Whitechuck glacier is a harbinger for the future of North Cascade glaciers. They simply cannot survive in an increasingly warm environment. The cause of this is human-induced global warming. Whoever says it is not should visit the Whitechuck glacier. The signs are literally on the wall. In all previous warm spells in the history of the earth, there has never been this amount of carbon dioxide.
Pretty soon, it won’t just be the glaciers, but water supplies, wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. This isn’t something we can put on the back-burner for a decade or two. It’s happening right now! The effects of global warming are already manifesting themselves: the unprecedented 2005 hurricane season, record warmth year-in and year-out, bone dry northwest summers with gigantic forest wildfires, and disintegrating arctic ice caps. We are on the cusp of reaching a threshold where global warming will be out of control.
We need to do something to slow this trend. We need to curtail emissions of carbon dioxide by becoming more fuel efficient, using alternative fuel sources, and signing treaties like the Kyoto Protocol. This is a worldwide problem that takes worldwide solutions. Vote for politicians that care about global warming, write letters to your representatives, drive a more fuel efficient car; every little bit helps.
I hope in the future I won’t be climbing in the mountains and will say “wow, ten years ago there was a glacier here.” Glaciers are a part of the North Cascades, I can’t imagine the range without ice.