53.3 F
Saturday, May 30, 2020

Major decrease in Water supplied from Northwest Glaciers

Water supplied from glaciers in the North Cascades declined 24 percent in the past 30 years, a potential loss of 800 billion gallons of water, according to research conducted by National Park Service geologists.

“In the case of Skagit County, that’s 100 years of water supply,” Dr. Jon L. Riedel said, a geologist at North Cascades National Park.

Riedel presented his work and research to about 40 people at Backcountry Essentials on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

Riedel and his team found out snow is melting at a higher rate than snow accumulation, resulting in water loss in rivers. Reducing pollution may help reduce snowmelt, but natural causes like sun spots are also leading to the decline, Riedel said.

“With the current trend of the melts, if there are no more glaciers, there is nothing storing our water in the summer time to provide us fresh water in rivers.”

Meg All

Riedel defines glaciers as perennial bodies of ice, snow and rock moving downslope. He explained glaciers are extremely sensitive to weather and climate, specifically temperature.

Riedel has been monitoring glaciers in the North Cascades since 1993. His studies focus on glacier volume and the balance between snow accumulation and snowmelt in the Pacific Northwest.

Glaciers provide vast amounts of cold, fresh water to rivers and lakes in late summer and fall, Riedel said. The North Cascades’ glaciers provide between six to 12 percent of water for the Skagit River.

“The glaciers are somewhat like a battery; they are a storage device for our fresh water,” sustainable community development student Katie Bunge said. “When our glaciers recede, we are more dependent on annual precipitation patterns and we don’t have that backup resource.”

Bunge is concerned a lack of glacier water storage will negatively impact the community’s economy and ecosystem, especially with population growth.

Attendee Meg All said glacier preservation is essential for enjoyable natural landscapes and the clean drinking water of future generations.

“With the current trend of the melts, if there are no more glaciers, there is nothing storing our water in the summer time to provide us fresh water in rivers,” All said. “There would be a lot more issues with drought.”

Climate change is impacting parts of the world more than others, Riedel said.

“This is going on a planetary scale. The fastest changes are occurring in the coldest parts of this planet,” Riedel said.

Riedel and his team gathered data by using a steam drill to melt holes into the warmest and coldest parts of glaciers. The team placed stakes inside the holes and took measurements in late spring, mid-summer and fall.  This fall they will take their final measurements.

Backcountry Essentials will have another presentation on Valentine’s Day about hiking on Mount Rainier. Their last presentation will be from North Cascades photographer John Scurlock.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Must Read

Behind the systems: WWU Newman Center forced resignation of student employee after learning of same-sex partner

Student says she was told to break up with her girlfriend or quit her job

Behind the systems: Former members frustrated over student’s resignation, double standards for dealing with sexual activity

Former members say rules regarding moral conduct were not applied equally This is...

Resident advisers hold open forum with university officials to discuss concerns

Written by: Bram Briskorn and Questen Inghram Over 300 people packed into Arntzen Hall, room 100 as if it were...

Latest News

Survey shows Whatcom County’s small businesses are struggling

Outside of The Shakedown in 2018. // Photo by Lili McMurtrey By...

Mental health and the COVID conundrum

People living with mood disorders may find it hard to get out of bed in the morning. Social distancing due to...

Mix drink to-go kits are the top buy at La Fiamma Wood Fire Pizza

A pizza and Moscow Mule mixing kit from La Fiamma Pizza, who are conducting carry-out services. Displayed on the deck of...

Western professors’ recommended reads

By Macy Adkinson For those seeking adventure in a time of uncertainty, recreational reading...

Bellingham mask sewing effort continues with Molly’s Sewing Machine Service

Sewing machine repairwoman and seamstress Molly Chambers in her downtown Bellingham studio. // Photo courtesy of Molly’s Sewing Machine Service

More Articles Like This