When I walked down the trail to the bottom of Alaska’s Exit Glacier in 2007, my 3-year-old son wasn’t too heavy to ride on my shoulders.
Now a few inches taller than I, he was at my side yesterday as the same 20-minute walk led us to the clearing where we stopped to view the glacier 14 years ago.
But surprisingly, it was nowhere to be seen. “It must be just around the bend,” I thought.
Around the bend we walked – and there it was. WAY off in the distance. With the glacier as a backdrop, we took a picture to compare with the ones we took in 2007.
This week, National Geographic published The Big Thaw, a Daniel Glick article about his own shocking visit to other glaciers also melting at unprecedented rates. For example, when President Taft established Montana’s Glacier National Park in 1910, it was home to around 150 glaciers.
Today, it contains 30. If estimates are correct, by 2050 it will be Glacier-Free National Park.
According to the National Park Service, Alaska’s Exit Glacier reached its maximum expansion in 1815. Over the next 75 years, it receded an average of 3 feet a year. Over the next 75, the average increased to about 85 feet. Averages have continued to increase since then.
Daniel’s article shares details from his lengthy interviews with scientists and other experts about why the glaciers are receding.
It includes atmospheric scientist Pieter Tans’ graphs depicting greenhouse gases, which are “basically flat until the mid-1800s, then all three move upward in a trend that turns even more sharply upward after 1950.”
“This is what we did,” says Tans, pointing to the graph’s parallel spikes. “We have very significantly changed the atmospheric concentration of these gases. We know their radiative properties. It is inconceivable to me that the increase would not have a significant effect on climate.”
In the 130 years since Exit Glacier’s melt began to accelerate, our industrial and technological advances have grown exponentially. While truly grateful for modern conveniences, I’m also very aware of their environmental costs.
My greatest concern is that we do whatever’s necessary to provide a more sustainable future for our children. I’ve addressed this issue in multiple posts over the past couple of weeks.
And nothing I’ve learned during that time has changed my conclusion: The quickest way for us to slow global warming is to change our diet!