Icons of change: Glacier Park’s namesakes retreating rapidly

This story was published in the Flathead Beacon, Missoula Independentand Char-Koosta News.

In the center of Glacier National Park, Mount Gould’s rounded ridge cradles Grinnell Glacier. On a September afternoon, Dan Fagre walks over a smooth patch of bedrock toward the ancient slab of ice. Below it, newly splintered icebergs fill an opaque blue lake.

In Glacier National Park, U.S. Geological Survey researcher Dan Fagre treks toward the melting margin of iconic Grinnell Glacier.

In Glacier National Park, U.S. Geological Survey researcher Dan Fagre treks toward the melting margin of iconic Grinnell Glacier.

The U.S. Geological Survey research scientist, who studies the retreat of the park’s namesakes, stops at a small boulder and taps it with his trekking pole.

“You can tell that this was only recently uncovered by the retreating ice,” Fagre says, pointing out the dusty rock flour left behind by the slow grinding of the glacier. He’s likely the first person to ever touch the boulder.

Fagre moves forward, climbing up four-foot rock ledges like stairs, making his way to Grinnell Glacier’s melting margin. The glacier and its brethren are the park’s most iconic features. They’re also, Fagre says, “icons of change.”

“The fact that they’re disappearing suggests that even the nastiest weather pockets in Glacier are becoming more benign, they’re warming up,” he says. Continue reading

Audio: Glacier Park’s shrinking glaciers a visible barometer of climate change

This package aired on Montana Public Radio.

The melting of Glacier National Park’s namesakes stand out as a very tangible effect of global climate change. When the park was created, in 1910, there were 150 glaciers. Today, there are only 25, and scientists predict the 7,000-year-old slabs of ice will disappear entirely within a few decades. Reporter Allison Mills recently hiked to the retreating margin of one of the park’s most iconic glaciers, Grinnell, with U.S. Geological Survey researcher Dan Fagre and his crew.