Western Rockies under Climate Change attack

275px-Moraine_lake Many of us have those geographical features that are, for all intents and purposes, our definition of home. For me personally, my ‘home’ is at the beach, and if I had the chance I’d be working down there in an instant. But it varies from person to person. My brother is more at home amongst hills and mountains than I’ve ever seen anyone, and my mum loves both mountains and ocean.

But unless I move to the center of Australia where Uluru sits, I live in a country that doesn’t necessarily have the bountiful plethora of geographical landmarks that some places do.

Take America, where I admit I would love to live. From the Grand Canyon to New England, the Rockies to California; it is a veritable geographical pleasure ground. And you ask most people who live there, or near similar landmarks worldwide, and these are the things that make home ‘home.’

All of this is just to bring your mind to the same place as mine and ask you, what would happen if those geographical features were at risk?

That is the question before those who call Montana and Colorado home, and look to Glacier National Park and the Rocky Mountains as reminders of where they live in the world.

According to Tim Barnett, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California and speaker at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, by 2040, climate change will have melted the glaciers of Glacier National Park and the spring snowpack in the Rocky Mountains.

“People talk about a tipping point, but we’ve been there and done that,” he said, at a gathering of more than 15,000 researchers in San Francisco. Gathered to discuss earthquakes, water resources and planetary science as a whole, the big topic was climate change.

Barnett, who studies snowpack in the high altitudes of the Western United States, estimates that the region’s snow accumulation has decreased an average of 20% between 1950 and 1999. Furthermore, and most depressingly, Barnett believes that only a quarter of this decrease can be reliably explained away by natural temperature variations. Computer modeling done on his research shows that the remaining three quarters are a “slam dunk” entirely attributed to human activity.

The issues at hand are not however simply those of disappearing picturesque beauty. Fifty percent of all fresh water consumed by humans comes from mountains. Subsequently, a drop in the snow from which such water comes is naturally alarming.

Daniel Fagre, an ecologist who works for the U.S. Geological Survey in Glacier National Park in Montana, believes that this is a worrying trend. In addition, he points to the lack of glaciers in National Glacier Park as another clue. Only 25 of 150 glaciers that once dotted Glacier National Park now remain, he said, adding that by 2030, or earlier according to more recent estimates, the park will be totally without ice floes.

“The glaciers of Glacier National Park will be gone in our lifetimes,” Fagre said, noting that big horn sheep now graze across the park in locations where glaciers once stood.


Reuters via ENN – Climate change drying up Western Rockies

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