Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Glaciers then and now

Special Collections: Pairs of glaciers

You can click on the imges in the pairs to see the past and current images. Astounding.

I first visited a famed Canadian glacier in Banff in 1978. Even then it had receded from the visitors center, built decades earlier on the glacier's edge. When I returned in 1994 it was almost out of sight. The tourist site doesn't mention the meltdown, however:
This glacier can be easily observed from Canadian Highway 93 and specialized buses take tourists out onto the glacier from the Icefield Centre. Investigations of its terminal, recessional and lateral moraines have recorded the movement of the glacier over the past few centuries. The glacier has advanced and retreated several times during this period. Historical records, maps, and photographs dating back to 1897 show that over the last 125 years the glacier has retreated about .93 miles (1.5 km). In 1870, the glacier was about 1.5 times its present total volume and 2.5 times its area. Tree-ring studies indicate that around 1715 the glacier had advanced more than any time in at least the preceding 350 years. The 1715 advancement would have the glacier’s terminus spreading across Highway 93 and reaching the Icefield Centre. Figure 6 shows the relative location of the glacier in 1960 to Highway 93. The Centre is located on the other side of the highway.
In 300 years, at the current melting rate, it will be gone. Probably sooner.

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