Late nineteenth to early twenty-first century behavior of Alaskan glaciers as indicators of changing regional climate

Global and Planetary Change



Alaska's climate is changing and one of the most significant indications of this change has been the late 19th to early 21st century behavior of Alaskan glaciers. Weather station temperature data document that air temperatures throughout Alaska have been increasing for many decades. Since the mid-20th century, the average change is an increase of ?????2.0????C. In order to determine the magnitude and pattern of response of glaciers to this regional climate change, a comprehensive analysis was made of the recent behavior of hundreds of glaciers located in the eleven Alaskan mountain ranges and three island areas that currently support glaciers. Data analyzed included maps, historical observations, thousands of ground-and-aerial photographs and satellite images, and vegetation proxy data. Results were synthesized to determine changes in length and area of individual glaciers. Alaskan ground photography dates from 1883, aerial photography dates from 1926, and satellite photography and imagery dates from the early 1960s. Unfortunately, very few Alaskan glaciers have any mass balance observations. In most areas analyzed, every glacier that descends below an elevation of ?????1500??m is currently thinning and/or retreating. Many glaciers have an uninterrupted history of continuous post-Little-Ice-Age retreat that spans more than 250??years. Others are characterized by multiple late 19th to early 21st century fluctuations. Today, retreating and/or thinning glaciers represent more than 98% of the glaciers examined. However, in the Coast Mountains, St. Elias Mountains, Chugach Mountains, and the Aleutian Range more than a dozen glaciers are currently advancing and thickening. Many currently advancing glaciers are or were formerly tidewater glaciers. Some of these glaciers have been expanding for more than two centuries. This presentation documents the post-Little-Ice-Age behavior and variability of the response of many Alaskan glaciers to changing regional climate. ?? 2006.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Late nineteenth to early twenty-first century behavior of Alaskan glaciers as indicators of changing regional climate
Series title Global and Planetary Change
DOI 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2006.07.011
Volume 56
Issue 1-2
Year Published 2007
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Global and Planetary Change
First page 23
Last page 56