It was one of those wrong place, wrong time tragedies that seem unlikely to happen again. There are marking stakes alongside the river with the year the glacier was at that point. Glaciers, on the other hand, are disappearing in real time. The average temperature in the park has risen two degrees. There are bridges scattered around the country built to cross streams that have since moved entirely out from under them. The organization has added more warning signs and tries to remind people that glaciers can be dangerous, she says: “There are trails that go up to the toe of the glacier … but you know, people can’t resist scrambling up the sides. The glaciers In 2015, the last year with satellite imagery available, there were 26 named glaciers that met the size criteria of 0.1 km², nine fewer than in 1966. Copyright © 2020 CBS Interactive Inc.All rights reserved. "It's quite interesting to see it change that fast," she said. In that span, the measured volume of the glacier has receded from 1,221,782 square meters to 270,426 square meters meaning that the glacier has … Around the world, people are hurt on glaciers every year. The Retreat of Exit Glacier.pdf. A half-ton piece of the glacier calved off as the couple was snapping, killing Grabenauer and injuring her husband. (CBS News) Two million people visit Montana's Glacier National Park each year, and most go to see one of the park's namesake masses of ice. Last year alone, the Exit Glacier melted and retreated 57 metres toward the Harding ice field, which itself has lost 10 per ent of its mass since 1950, mainly due to climate change. The result is that places such as Exit Glacier are not only witnessing more tourists than ever crossing rocky, dangerous terrain; they’re also becoming better poised for those wrong place, wrong time misfortunes. He reached another post reading “1951” - a marker for the edge of Alaska’s Exit Glacier that year - and gazed up toward where the rock-rutted ice mass has since receded, a quarter-mile away. Exit Glacier, in Alaska's Kenai Fjords National Park. The managers now close the area at the base of the glacier each summer to protect people from falling ice, snow, and rocks. "It'll still be you know a terrific landscape to come and enjoy, but it will have been changed by climate change.". Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com. This boom in “glacier tourism” seems to be dually spurred, at least in part, by climate change: For one, people seem eager to glimpse the majestic monuments of ice before they melt away. Most summer days, Trevor Kreznar leads visitors up this path to give them the chance to walk across the glacier and climb down into the crevasses. There’s one glacial lake, the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, that an estimated 40 percent of the tourists in Iceland visit. Five percent of the state is still covered in ice: there are about 2,000 major glaciers. Some are mountaineers making attempts on dangerous climbs across glaciers, like a Slovakian man who slid deep into a crevasse on the Kahiltna Glacier while trying to descend Alaska’s Denali in 2017. Need to appreciate such wonderful glaciers seen in Alaska as each year continues, the glaciers are slowly fading away as weather continues to warm up. On a single day last July, two people were killed at separate glaciers in south-central Alaska: A 32-year-old woman was crushed by a collapsing ice ceiling on Byron Glacier, and a 5-year-old boy was hit by a rock falling from Worthington Glacier. "It's spectacular," Obama said, casting a glance over his shoulder and pausing, as the cameras clicked. Since 1966, 11 of them have completely melted away. Photographed May 17 in Kenai Fjords National Park. Emily … The majority of sediment eroded by the glacier … That trend is not unique to North America. In just a few decades, many of the park's glaciers have shrunk dramatically. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone. That's huge.". Jonathan Ernst / Reuters In the summer of 1987, a woman visiting Alaska was crushed by a 1,000-pound chunk of ice. We want to hear what you think about this article. At the end of the Little Ice Age around 1850, there were about 80 glaciers in what would eventually become Glacier National Park. On warm days, tourists can watch rivulets of water run off the surfaces of the ice, draining away into streams. Yet the twilight of Montana's glaciers is not just about the changing scenery. A marker shows how far Exit Glacier has receded since 2005. Deaths like these remain rare, but they’re also telling cases of a broader trend. In 2009, for instance, two brothers crossed a safety barrier on New Zealand’s Fox Glacier and were buried under a collapsing ice shelf. As you drive into the park, you will be both amazed and saddened to see just how far the glacier has receded in the last 100 years. (CBS News) Two million people visit Montana's Glacier National Park each year, and most go to see one of the park's namesake masses of ice. Over tens of thousands of years massive sheets of ice slowly slid and chewed away at the rock carving out these valleys. But many visitors are still focused on the ice, Welling says. Ben Tracy is a CBS News White House correspondent based in Washington, D.C. Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the our 24/7 digital news network. The signs were sobering: Exit Glacier has receded … Wooden signposts lined the trail, each of them marked with white numbers indicating where the glacier’s edge used to be in a given year. Sad how much the glacier has receded in … pace, and on Tuesday saw a glacier that might be moving a bit faster than some pieces of legislation. Exit Glacier imaged by a RapidEye satellite on September 10, 2010. And the rate of recession has accelerated dramatically in recent years as the region faces warmer summers. Between 1981 and 2009, it started to quickly shrink. It is beyond astonishing. Kreznar, Hunt, and Welling all said one reason many tourists gave for wanting to see glaciers is because of the feeling that it was their last chance to do so. In 1938, it covered nearly an entire valley. In Iceland, where tourism has skyrocketed in the past decade, glaciers and ice caves have become key attractions. But in the three decades since Grabenauer’s death, it has happened again—in Alaska and around the rest of the world. Boats are increasingly used to cross the widening lake at the glacier’s foot. Exit Glacier is the sole glacier accessible by road in the park. Every year, the Kenai Fjords National Park officers get complaints about tourists not being able to get close enough to Exit Glacier. Exit Glacier is a nice hike through the woods. The glacier has retreated more than 0.3 kilometers (0.19 miles) since 1919, retreating at an average rate of about 4.0 meters (13 feet) per year. Climate change is a slow creep: Often the shifts happen too gradually for people to see them in action. Both areas support glacier ice from mountain glaciers, valley glaciers and even smaller icecaps, which are usually located in higher mountainous regions. Since then, Exit’s rate of retreat has sped up alarmingly, and the glacier is now retreating both in winter and summer. "I just find that a glacier sounds pretty permanent, and all of a sudden it's like, 'no way it can't change that quickly,' and yet it is.". From 1815 to 1999, Exit receded an average of 43 feet per year. Last year, 2.9 million visitors came to the park. Glacier National Park has 37 named glaciers and they are one of the reasons people come to Glacier each year. Located three hours from Anchorage near Seward, the Kenai Fjords National Park is famous for its tidewater glaciers that calve into the water and its pristine beauty. Extensive tourism and national-park systems are still relatively new for the country, he notes. There were once 150 glaciers in the park. The glacier was retreating much faster before 1918 than it has … Fairly easy walk with a path the first part of the way. Kreznar works for Exit Glacier Guides, a guiding business that has operated for 14 seasons, over which it has more than doubled its number of guides due to increased demand. It was the year of Impeachment, Lewinsky and The Big Lebowski. The entrance to Exit Glacier, for instance, has signs along the road and the trail that have years on them to show how much the glacier has receded in roughly 100 years. To date, there haven’t been many incidents of injury on Iceland’s glaciers, says Hans Welling, a researcher with the University of Iceland who has written about glacier tourism. Lot of silt seen flowing in the melted ice water below Exit Glacier. "This is a huge portion of our fresh water on this Earth," Holloway said. Lee Hunt, the executive director of the Valdez Adventure Alliance, which operates the park containing Worthington Glacier, says about 100,000 unique visitors make their way to the site every year. Glaciers in Iceland, like other places, recede at different rates each year depending on a variety of conditions. South of Anchorage, another popular glacier, Portage Glacier, is still referred to as a “roadside” glacier, though it’s receded too far to be seen from the road. As people flock to see the world’s receding frozen wonders, they’re also encountering freak accidents. Nevertheless, Exit Glacier Guides has never had an accident on the ice, he says. Holloway said people are coming to the glacier now because they know they have a short time to see the glaciers. The retreat began in the 1800s when Alaska was still Russian territory. Still, it’s likely that people visiting glaciers may not anticipate consequences quite as immediate as dislodged half-ton chunks of ice. Credit: Ron Karpilo/NPS CBSNews.com Every year, nearly 300,000 people come to Kenai Fjords National Park, which sprawls along the southern coast of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula and includes the vast majority of the Harding Icefield. “One side of it is people who are basically ignorant to it, and [the other side is] people knowingly taking risks.”, The 5-year-old boy who was hit by the rock from Worthington Glacier earlier this year was hiking with his family on a commonly used trail in a state recreation site. Every year, the Kenai Fjords National Park officers get complaints about tourists not being able to get close enough to Exit Glacier. 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