State-sized ice field could shrink if global warming continues Ice from Mendenhall Glacier spills alongside sediment and rocks, with Mendenhall Lake shown on the right in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
State-sized ice field could shrink if global warming continues
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A Rhode Island-size ice field in the mountains behind Alaska's capital could disappear by 2200 if climate-warming trends continue. The prediction is according to a University of Alaska Fairbanks study.
 
The study was published by the Journal of Glaciology. The study predicts 60 percent of the ice in the Juneau Ice Field could be gone by 2099.
 
The Juneau Ice Field is the source for a major Alaska tourist attraction, the Mendenhall Glacier. It was visited last year by 450,000 people at a U.S. Forest Service center. By 2099, the study authors said, the glacier's ice will be harder to find.
 
"By the end of this century, people will most likely not be able to see the Mendenhall Glacier anymore from the visitors' center," said Regine Hock, a UAF glaciologist. Hock is one of the authors of the study.
 
The Juneau Ice Field is one of the largest ice fields in the Western Hemisphere. It covers 1,500 square miles in the steep Coast Mountains, the range that lines Alaska's Panhandle and much of British Columbia.
 
The Mendenhall Glacier is a 13-mile river of ice. It terminates about 10 miles north of downtown Juneau.
 
The paper's lead author is Florian Ziemen of Hamburg, Germany. He worked on the study during a year of post-doctoral work at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
 
Modeling the melt of the ice field was challenging because of the lack of weather stations in the remote mountains. Lacking weather data, models make computations based on physical characteristics. Those include sunlight, clouds and their movement and precipitation, Ziemen said.
 
"It just grabs the physical system of the climate," he said.
 
The numbers are translated into grid points every 20 kilometers, which Ziemen had to adjust to account for Juneau's topography.
 
"The topography in the Juneau area is very steep," he said. "Just having one data point every 20 kilometers doesn't really resolve the mountain flanks and how the precipitation falls."
 
The researchers applied corrected climate data to a forecasting model. They combined it with a glacier model developed by UAF researchers that has been used to make predictions for the Greenland Ice Sheet.
 
If warming trends continue, more than 60 percent of the ice will be lost by 2099, the paper predicts. All climate models predicted increased warming of the planet, Hock said.
 
"Even the lowest emission scenarios that are realistic predict a warming, essentially, all over the world," she said. "It's only the question, how aggressive?"
 
Ziemen picked a middle-of-the-road forecast, Hock said.
 
The high altitude of the Juneau Ice Field would make it less vulnerable to melting. If current climate continued, the ice field would shrink by 14 percent, Hock said.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why was a “middle-of-the-road” forecast chosen?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (49)
  • rachaels-ver
    4/06/2016 - 09:19 a.m.

    This is cool because now we know for sure that melting and the varying weather is causing harmful changes. As some people try to stop it others could care less and continue as they are.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    4/06/2016 - 01:00 p.m.

    It doesn't make sense to me ho people maintain that Global Warming doesn't exist when there are issues like this that threaten our globe.

  • andrea-mcg
    4/06/2016 - 02:43 p.m.

    I think a "middle-of-the-road"forecast was chosen because it could show the ice melting

  • micahm1-col
    4/06/2016 - 03:01 p.m.

    its cool because people around there actually study those glaciers and places i wish I can see a glacier for myself.

    • hesham-lis
      4/21/2016 - 09:46 a.m.

      Stop stop stop please stop global warming think about the panguons (pretty sure spelled that wrong ) #stopglobalwarmingnow ??????????????????????????????

  • meaganj1-col
    4/06/2016 - 03:34 p.m.

    Boo. This is sad! I've been to the glacier and its super cool. #stopglobalwarming

  • sarahw-col
    4/06/2016 - 03:37 p.m.

    A middle-of-the-road forecast was chosen to show how much of the glacier would be gone be the year 2099, so you get the idea of how much would be gone by then.

  • kyleed-col
    4/06/2016 - 03:38 p.m.

    A "middle of the road" forecast chosen because it is a good guess on what the weather is going to be.

  • maggiem-col
    4/06/2016 - 03:38 p.m.

    A middle of the road forecast was chosen because in Alaska we have some unpredictable weather. One day it could be warm another it is freezing.

  • alicynb-col
    4/06/2016 - 03:39 p.m.

    Global warming is a big deal, I mean, especially up in the polars, because that's where it's affected the most. The climate needs these colder temperatures are needed for the plant life and current animal life, so warming up the Earth is a pretty big detail that we should do something about.

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