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 who 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 that terminates about 10 miles north of downtown Juneau.
 
The paper's lead author is Florian Ziemen of Hamburg, Germany, who 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 (24)
  • jessican-col
    4/06/2016 - 03:40 p.m.

    A middle-of-the-road forecast was chosen because he didn't want the data to be too far off, so if an extreme forecast was chosen and it wasn't that extreme, it would only be mid-way off, and vice versa.

  • shaelyng-ver
    4/07/2016 - 08:41 a.m.

    I think this article shows just what outcomes there are of global warming, and that it's serious and happening fast.

  • averyd-ver
    4/07/2016 - 10:15 a.m.

    A middle of the road forecast was chosen because he wanted the data to be accurate.

  • victoriak-ver
    4/11/2016 - 02:37 p.m.

    This is very tragic because I have always wanted to visit that glacier! Hopefully the climate will improve and not melt!

  • josiec-1-bar
    4/11/2016 - 08:10 p.m.

    A "middle-of-the-road" forecast was chosen because the reporters want to show the beautiful glaciers and the best view was from the middle of the road and it also shows that if there is a place to stand next to a glacier then that means that the glacier is getting smaller and melting because of the bigger spaces that are not being taken up by the ice. "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." This is an example of ice melting quickly and that there will be on 40% of ice left for generations to come. My opinion is that I think it is very sad that global-warming is affecting the earth so badly and that the future generations will not be able to see the beautiful and healthy earth that we and past generations have seen before.

  • ryanh-ver
    4/14/2016 - 01:11 p.m.

    Is this happening to more glaciers right now around that area and how bad could it affect life near there in the future?

  • avab-4-bar
    4/14/2016 - 08:54 p.m.

    A "Middle-of-the-road" forecast was chosen because the reporters want to show off the amazing glaciers, and the best view to do so was in the middle of the road because there was a place to stand.

    I found this article interesting because I have had a concern with the global warming issue that we have started to become aware of more these days.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    4/14/2016 - 09:00 p.m.

    I think that it would be bad if the ice started to melt so fast. If a lot of areas of ice melted, then all the cities under sea level would drown. An ice field in the mountains behind Alaska's capital the size of a small state could melt. Researchers are trying to find out a lot of information about this and are gathering many data.
    I think that a "middle-of-the-road" forecast was chosen so that the researchers could gather a lot of information.

  • caitlynk-2-bar
    4/17/2016 - 05:34 p.m.

    A "middle-of-the-road" forecast was chosen because the glacier is at a place with a high altitude, which will make it less likely to melt, but if the current climate continues then the glacier will melt faster. They call it a "middle-of-the-road" forecast because there are two different things working against the glacier melting and staying frozen. This article was interesting because I saw that glacier not to long ago and it will be sad to see it go. This article surprised me because it is surprising to know that a Rhode Island sized glacier could melt as early as 2200.

  • maya11-hin
    4/19/2016 - 10:53 a.m.

    I like this article because it gives me information on the global warming. One fact is that it says the heat could in later Years melt the snow from off of the mountain. This could impact me because i live on the East Coast it can also impact people that live along the Coast line.

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