State-sized ice field could shrink if global warming continues
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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Why was a “middle-of-the-road” forecast chosen?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • masons1-pro
    4/20/2016 - 11:34 a.m.

    They are the forecast that keeps track of ice levels day by day and on how we can fix it.

  • bryceh-pro
    4/20/2016 - 11:45 a.m.

    i think its the middle of the road is the middle of the earth and the coldest part

  • bethanyk-
    4/22/2016 - 12:24 p.m.

    A middle of the road forecast was chosen because it is the most accurate for whatever path it does decide to take. It will be the most correct no matter how much the environment changes. It is useful because the weather and global warming can be very unpredictable.

  • nariahb-
    4/25/2016 - 01:56 p.m.

    The middle-of-the-road forecast was chosen because he didn't want to be way off. If the weather was extremely off it wouldn't be in the middle. In the middle-of-the-road means that the temperature doesn't need to be exactly 100% exact or 100% off. The middle-of-the-road means the average of the temperature.

  • austinh-
    4/25/2016 - 07:18 p.m.

    A "middle-of-the-road" forecast was chosen because of the lack of weather stations in the mountains. Also, because it would also be the most accurate. The data wouldn't be that far off and it would show off the glacier.

  • ryanb-
    4/27/2016 - 02:06 p.m.

    I hope we can stop climate change. If we can't beautiful works of nature will be gone just like these ice fields in Alaska. I hope we can stop now!

  • landonp-
    4/27/2016 - 02:06 p.m.

    It was picked for a couple of reasons. One reason was Juneau's ice field would make it less likely to melt. The ice field could shrink by 14 percent.

  • allenj-
    4/27/2016 - 02:29 p.m.

    I wish that the Earth is not warming up. We need to stop this. If we don't than the glacier will disappear.

  • colleens-
    4/27/2016 - 07:28 p.m.

    The "middle-of-the-road" forecast was chosen because he wanted the data to be almost the exact. If he said it was exactly one thing he could be wrong.

  • nathaenw-
    4/28/2016 - 04:54 p.m.

    “Why was a ‘middle-of-the-road’ forecast chosen?”
    Ziemen chose a middle-of-the-road forecast because there aren’t many weather stations in the rural parts of Alaska. The terrain was so hard to predict because, just as Ziemen said, “"Just having one data point every 20 kilometers doesn't really resolve the mountain flanks and how the precipitation falls." The middle-of-the-road represents how they basically compiled data by looking at each area and making an educated guess about it.

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