The massive ‘River of Ice’ was raw and rugged and breathtakingly beautiful.
Would you believe it takes 100 feet of snowfall to create one foot of glacial ice; small change during the Little Ice Age that gets most of the credit for the planet's icy tundra. The Juneau Icefield (one of the largest icefields in the Western Hemisphere) sits 13 miles up the valley that is home to Mendenhall Glacier, feeding Mendenhall and dozens more glaciers like it relentlessly sculpting this vast wilderness belonging to Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
Since the end of the Little Ice Age Mendenhall Glacier has retreated 2.5 miles with the first half mile of that retreat occurring between 1500 and 1958, the following two miles since 1958 (170 feet per year since 2005), at least according to the Juneau Icefield Research Program which began monitoring Mendenhall Glacier in 1942.
At today’s rate, Mendenhall Glacier will retreat another 2 miles in 62 years (yes, I’m a math geek!); which is pretty much the results of a recent University of Alaska Fairbanks study published by the Journal of Glaciology.
“By the end of this century, people will likely not be able to see the Mendenhall Glacier anymore from the visitor’s center.”
So predicted Regine Hock, a UAF glaciologist and one of several contributing authors who were part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks study; Hock suggested 60 percent of the ice in the Juneau Icefield feeding Mendenhall Glacier will be gone by 2099.
My philosophy? If you’re gonna show up, you may as well go the distance. The planet, humanity, and each new day deserve nothing less.
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