Striking new glacier retreat photographs created by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) visually illustrate the effects of climate change on Glacier National Park.
The glacier images reveal dramatic glacial decline over a century and are in line with predictions that all of the glaciers in Glacier National Park will disappear by 2030. In order to illustrate, document, and analyze this recession, USGS scientists paired historic glacier images with contemporary photographs of the same areas.
"The result has given global warming a face and made climate change a relevant issue to the public," said USGS ecologist Dan Fagre.
The repeat photography project images, which will be exhibited in Kalispell, Mont., beginning this week, have also garnered interest from the art community.
"While our original intent was to use the photography for science, through time we've found that these photographs do more than document, they inspire," said USGS researcher Lisa McKeon, who has spent numerous hours in the backcountry of Glacier National Park taking repeat photographs of the remaining glaciers.
The concept was inspired by the discovery of historical park images from as far back as 1861, when the first photographs were taken of the boundary markers between Canada and the U.S. This location became the world's first peace park-Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park-in 1932. Over time, numerous park images were taken for purposes ranging from promotion of tourism to scientific research of the area's glaciers.
The USGS, based out of the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center in West Glacier, Mont., began the repeat photography project in 1997. Scientists set out to replicate exact historical images to illustrate glacier recession over a century. Since the onset of the project, over 70 photographs of 19 different glaciers have been repeated in Glacier National Park. Thirteen of those glaciers have shown marked recession; however, all are shrinking. Some of the more intensely-studied glaciers have proved to be just 1/3 of their estimated size at the end of the last cold period in 1850. Additionally, only 25 of the 150 named glaciers present in 1850 remain today, and those that do are mere remnants of their previous size.
The USGS Repeat Photography Web site was developed to illustrate the park's dynamic glacier changes. Thirteen glacier pairs have been updated to reflect changes that have occurred between the early 20 th century and summer of 2008. The site also provides the option to download individual glacier photographs or image pairs. This is an excellent resource for all audiences interested in climate change who wish to use the images for educational or illustration purposes.
In January, the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell, Mont. will feature Losing a Legacy: a photographic story of disappearing glaciers. This exhibit will showcase the Repeat Photography Project and illustrate how the USGS has been blending the science of climate change research with the aesthetic of landscape photography from Glacier National Park.
From January 29 th - April 10 th , 2009, the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell, Mont. will feature Losing a Legacy: a photographic story of disappearing glaciers. This exhibit will showcase the Repeat Photography Project and illustrate how the USGS has been blending the science of climate change research with the aesthetic of landscape photography from Glacier National Park.
USGS provides science for a changing world. For more information, visit www.usgs.gov.
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