Climate Connections: Questions from Glacier National Park, MT (Ep 4)

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Detailed Description

America has questions about climate change, and the USGS has real answers. In this episode of Climate Connections, USGS scientists answer questions gathered from the beautiful Glacier National Park in Montana. Questions include:


  • When I come back in ten years, what will I see in Glacier National Park?
  • How is climate change impacting the glaciers?
  • Does all the snow we received this winter help the glaciers?
  • How do receding glaciers and climate change affect the local economy in terms of recreation, agriculture, tourism?


Episode Number: 176

Date Taken:

Length: 00:05:43

Location Taken: MT, US



Jessica Robertson: Welcome to USGS Climate

Connections, where your questions

about climate change are answered by USGS


I’m your host, Jessica Robertson.

In this episode, we gathered questions from

the beautiful and scenic

Glacier National Park in Montana.

Let’s head into the park and see what questions

you have about climate change.

Question 1.

Barbara Tully: Hi, I’m Barbara Tully and

currently I’m from Trout Creek, Montana.

My question for you would be:

When did you first start measuring the melting

of the glaciers here

in the park and what is your projection within

the next ten years

as far as melt is concerned?

When I come back in ten years,

what will I see?

Thank you.

Dan Fagre: I’m Dan Fagre.

I’m a research ecologist at the

Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, U.S.

Geological Survey.

Basically we started measuring glaciers almost

as soon as I got here,

that is when this program was originally founded

in 1991.

So I think that in ten years, if you come

here you will find at least

remnants of glaciers.

I think many of our glaciers will have become

so small

that they are hardly worthy of being called

a glacier,

but there will still be glacial ice there.

Past that, it is hard to know because we don’t

know how quickly

climate change is going to continue to warm

the regional area.

Question 2.

Matt: Hi, I’m Matt from Cincinnati, and

I’m really curious how climate change

is impacting the glaciers here in Glacier

National Park.

Greg Pederson: Thanks Matt, that’s a great


I’m Greg Pederson with the U.S. Geological

Survey here in Bozeman,

and basically climate change impacts glaciers

by a number of means.

Our warm springs and summers both start the

onset of snow and ice melting earlier,

which lasts longer and has been intensified

throughout the summer season.

So they not only receive less snowpack because

of warming,

but it’s also increasingly melting the glaciers

in the summertime.

Question 3.

Terry Newcomb: My name is Terry Newcomb.

I’m from Seattle, Washington,

and my question is really how all the snow

this winter impacted the glaciers here.

Does it help the glaciers?

I know they may disappear, so does it help


Greg Pederson: Thanks Terry, that’s a great


Basically yes, individual years of high snowpack

can have a positive influence

on at least slowing the glacial decline in

Glacier National Park.

In fact, as far as last year’s high winter

snowpack goes, it actually did add

some positive mass or more snow and ice to

that glacier,

even though the long-term trends and the year

after year progression is that

more and more of that snowpack is melting

out and those glaciers are going

to continue to decline as we move into a warmer


Question 4.

Tara: Hi, my name is Tara and I live in Bozeman,


My question for USGS scientists is: How do

receding glaciers and

climate change affect the local economy in

terms of recreation,

agriculture, tourism?


Erich Peitzsch: Hi Tara, my name is Erich


and I’m a physical scientist with the USGS

in Glacier National Park.

Recent work has shown that we are seeing an

earlier spring melt out,

and this can translate to a shorter snow season

for things like skiing and snowboarding.

We’re also seeing, or we are likely to see,

the potential for midwinter

rain events or rain on snow events and this

also affects the issue of

timing in that we're going to potentially

see greater midwinter streamflow.

So in terms of agriculture, the issue of timing

is very important

because farmers need to consider the issue

of irrigation perhaps being

earlier in the spring or even late winter

as opposed to later in the spring.

And finally, with the changing climate, we’re

likely to see warmer stream

temperatures which can have an effect on various

fish species as well.

Jessica Robertson: Thank you, Erich.

I also want to add that for tourism,

we will have to wait and see how many people

continue to come to the park

as the glaciers recede to still see the beautiful

wildlife and scenic landscape.

That’s it for this episode of USGS Climate

Connections in Glacier National Park.

We hope you join us again next time.