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Alaskan Glaciers Began Retreating In 1770

March 9, 2014

By Paul Homewood


h/t agfosterjr


A study, by Larsen et al in 2005, looked into the uplift of Southeast Alaska due to retreating glaciers. It’s main finding was that the uplift began around 1770, therefore confirming that glacier retreat began well before any input from humans could have had any effect.




The paper makes one other interesting observation:


Our best-fit models indicate that the region has regained about one-half of its LIA subsidence


In other words, there had been a massive expansion of glaciers during the Little Ice Age, to cause such subsidence.



None of this should come as any great surprise, as many other studies, using various methods, have come to similar conclusions.

  1. John F. Hultquist permalink
    March 10, 2014 2:30 am

    I’ve not visited glaciers in that part of Alaska but have walked on the melting snout of the Athabasca Glacier, an outlet of the Columbia Icefield. This is one easily reached as seen in the photo here:

    [Neither of these are my photos but I have similar on old 35 mm slides.]

    Also, I have hiked to the ice face where the White River flows from under the ice of Emmons Glacier at Mt. Rainier.
    Terminus of Emmons glacier

    Note the rocky cover over the ice. Some people have walked into the “cave” here but when I was there chunks of ice the size of a small car were falling from the ceiling just inside the opening. The hike to the ice face is only a couple of hours for one in reasonably good condition.

    Either of these visits are well worth the time – the first is a drive-to activity while the second is a nice day hike. Anyone interested in the environment and visiting western North America should consider these places. Interpretative materials are plentiful for these two. Other glaciers I’ve seen are either from a distance or require hard hikes.

    The advances and “retreats” of these glaciers are documented on the web and in peer reviewed papers.

  2. Brian H permalink
    March 10, 2014 5:39 am

    Even hard-rock geology is “anti-science”. Who knew?

  3. March 10, 2014 2:35 pm

    Thanks, Paul. Good find.
    So, the Southeast Alaska uplift began around 1770.
    Good to confirm we humans did not cause that melting.

  4. March 10, 2014 7:44 pm

    John – Thanks for the reference to the Columbia Icefields and the Athabasca Glacier. I live 2 hours from there and have often hiked in the area. A couple interesting data points (to me anyways):
    1. Athabasca Glacier was discovered in 1896 by Carl Wilcox who was exploring north of Lake Louise headed up the valley toward what is now Jasper. But his path was blocked by an enormous glacier which then flowed all the way across the valley and rode partially up the mountain on the other side (now called Mt. Wilcox). The only way Wilcox could continue north was to climb around the snout of the glacier up on the mountain and around the peak where he discovered a high pass (now called Wilcox Pass) and then back down into the main valley. The point is that the glacier was too huge to allow passage thru the north-south valley. BUT by the 1930’s it had receded so much that the initial Icefields Parkway was built between Banff and Jasper.
    2. You can drive on a gravelled access road to close to the present glacier face and then walk the rest of the way. What has always interested me is that the access road has informative signs indicating where the snout of the glacier was in select years. Long before CO2 was invented as a climate-control substance the glacier had major subsidence.

  5. March 10, 2014 7:49 pm

    Correction – the explorer’s name was Walter Wilcox – not “Carl” – he’s another guy I know!

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