Glaciers and Climate Project

Glaciology Projects Overview

Figure identifies some of the effects of glacier loss at different levels:  Local level effects include influencing water availability for plants and animals, water availability for recreational use, and runoff issues and hazards.  At regional levels effects of glacier loss include impacts on drinking water availability, recreation, fisheries and agricultural water availability, and consequential impacts on tourism and regional economics.  On a global scale, glacier loss will impact sea level rise, surface energy balance of Earth, and ocean circulation.

Nearly all Earth's alpine glaciers are losing ice, usually expressed as loss of mass. Rates of mass loss for North American glaciers are among the highest on Earth (Gardner 2013) and shrinking glaciers are often the most visible indicators of mountain ecosystems responding to climate change. Because shrinking glaciers impact downstream hydrological networks by changing the total discharge, flow regime, and chemistry of rivers and oceans, the USGS Glaciology Project's efforts to measure glacier change have national importance for understanding and adapting to pervasive ecosystem shifts driven by climate change. Within the program, a diverse suite of projects investigates glaciers from glacier-specific ice dynamics to regional effects of glacier-climate interactions. Building upon long-term records of mass balance and embracing new technologies, the Glaciology Project is focused on understanding how glaciers respond to changes in climate. This understanding will help humans best predict and prepare for the local, regional, and global impacts of the ongoing changes to glaciers.

Current Projects:

Benchmark Glacier Research

Columbia Glacier, Alaska

U.S. Glacier Inventory

Past Projects:

Black Rapids Glacier, Alaska

Hubbard Glacier, Alaska

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Page Last Modified: Friday, December 16, 2016