Warming temperatures have caused glaciers in Montana’s iconic Glacier National Park to shrink an average of 39 percent over the past 50 years, with some glaciers losing 82 percent of their mass since 1966, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
To be considered glaciers, ice masses must make up at least 25 acres, and USGS scientists say that warming has shrunk the park’s 39 major glaciers so much that only 26 can technically still be considered glaciers. Only 26 of 150 glaciers that existed in the late 19th century remain in the park.
“These glaciers are instrumental in maintaining cold water for certain aquatic organisms. The safety net will be gone for those organisms,” lead USGS scientist Daniel Fagre told InsideClimate News. “It’s an early warning signal of broader ecosystem change. Clearly, the park is not going to have these glaciers past a few more decades.”