Letter: Glacier’s 168-year retreat
Carbondale reporter Scott Condon’s article in both the Aspen Times and the Glenwood Post Independent of Dec. 7 titled, “Stunning images tell climate change story,” shows two photos of Tibet’s famous Ronguk Glacier, one in 1921 and one in 2007. The receding of this glacier over those 86 years is dramatic, yet does not tell, to quote Paul Harvey, “the rest of the story!”
The New Zealand government began documenting the area of their San Josef Glacier in 1865, 153 years ago. The shrinkage they documented throughout the 85 years from 1865 to 1950 was equally dramatic, having occurred before the recent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Over millions of years, our earth has had four or five major ice ages, along with periods of minor ice ages that are spaced at roughly 10,000 to 12,000 years apart. The glacier covering Chicago 11,000 years ago was well over a mile high. This glacier melted at the blink of our earth’s eye. To give a clear and stark image of its size, imagine Carbondale, Colorado with a massive block of ice covering all of town. As this mass of ice approached the sky, it came just short of matching the 12,965 foot peak of its neighbor, Mt. Sopris.
The Colorado Geological Survey cataloged a dozen glaciers in the state that were formed 500 years ago during the tiny “Little Ice Age,” a period from 1300 to 1850. Colorado’s new and old glaciers, as well as New Zealand’s, began their retreat in 1850 due to the warming of our planet.
As a large expanse of snow or ice begins to shrink, the rate of melting accelerates, so yes, the retreat continues until the lead-up to the next Little Ice Age.
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