The North Cascades Conservation Council is concerned about global warming, especially as it relates to the North Cascades. Together with interested parties, we are working to understand impacts on glaciers, stream flow/hydrology, species mobility and adaptation and a holistic view of the challenges faced by the complex ecosystems of the area.
Perhaps the best area to witness and measure climate change is glaciers. Certainly, with more than 800 glaciers in the state of Washington, and more than 700 in the North Cascades (315 in North Cascades National Park) the data set is large, and most importantly, the ice is very visible.
Board member Tom Hammond volunteered for The National Park’s effort in glacier research the inaugural year (1993) of the project run by Jon Reidel, park geomorphologist for the National Park Service. Dr. Reidel’s efforts continue to this day, with disturbing facts and images.
More recently (2004 – present), Tom has been working closely with Dr. Mauri Pelto, director of the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. This is one the most comprehensive studies of slope and alpine glaciers in the world. Spanning 25 years Dr. Pelto and some 40 assistants have closely measured glaciers throughout the North Cascades–gathering mass balance, longitudinal profiles and other relevant facts annually. This is high resolution data, both in terms of spatial considerations, as well as time. The data are conclusive: the glaciers of the North Cascades are receding, many with a predictable outcome of complete melting. Indeed, some have already disappeared, including a huge lobe of the White Chuck Glacier, and the Lewis Glacier closely above Highway 20.
The implications for farmers and fish alike are sobering–the spectacular waterfalls and icefalls of the North Cascades provide for lives and livelihoods of literally everything across the northern tier of Washington state. The health of Puget Sound, the health of salmon populations, orca populations, large land carnivores, humans, all are intricately tied to the waters flowing off our North Cascades!
NCGCP Home page:
Photos of NCGCP, bonus photos of ground-truthing for conservation efforts, climbs, and explorations (no narrative/captions):
Slide show of North Cascades conservation efforts with narrative.
North Cascades National Park described part of the NCGCP 2009 survey: