Columbia Glacier Retreat | 1986 to 2014

The NASA Earth Observatory published a pair of images showing the dramatic comparison of the Columbia Glacier in Alaska between 1986 and 2014. Valdez and the Columbia Glacier are on the southern coast of Alaska, east of Anchorage. This Google Map view will give you a broad perspective. Zoom in to find them north of Prince William Sound. Here is a screen shot to help you locate them.

Google Earth

Google Earth

The Columbia Glacier was imaged as shown below in 1986 by the Landsat 5 satellite. The east and west branches merged at the medial moraine with the glacier continuing to flow to the south. It terminated near Heather Island. There it calved and broke off chunks into the water.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen

The glacier was again imaged July 2, 2014. This time Landsat 8 gathered the image. Click this link or the linked image above to see their comparison after 28 years. There is a View Image Comparison button on the linked page you might find useful.

Glacier retreat is a serious problem world-wide resulting from global warming caused by increased CO2 in the atmosphere. More examples of glacier retreat and information about glaciers in general can be found at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.


17 thoughts on “Columbia Glacier Retreat | 1986 to 2014

    • I didn’t do much other than provide an intro to the page from the Earth Observatory. If more people follow them, that is a good thing.


  1. I would have thought that the rate of glacial retreat would be rather predictable because the decline of albedo is measurable. Apparently it’s not so simple, and the effect seems to be accelerating. The new energy pact with China, while progress, will only slow global warming a little, not reversing it by a long shot. You and I won’t be around for the real impact, but the world is going to look a lot different 50 or 60 years from now. If they will listen to me, I’m going to tell my grandkids to pay attention and avoid living in low areas near the coasts. And buy green-energy stocks. 😉

    • I have some grandkids in MD. I think they are high enough. But, the coast line will be closer.

      Each glacier appears to have rather unique situations governing behavior. Some are actually growing in Scandinavia, not many. Most are in retreat. We were in Glacier NP and Banff a couple of years ago. Not many are left there.

      Thanks for stopping by, Jim.

  2. Thanks for this info. It is sad that even such information is being constantly omitted and lies are being spread in order to justify inactivity of our government.

    It only proves to me that the governments and states are no longer relevant actors – they are not doing what they should to protect our future. The problem of climate change affects all of us, but unequally. People in Jemen and in some parts of Eastern Africa will fall victims to the global warming in twenty or thirty years. And more will follow.

    Everything is just about the economy and the infinite growth. More consumption = better, which is a complete nonsense. We need a turn away from our market paradigm to reduce waste, pollution, and to improve education of people around the globe.

    • You have touched on some important points. Impact upon various peoples will be both positive and negative. With a high %-age of the world population living near sea level, this puts most people at risk. Conflict and fighting will spread.

      Climate change is subtle and generally invisible to us. It isn’t like an approaching hurricane or floodwaters. It takes more time to show impacts. People go on with their day to day stuff. It is like not paying attention to house or car maintenance. Those little changes and needed repairs someday create a monster of a problem to us. The fixes are too costly and difficult. Then what?

      Thanks for your comments.

  3. This is dramatic, Jim. I’m glad you posted it because I hear so many people denying that anything is happening.
    And speaking of weather (well, sort of) I understand you are suffering extreme cold right now. You have my sympathy…I’m sending you and Melanie warm thoughts!

    • Thank you. It was 12˚ the last two mornings. Light snow is due tonight followed by a cold blast again. It will pass eventually.

      We are coming to Chicago on the MegaBus Tuesday for a short vacation. A friend will meet us for the first night stay. Then we stay in the loop for two more coming home Friday. It will be a whirlwind tour. I hope the temps moderate a little by then.

      • Oh, my that is cold. I think you will find it a bit warmer here, unless the forecast changes. I hope you have a wonderful time. Chicago at Christmas time is magical.

  4. I think it’s great that you forward information like this. There is too much denial of global warming that it really needs to be communicated in as may ways as possible.

    I for one had been confused as a very respected and highly informed friend of mine was a nay sayer. I went with his idea until years later when I watched An Inconvenient Truth. It was so well documented that my viewpoint changed instantly.

    As long as there will are special interests denying what is clearly obvious, there will be those who do not question…until they have reason to to so. Speak away…loudly and clearly.

    • Thank you for those words. I appreciate reading how your thinking was changed. Yes, there will always be those who deny what is most obvious to many others.

      I will continue to speak away. Feedback like this from you makes me know it is the right thing to do.

      Have a great weekend.

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