More than a decade ago, officials erected signs in Montana’s Glacier National Park predicting that its glaciers would disappear by 2020. But the U.S. Geological Survey’s forecasts proved faulty, park spokeswoman Gina Kurzmen told CNN. Here in 2020, the glaciers still glisten throughout the park, and the signs are coming down.
New signs will reflect environmentalists’ revised prediction that the glaciers will vanish within several decades. According to Kurzmen, the signs will say, “When they will completely disappear depends on how and when we act.” One thing remains consistent she said, “The glaciers in the park are shrinking.”
Dan Fagre, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who blames shrinking glaciers on human activity, told CNN that the park’s glaciers would surely be gone before the end of the century.
But Roy Spencer, a research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and policy adviser to The Heartland Institute, said that although “it is true that many glaciers have receded with warming over the last century or more, the causes are not obvious, and it is risky to predict long-term changes in any given location like Glacier National Park.” Scientists have documented changes in glaciers since long before anyone could blame human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, he said. Receding glaciers are uncovering 1,000 to 2,000-year-old tree stumps in Alaska, proving “that large changes in glaciers can have natural explanations.” —J.B.