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Mendenhall Glacier, Now and Then

by Gary Braasch Many of the 50,000 passengers passing through Reagan National airport in Washington DC daily will now see a different kind of advertisement in the concourse:  a new public education initiative has installed a photographic billboard of ongoing climate change today. This Is Climate Change, an educational project of the Del Mar Global...

by Gary Braasch

Many of the 50,000 passengers passing through Reagan National airport in Washington DC daily will now see a different kind of advertisement in the concourse:  a new public education initiative has installed a photographic billboard of ongoing climate change today.

This Is Climate Change, an educational project of the Del Mar Global Trust, put up the first of a series of large backlighted photographs on August 30, featuring my time series view of the shrinking Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska.  As part of my long-term climate documentation project World View of Global Warming, I rephotographed a 1894 image in 2008 to show the visible effect of global warming on the glacier near Juneau.

This pair of photographs shows how the famous Mendenhall Glacier has retreated since around the turn of the 20th C. The ice has thinned and melted back more than 2800 meters (more than 9000 feet) since it was measured in 1911. The archival photo from the National Snow and Ice Data Center/ NOAA archives was made in 1894 by William Ogilvie during a geologic survey.

Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau Alaska in 1894 , in a photograph made by William Ogilvie during a scientific survey of the region, and now part of the National Snow and Ice Data Center/NOAA archives. The foreground area shows spring snow in a wetland of the Mendenhall River, a gravelly moraine, and beyond, the huge ice cliffs of the glacier.

Over the past decade I have climbed and explored near glaciers in North America, The Alps and Andes to find the spots where old photographs were taken and carefully rephotograph the scene.  The  images together illustrate the data from current scientific observations of more than 100,000 glaciers around the world, measuring an ongoing trend of “global and rapid, if not accelerating, glacier shrinkage” which may lead to the deglaciation of large parts of many mountain ranges in the coming decades.  Loss of mountain glaciers, which threatens summer water supplies to communities and ecosystems worldwide, is a major effect of the atmospheric warming from man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

This is Climate Change was developed by the Del Mar Global Trust, a private charitable foundation with a focus on the environment, to publicize the real effects of climate change which have impacts on the environment and human lives around the world. The intent is to educate and increase awareness of climate change among the general public. In collaborating with the Trust, World View of Global Warming extends its work to inform Americans and people worldwide of the ongoing science of climate change and the effects of greenhouse gases which are being spewed into the air at record rates.

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau Alaska, seen in August 2008 with Mendenhall Lake. The glacier has retreated 2800 meters since 1910 and continues to retreat. The trimline on the mountainsides where the glacier used to be is evident, as is a large ridge which had been covered by the glacier. Photo was made by Gary Braasch as part of his World View of Global Warming documentation project.

Scientific observations and readings worldwide show that climate change is real, it is happening now, it is unusually rapid, and that the primary cause is the accumulation of man-made greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Despite the physical evidence that the earth’s climate is changing, many Americans remain skeptical of the reality of climate change, its severity, and even the science supporting it. A 2010 Pew Research Center poll found that only 59% of adults in the U.S. believe “there is solid evidence the earth is warming.”  A continuing poll by Yale/George Washington University showed that even though approximately 97% of publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and that it is caused primarily by human activities, most of the public does not realize this high level of scientific agreement.

This Is Climate Change counteracts misinformation disseminated by industry sponsored lobbyists and other special interests who deny not only the changes but the basic science.

 

About Gary Braasch

Gary Braasch is a world caliber environmental photojournalist who creates remarkable images and documentation about nature, environment, biodiversity and global warming.  He is a Founding Fellow of the International Leauge of Conservation Photographers (iLCP).

The views expressed in this guest blog post are those of the International League of Conservation Photographers and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Readers are welcome to exchange ideas or comments, but National Geographic reserves the right to edit or delete abusive or objectionable content.

 

The views expressed in this guest blog post are those of the International League of Conservation Photographers and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Readers are welcome to exchange ideas or comments, but National Geographic reserves the right to edit or delete abusive or objectionable content.

About National Geographic Society

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Meet the Author

International League of Conservation Photographers
The mission of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) is to further environmental and cultural conservation through photography. iLCP is a Fellowship of more than 100 photographers from all around the globe. As a project based organization, iLCP coordinates Conservation Photography Expeditions to get world-renowned photographers in the field teamed with scientists, writers, videographers and conservation groups to gather visual assets that are used to create conservation communications campaigns to foment conservation successes. iLCP is a 501 (c) (3) organization. Support our work at this link.