Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Blue Glacier and Olympic Range Glaciers

The post I put up regarding glaciers on Mount Baker (mount-baker-glacial-ice-loss) got me thinking about glaciers in Washington State. Washington State has glaciers in the North Cascades, on all 5 of the strato volcanoes and in the Olympic Mountains.  I pulled up the most recent Glacier Mass Balance Bulletin as means to begin. Washington State is well represented with 18 glaciers listed as having long term measurement series. I began looking at them one by one and started with Blue Glacier. Blue Glacier is located on the northeast side of Mount Olympus in the Olympic Range and is the only Olympic Mountains glacier listed in the World Glacier Monitoring Report.

Blue Glacier marked with yellow pin
Blue Glacier is located on the northeast side of Mount Olympus, the highest peak in the Olympic Mountains at 7,965 feet.

There is no data provided for the Blue Glacier in the Global Mass Balance report. I did my own comparisons over the relatively short time line of Google Earth images.

1990 - Blue Glacier and note the Hoh Glacier on the far right

2013 - Blue Glacier and Hoh Glacier. Both terminuses have receded 

But a much better comparison of long term glacial change can be seen at the Olympic National Park interactive map with before and after pictures of numerous glaciers including the Blue Glacier (http://www.nps.gov/olym/naturescience/interactive-glacier-map.htm).

 While the recession of the Blue Glacier is notable, the Lillian and Anderson glaciers have nearly disappeared.

I don't have any substantive insights on these glaciers. I will only add for those not familiar with Washington climate is that the Olympic Mountains are very maritime influenced. The maritime influence tends to greatly moderate winter temperatures to the warmer side. But the same maritime climate brings huge precipitation relative to most of the rest of Washington and in the winter episodic very heavy snow fall takes place in the range. On the flip side, summers should be cooler due to the marine influence and thus spring and summer melt will be slower than other places. Which is more important to glacial ice balance is a good question. 

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