Skip to main content

Alaska’s small glaciers on the way out

Glaciers worldwide are withering. Half of them will disappear by the end of this century, and much of the ice lost will vanish from mountains in Alaska, scientists say.

Authors of a recent cover story in the journal Science used high-performance computers to predict the fate of 215,547 glaciers on Earth. They excluded the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.

Their conclusions: Goodbye to Bird, Crow, Daisy, Dogshead, Polychrome, Prospect, Red, Rex, Shakespeare and Spoon glaciers by the year 2100. If not earlier.

True, most of us won’t be here in 77 years either, but warmer air temperatures will probably erase those Alaska glaciers and a few dozen more — including an Anchorage water source named Eklutna Glacier — before then.

UAF Geophysical Institute scientists including David Rounce (now at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh) and Regine Hock are the lead authors on the study.

Using supercomputers at UAF, they forecast the future of the world’s glaciers under a few different warming scenarios, each of which humanity is currently speeding past.

“Even under the very optimistic scenario corresponding to the goal of the Paris agreement, about half of the glaciers are expected to be lost by the end of the century,” Hock said.

In their data-set, the scientists looked at glaciers all over the world, in regions they called Arctic Canada North, Central Asia, and Russian Arctic, among a dozen others. Alaska is one of the places with the most ice to lose. Alaska’s glaciers have already shrunk in elevation three feet each year during the past two decades.

Alaska glaciers are huge contributors to global ice loss because there are so many of them, and a lot of them are huge. Many Alaska glaciers are also at low elevations where gravity conveyor-belts their ice into the melting zone.

If the planet’s temperatures continue on this trajectory, favorite roadside glaciers will slip out of sight. This will likely play out in most Alaska glacier-towns, including Juneau, by the end of the century.

“Mendenhall Glacier may not disappear completely, but it will certainly retreat so much that it won´t be visible from the visitor center, even for the (most optimistic) scenario,” Hock said.

Aside from aesthetics, why does the disappearance of glacier ice matter? Hock said that all that fresh water now dumping into the Gulf of Alaska will affect ocean circulation and ecosystems.

Also, worldwide seas could rise half a foot from the loss of glacier ice by 2100.

Rounce compiled a list of more than 200 named Alaska glaciers that will be gone by the end of the century if the planet’s average yearly temperature rises 4 degrees C from what it was before the Industrial Revolution. That’s a lot of goodbyes.

David Rounce’s list of more than 200 named Alaska glaciers that will be gone by 2100 if Earth’s average yearly temperature is 4 degrees C warmer than pre-industrial levels by then:

Adams Glacier

Aho Glacier

Alexander Glacier

Anderson Glacier

Andrei Glacier

Andrews Glacier

Annin Glacier

Arey Glacier

Baby Glacier

Baker Glacier

Baldwin Glacier

Barnard Glacier

Bear Lake Glacier

Bench Glacier

Bettles Glacier

Bird Glacier

Boundary Glacier

Bravo Glacier

Brilliant Glacier

Burns Glacier

Cantwell Glacier

Canyon Glacier

Cap Glacier

Carl Glacier

Cascading Glacier

Casey Glacier

Chamberlain Glacier

Charpentier Glacier

Cheja West Glacier

Chigmit North Glacier

Chigmuit South Glacier

Chikuminuk Glacier

Clara Smith Glacier

Claremont Glacier

Clark Glacier

Clear Glacier

Coal Glacier

College Glacier

Concordia Glacier

Contact Glacier

Corbin Glacier

Crab Glacier

Crow Glacier

Cul-de-sac Glacier

Daisy Glacier

Dartmouth Glacier

Deadman Glacier

Detached Glacier

Dickinson Glacier

Dixon Glacier

Dogshead Glacier

Doroshin Glacier

Downer Glacier

Eagle Glacier

Eaglek Glacier

East Alapah Glacier

East Yakutat Glacier

Echo Glacier

Eklutna Glacier

Exit Glacier

Explorer Glacier

Falling Glacier

Ferguson Glacier

Fleischmann Glacier

Flute Glacier

Fourth Glacier

Girdled Glacier

Gooseneck Glacier

Gracey Creek Glacier

Gray Glacier

Greenpoint Glacier

Heiden Glacier

Henry Glacier

Hidden Glacier

Hogback Glacier

Holyoke Glacier

Hubley Glacier

Hummel Glacier

Hunter Creek Glacier

Icicle Glacier

Indian Glacier

Irene Glacier

Johnson Glacier

Johnson Glacier

Johnson Glacier

Kachemak Glacier

Kadachan Glacier

Kashoto Glacier

Killey Glacier

Kings Glacier

Koniag Glacier

Kulavok Glacier

Lafayette Glacier

Lare Glacier

Latouche Glacier

Le Blondeau Glacier

Leaking Glacier

Lechner Glacier

Leffingwell Glacier

Lemon Creek Glacier

Little Jarvis Glacier

Loomis Glacier

Lowell Glacier

Marshall Glacier

Martin Glacier

Maynard Glacier

McCall Glacier

McCallum Glacier

McCarthy Creek Glacier

McCarty Glacier

McCune Glacier

Metal Creek Glacier

Milk Glacier

Mineral Creek Glacier

Mint Glacier

Morse Glacier

Mother Goose Glacier

Muth Glacier

Neacola Glacier

Nelson Glacier

North Baird Glacier

Nugget Creek Glacier

Ogive Glacier

Okpilak Glacier

Organ Glacier

Patton Glacier

Pedro Glacier

Pegmatite Glacier

Penniman Glaciers

Polychrome Glacier

Popof Glacier

Porcupine Glacier

Prospect Glacier

Ptarmigan Glacier

Puget Glacier

Rainbow Glacier

Ranney Glacier

Rasmuson Glacier

Raven Glacier

Red Glacier

Rex Glacier

Riley Creek Glacier

Ripon Glacier

Roaring Glacier

Romer Glacier

Saksaia Glacier

Saussure Glacier

Schubee Glacier

Schwanda Glacier

Scidmore Glacier

Seefar Glacier

Seth Glacier

Shakespeare Glacier

Shephard Glacier

Shiels Glacier

Silver Glacier

Skee Glacier

Slope Glacier

South Glacier

Split Glacier

Split Glacier

Split Thumb Icefall

Spoon Glacier

Stony Glacier

Sumdum Glacier

Sunrise Glacier

Surprise Glacier

Talkeetna Glacier

Tasnuna Glacier

Texas Glacier

The Knife Creek Glaciers

Thiel Glacier

Through Glacier

Thumb Glacier

Tigertail Glacier

Tikke Glacier

Tired Pup Glacier

Tkope Glacier


Toboggan Glacier

Tok Glacier



Tommy Glacier

Tongue Glacier

Tonsina Glacier

Trail Glacier

Truuli Glacier

Tsina Glacier

Twentyseven Mile Glacier

Twin Glacier

Ultramarine Glacier

Villard Glacier

Warm Creek Glacier

Wedge Glacier

West Alapah Glacier

West Gulkana Glacier

West Yakutat Glacier

Westbrook Glacier

White Glacier

Whittier Glacier

Williams Glacier

Windy Glacier

Yuri Glacier