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Endangered Glaciers in Alaska - And How to Prevent Glacial Melting

Updated on July 16, 2012

Alaska's Melting Glaciers - And What We Can do to Slow Glacial Melt

You've heard about the melting across glaciers in Antarctica, but for many of us in the northern hemisphere, the melting in the glaciers of Alaska hits much closer to home. The glaciers of Alaska are a major tourist destination for the state of Alaska, but sadly, they are retreating at a rapid pace because of global warming. Whether you believe global warming is a myth or reality, it's important to study and prevent these glaciers from melting forever into the sea.

Learn more about some of the most high profile glaciers in Alaska, the surrounding National Parks in Alaska, and what you can do to prevent glacial melting across the globe by your own actions right on this page.

Intro photo of Valdez Glacier, Alaska by Alaskan Dude on flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Why Glaciers are Melting
Why Glaciers are Melting

Why Are Glaciers Melting?

The reasons for glacial melt in Alaska

The reason that glaciers are melting in Alaska are the same that they are melting all over the world: global warming. Temperatures have increased considerably over the past hundred years and have started to melt glaciers in Antarctica, the Himalayas, The Alps, and Alaska. The slowly rising temperatures have contributed to some glaciers in Alaska being entirely melted away, as they have in Katmai National Park.

Portage Lake and Glacier
Portage Lake and Glacier

Glaciers Role in Cooling Ocean Waters

How they stabilize the ocean ecosystem

Glaciers are continually topped off with snow, which contributes to their lasting size and dominance over some landscapes in Alaska. In recent years, the rising temperatures have started to melt not only the fresh snowfall, but parts of the aged glacier along with it. As the glaciers start to melt, there are lesser total number of glaciers worldwide. What once cooled ocean waters worldwide is not cooling them quite as much, resulting in rising ocean temperatures. Rising ocean temperatures contribute to more powerful hurricane seasons, which result in more destruction and severe weather.

While other regions have more glaciers than Alaska, the state's glaciers are contributing more runoff from glacial melt than Greenland.

Glacier Bay, Alaska
Glacier Bay, Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

The beautiful scenery of Glacier Bay is made up of 50 terrestrial (those that do not run off into the sea) and tidwater glaciers (those that run into the sea). Glacier Bay National Park contains many glaciers, like Muir Glacier, that have significantly retreated since the end of the Little Ice Age.

While part of the melting that has occurred in Glacier Bay and elsewhere has been because of global warming, the change in climate from the end of the Little Ice Age, which ended in the late 1700's, potentially natural temperature change is also a contributing factor.

Glacier Bay National Park is heavily visited for its passages, islands, lagoons, and massive tidal glaciers that empty into the cold Pacific waters. For that reason, it is a popular cruise ship destination.

Video of Glacier Bay, Alaska

Denali (Mt. McKinley)
Denali (Mt. McKinley)

Mt. McKinley Glaciers (Denali)

Denali is home to hundreds of glaciers that cover a good portion of Denali National Park. The glaciers are retreating, for the most part, all over the park, while a few are still advancing. These glaciers are all terrestrial glaciers that are far from the ocean. The glacial melt from Denali and its surrounding glaciers provide continual freshwater for the Denali National Park wildlife. Without this source of fresh water, the area would experience a drastic change in types of wildlife that live in the park.

Have you seen Alaska's glaciers?

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Comparisons of Glaciers - Now and Then

This is how they looked before, and how they look now. This is great visual evidence that glaciers are in retreat, and have melted considerably over the last century.

Harding Icefield
Harding Icefield

Harding Icefield

The Harding Icefield is one of the most toured glaciers in the state of Alaska. It is located in Kenai Fjords National Park, which is one of just three National Parks in Alaska which are accessible by road. The massive Harding Icefield even has signs that indicate the former foot of the glacier which existed in 1926.

The Harding Icefield, along with other northern glaciers if entirely melted, would raise sea levels a fraction of a meter. This melting combined with the feared melting of the inland Antarctic ice sheets would further raise world sea levels to dangerous levels, causing massive coastal land loss across the globe.

Hubbard Glacier
Hubbard Glacier

How Can We Prevent Glaciers From Melting?

Things you can do to slow glacial melting worldwide...

While there is likely no way to altogether stop the glaciers from melting, slowing the rate of global warming could potentially slow glacial melt. Here are some ideas that help to alter the patterns of carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.

  1. Use public transportation and energy efficient vehicles. While most cars will still emit some carbon into the atmosphere, there are many alternatives which use far less energy and resources. Public transportation in most cities will save energy versus driving your own personal vehicle.
  2. Use less plastic, paper, and oil. Whenever possible, bring your own reusable bags when shoppping, opt for digital products versus paper, and opt for biodegradable over plastic. Plastics use large amounts of oil, and also emit large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere upon production. Since they don't biodegrade, plastics also take more time to dispose of.
  3. Reduce energy consumption in homes and remove support of air polluting corporations. Make your home more energy efficient by switching to CFL bulbs, sealing drafts, and reducing the use of air conditioning and heat in the home. Do not support companies which are the biggest air pollution offenders, like Bayer, ExxonMobil, and Sunoco.

Crow Peak, Alaska
Crow Peak, Alaska

Will Visiting Glaciers Impact Melting?

Controversy around visiting endangered glaciers

Any travel to Alaska or other glaciers worldwide will have a small impact on how rapidly they melt. Why? Because you'll be using resources to get to the park, exhaust will be released into the atmosphere surrounding the glaciers, and vegetation in and around these parks will be affected by man's interference.

The best course of action then if you are headed to Alaska or any glaciers is to green your travel experience by keeping it eco friendly, low impact, and traveling green. This way, you're trip will interfere minimally with the environment, and you'll still be able to see these marvelous wonders of Alaska.

Would You Visit Alaska's Endangered Glaciers? - Or would you rather just see it on videos and pictures?

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    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 5 years ago

      @aka-rms: Thank you for choosing my lens as LOTD! I am honored!

    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 5 years ago

      @FionaCarroll: That's great that Australia is taking those measures. Sometimes money is the only true motivator for taking action.

    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 5 years ago

      @delia-delia: Thank you for your blessing! There's overwhelming evidence that indicates it's true, but some still insist and find a way to refute it.

    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 5 years ago

      @OrlandoTipster: That's my worry, too.

    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 5 years ago

      @Paula Atwell: Thank you! I'm sure seeing them in person makes it even more real. Let's hope the rate of warming slows, but hope may not be enough.

    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 5 years ago

      @Keith J Winter: Some estimates have put the glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana, as receding to nothing in the next decade. Unfortunate, sad, and alarming.

    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 5 years ago

      @Lee Hansen: Of all of the impacts of global warming, the evidence of this glacial melting is hard to deny. Visually they are receding at a rate where many won't exist in the next few decades. Thanks for stopping by!

    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 5 years ago

      @ViJuvenate: Hi ViJuvenate,

      Regardless if you believe global warming is naturally occurring or by man's involvement, the listed ways to preserve glaciers have too many benefits to not act on them. There are conflicting reports as to whether we are in a global warming or cooling stage, with the majority of reports for the past century showing a major swing upwards. If it continues down this path, the glaciers have and will be melting faster and faster.

      I agree, Alaska is beautiful and needs to be preserved!

    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 5 years ago

      @Rangoon House: Thank you for your blessing!

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      We have wonderful friends who live in Alaska and I can't wait to visit. Congratulations on raising further awareness on this issue and for the Lens of the Day and Purple Star recognition. Blessings.

    • ElizaRayner profile image

      Eliza Rayner 5 years ago from Boulder, Colorado

      Beautiful lens and congrats on LOTD! Thanks for the suggestions as to how we can help. The second largest cause of global warming comes from animal agriculture/factory farms so another sure way to help with the problem is to consume less meat.

    • profile image

      SocialNetMediaToday 5 years ago

      Great lens! I love it!

    • profile image

      Terrie_Schultz 5 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD, well deserved. I would love to visit the glaciers. My daughter got to spend a summer in Alaska a few years ago, and got to see them first hand. An amazingly beautiful place.

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 5 years ago from Washington State

      I have seen so many videos and pictures, it is such a lovely place. I would love to see it in person for once. Thanks for the useful information.

    • profile image

      ryanhx64 5 years ago

      Wow alaska is way more interesting than i thought.

    • scrapperkare profile image

      scrapperkare 5 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD -- very nice! Alaska's one of our favorite places to visit . . . (Check your Video on Glacier Bay--not sure it's working properly)

    • AG 1984 profile image

      AG 1984 5 years ago

      Alaska is so pretty me and my husband actually planning a trip to fairbanks alaska!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      A trip to Alaska would be spectacular. I'll put it on my list! Beautiful lens -- congrats on LotD!

    • profile image

      mobafeed 5 years ago

      Congratulations on the lens of the day! This was a very informative post I even read the CNN post you linked in the blue box snippet.

      The environment is just like a person, fuel it naturally and it tends to be healthier, but fuel it with garbage and eventually there will be side effects.

      Protecting and cleaning the place we live in is a collective effort and every little bit helps, even recycling your water bottles.

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 5 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Global warming is having such devastating effect on our entire earth as we know it. I for one, will take all of the advice you've given on trying to preserve our glaciers. Angel Blessings**

    • ViJuvenate profile image

      ViJuvenate 5 years ago

      Beautifully done lens. I like it, even though I disagree with the premise that the earth is warming gradually due to man's interference. Science shows that the earth goes through warming and cooling cycles, and the latest research actually shows a gradual cooling trend over the last 2000 years. I love Alaska, it is so beautiful. Would love to live there part of the year. Truly a vast frontier of amazing landscape and wonder.

    • sidther lm profile image

      sidther lm 5 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD and thanks so much for writing about such an important issue! !

    • profile image

      sojourner-1 5 years ago

      Thank you for such a great and informative lens about glaciers in Alaska. I live in Kodiak, AK - and it's truly a beautiful and spectacular place. We unfortunately are running into our own demise regarding our earthâ¦

      Cheers, VISIT ALASKA!

    • profile image

      ninalivre 5 years ago

      The glaciers look very majestic and breath-taking. I feel as if I am standing right there.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 5 years ago from Vermont

      I've read considerably about global warming but quite honestly the video showing the changes in the Alaskan glaciers is powerful, almost overwhelming, and irrefutable. Loss of the glaciers will have local and global impacts. Thank you for making me and others more aware.

    • Keith J Winter profile image

      Keith Winter 5 years ago from Spain

      Congratulations on LOTD. I have seen a lot of documentaries about glaciers over the past few weeks. It is alarming to see how quickly some of them are melting. We all have a responsibility to try to end global warming, even if only for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Excellent lens.

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 5 years ago

      I was unaware of the Alaska's Endangered Glaciers, thanks for the information and the wonderful photos.

    • profile image

      sally-james-56232 5 years ago

      Excellent lens. I have pinned it on my board also, hope thats ok. LOts of great information here, thank you.

      sally James

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

      My parents have been to Alaska several times. It sure looks beautiful in your photographs. Congratulations on LOTD.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Not sure if it is too late to prevent the melting, but I sure hope everyone takes what actions they can to try to help. Very informative lens and I would love to visit one day.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      That is one high impact video on glaciers now and them, I'm astounded and will contribute by not visiting. Congratulations on a meltingly excellent LotD!

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 5 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Well done lens. We were in Alaska last year, and I was amazed and appalled by the rate of the glaciers shrinking.

    • profile image

      wlccreations 5 years ago

      I've always wanted to take a cruise to see Alaska's glaciers and beauty. Informative lens and beautiful pictures. Congrats on LOTD.

    • profile image

      Truthmusica 5 years ago

      Very soon all of us will be endangered species as well, This is the prediction........

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      Congratulations! You've used some wonderful images to bring it all to life.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I've been to Alaska, the glaciers are beautiful!

    • hessa johnson profile image

      hessa johnson 5 years ago

      Beautiful! Would love to visit someday!

    • GabStar profile image

      GabStar 5 years ago

      Gorgeous pictures, great information thank you

    • nicks44 profile image

      nicks44 5 years ago

      I would visit them at anytime of day or night! They are just amazing!

    • profile image

      nicolemoyers 5 years ago

      Nice lens! Congrats on LOTD!

    • OrlandoTipster profile image

      OrlandoTipster 5 years ago

      Just wonder what the earth is going to be like for my children's grandchildren?

      Looks bleak to me!

    • profile image

      Doc_Holliday 5 years ago

      Seems that it would be safer watching from afar.

    • weakbond profile image

      Nnadi bonaventure Chima 5 years ago from Johanesburg

      The effect of climate change cannot be overemphasized. Thanks for the informative writeup ,this will spur whoever is in charge to help maintain this beautiful glacier.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 5 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD, very well done! Only a fool would NOT believe that there is Global warming, it's not a political stance, it's the truth. I'm glad I won't be around to feel the real affects of it in the near future.

      ~d-artist Squid Angel Blessing~

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens! Congrats on LOTD!

    • FionaCarroll profile image

      Fiona Carroll 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Terrific lens with an altruistic theme. The Australian government has just introduced a draconian (some say) carbon tax in an effort to discourage pollution. Hopefully it will create the the required outcome. We are the greatest emissions producers per capita in the world. We're only a few, but we made trouble for the entire planet.

    • agoofyidea profile image

      agoofyidea 5 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! I plan to see Alaska's glaciers some day. And everything else in Alaska too.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I'm a stay-at-home kind of gal and I love looking at beautiful pictures. Congratulations on your Lens of the Day!

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 5 years ago from GRENADA

      Congratulations on winning the Lens of The Day (LOTD)!

    • profile image

      shansand 5 years ago

      Nice Environmental concerned Lens! Thanks for the Information

    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 5 years ago

      Wow! Thank you so much for the honor of LOTD! Thanks for all of your kind words. I'm glad this might bring more exposure to this issue.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 5 years ago from USA

      Congratulations, this wonderful lens was selected as LotD today! You can read all about it at SquidooHQ:

    • VeseliDan profile image

      VeseliDan 5 years ago

      Great description of Glaciers! I wish to be there now :) This lens is great, with lots of useful info and beautiful photos. Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      yes yes yes........Wahey !! I'm from the UK and would love to visit. One day i will get there.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Congratulation for the LOTD.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD!

    • WriterDave profile image

      WriterDave 5 years ago

      Great lens, very well done!

    • profile image

      Childbirth_Educator 5 years ago

      Can flooding be far behind?

    • JimNimmo profile image

      JimNimmo 5 years ago

      I know it might be on a smaller scale but I cant believe how far our glaciers have retreited in recent years in New Zealand

    • profile image

      soaringsis 5 years ago

      Congratulations on your LotD and purple star.Great lens.

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      I can never imagine if one day I will be at Alaska watching the glacier with my own eye, and probably it would not happen either. But it will be really great if I can be there one day.

    • floppypoppygift1 profile image

      floppypoppygift1 5 years ago

      My grandpa went. That's close enough for me!

    • pheonix76 profile image

      pheonix76 5 years ago from WNY

      Thank you for sharing this information -- glaciers around the globe are receding due to global climate change. Congrats on LotD!

    • pheonix76 profile image

      pheonix76 5 years ago from WNY

      Would love to see them with my own eyes!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      I'm going to settle for pictures and videos. I travel as little as possible. So far it has been more than a month since I put gas in our Camry Hybrid. Thank you for publishing this lens. This is a very important topic that needs publicity.