Glacial Recession in the US

Gavin Maurer

The Last Ice Age began almost 115,000 years ago. Bringing with it, the formation of nearly all the Glaciers in the United States.

Glaciers today are some of the most visited and sought out attractions for nature lovers in the US.

Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay, Alaska

Blackfoot Glacier in Glacier National Park, Montana

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska

and South Cascade Glacier in Washington are some of the most famous in the States.

However, glaciers no longer dominate as they used to.

Since the 1960's, the cumulative mass of the worlds glaciers has been decreasing.

And some of the largest evidence of glacial recession and retreat has been seen in Alaskan glaciers.

Since 1994, Alaska's glaciers have been losing 75 billion tons of ice per year.

That's approximately 205,479.5 Empire State Buildings in mass every year.

And a large contributor to that number is the Columbia Glacier, which alone has been losing on average 4 billion metric tons of ice per year.

So, why do glaciers matter? How do melting glaciers affect the World and the areas around them?

To start, as glaciers melt it causes a rise in sea levels.

And while melting glaciers don't solely contribute to rising sea level, from 2006 to 2016, it contributed to 25%-30% of the observed increase in global sea levels which on average is 1 millimeter per year by glacier melts alone.

Now, this doesn't seems like a significant amount, but there is a positive correlation between the increase in global warming and rate at which glaciers melt, and as temperatures rise, so will the speed at which glaciers disappear.

Currently oceans have risen 27 millimeters in the past 50 years due to glacier melts alone.

And if no action is taken and all the glaciers and ice caps melt, it would result in a 70 meter increase in sea level, flooding nearly every coastal city in the US and the World.

And while this is not a near future problem, nor a guarantee, if no action is taken to slow or reverse global climate change, this could be a possible outcome.

Although rising sea level is one of the most known effects of losing the glaciers. Others adverse effects include...

  • A potential extinction crisis as insects reliant on cold water runoff die as glaciers disappear.
  • The slowing the oceanic currents, a phenomenon related to altering the global climate and a succession of increasingly extreme weather events throughout the globe.
  • And less water for consumption by the population, lower hydroelectric energy generation capacity, and less water available for irrigation.

So what action is being taken to reverse these effects?

First off (Proposal A), suggests using pumps to transfer ice from beneath glaciers to the top layer to help strengthen the upper ice caps will help prevent excess melting in the summer seasons and regrowth with winter precipitation.

Another option(Proposal B), proposes placing artifical ice islands near the glacier to help slow glacial melting and rebuild the glaciers by giving them a place to grow from.

Third (Proposal C), is to attempt to prevent the erosion of the glaciers, This could be done using dams or other retaining walls to slow the erosion of the glaciers.

And the last proposal has been proposed in Indonisian architect Faris Rajak Kotahatuhaha's project Refreeze the Arctic. By collecting water from melted glaciers, desalinating it, and refreezing it, new icebergs can be created to help rebuild lost ice and recreate their once large frozen masses.

So, how can you help?

Try to reduce your cabron footprint!

Recycle more!

Use solar energy or other green energy sources!

Plant trees!

Eat all the food you have and take in less meat!

And most importantly!

Be Informed!

Check out these awesome websites about how you can make a difference at home!


Docquier, David, et al. “Image of the Week – Delaying the Flood with Glacial Geoengineering.” Cryospheric Sciences, 1 Feb. 2019,

EPA. “Climate Change Indicators: Glaciers.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Protection Agency,

Iberdrola. “Glaciers, the Great Guardians of the Stability of the Planet's Climate.” Melting Glaciers, Iberdrola, 2022,

Mooney, Chris. “Alaska's Glaciers Are Now Losing 75 Billion Tons of Ice Every Year.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 27 Oct. 2021,

USGS. “How Do We Know Glaciers Are Shrinking?” U.S. Geological Survey,

USGS. “How Would Sea Level Change If All Glaciers Melted?” U.S. Geological Survey,

WGMS. “Contribution to Sea Level Rise.” World Glacier Monitoring Service, 2 Sept. 2022,,exceeds%20that%20of%20the%20Antarctic.