I gave a presentation for the Mountaineers on March 12th with Jon Reidel, a glaciologist from North Cascades National Park. I brought a display of my paintings and talked about my project, “Portraits of Ice, Witnessing Climate Change.” It was wonderful how well received our combination of science and art was, and to learn more about the local ice of the North Cascades. All in all, though, bleak news for what we have in our backyard.
The North Cascades have more than 700 glaciers, the highest percentage of glaciers in the lower 48 states- and they’re all receding. Save a few that have withdrawn so far up the high slopes of the mountains that they are protected by shadows and now in equilibrium.
For those of us in the Seattle area, we face consequences for this loss of ice. The glaciers contribute billions of gallons of water into 6 watersheds that flow into Puget Sound. The North Cascade glaciers have served as a buffer against drought and drain into rivers, which provide us with a consistent water supply. Many of the rivers are also dammed and provide hydroelectric electric power. Glaciers also contribute to the stability of rivers which in turn fosters their habitat. The Skagit river supports all five species of salmon. That reminds me, I read an interesting article recently by Alex Steffan on World Changing that discusses how river and mountain ecosystems depend on salmon to remain healthy. Click here for the article.
After Jon Riedel’s presentation, one woman asked, “Is there a high rate of depression for glaciologists?” It reminded me of solastagia, the phenomenon of feeling displaced in our own homes due environmental changes that I’ve seen more and more in the news lately. World Changing has an article about it as well.