Climate change: Six Montana glaciers reduced to snowfields
(KPAX) Six of Montana's glaciers were recently declassified to snowfields earlier this month, according to a study by Portland State University published in the journal Earth System Science Data.
“(A glacier is) like a freakin’ unicorn. It’s just this massive beautiful piece of our history of this Earth," said Emily Smith, a Montana wilderness ranger with the U.S. Forest Service.
Often, glacial ice is used to inform research about geologic history. In Montana's case, up to 7,000 years of history, according to the National Park Service.
“In our lifetime, we are gonna lose a lot … The history of the Earth is in the freakin’ ice. It’s insane. It’s so cool. So, it’s like this vault of like time, frozen time, a vault of frozen time,” said Smith.
This is not the first time she has witnessed the phenomenon of glacial melt declassifying a glacier into a snowfield.
“I’m the child of ski bums … We’ve gone from the Palmer Glacier, then it was declassified to a snowfield, and now the snowfield gets to about the size of this parking lot," said Smith as she motioned to a six-car parking lot in front of her ranger station.
Lee Vernon, a naturopathic medical practitioner, said the travesty of losing these natural wonders is a problem that will be felt beyond the lifespan of today's Montanans.
“We get to see (glaciers) now, but my kids and my kids’ kids won’t get to see those things," said Vernon.
The beauty of Montana's glaciers and outdoors are something that, according to Vernon, can not be replicated by videos, photos, or words.
“There’s something therapeutic, raw, that you’re getting to see the wonders of the Earth and stuff that God has made for us to enjoy ... It can't be articulated. It has to be experienced," said Vernon.