Changing Alaska

Changing Alaska

The icefields of Alaska are dramatically thinning, resulting in a significant contribution to global sea level rise. This is partly because there is a large volume of ice in Alaska (see Millan et al., 2022), but also due to warming in this region.

Juneau Icefield

This section of the website includes a series of articles focused on our work on glaciers and glaciation on Juneau Icefield.

Juneau icefield
Location of Juneau Icefield in Alaska/British Columbia. Map produced by Bethan Davies.

You can also view our work on reconstructing the palaeoglaciers of Juneau Icefield over the Holocene, from remote sensing and fieldwork.

In this video, Prof. Mauri Pelto discusses the glacial recession of Gilkey Glacier on Juneau Icefield, Alaska.

Accelerated loss from Alaskan icefields

The large icefields of Alaska contain a huge volume of glacier ice; enough to raise global sea levels by a total of 46.4 mm if it all melted (Millan et al., 2022). Alaska currently accounts for 25% of all ice loss from global glaciers, losing about 66.7 billion tonnes (gigatones, or Gt) of ice each year (Hugonnet et al., 2021). If that rate continues, all glaciers in Alaska ice have disappeared in around 250 years. Unfortunately, there is evidence that ice loss from Alaska is accelerating (Berthier et al., 2018).

You can explore how glaciers in Alaska are thinning yourself in this Theia app, which presents data from Hugonnet et al., 2021.

Columbia Glacier, Alaska, is a World Reference Glacier and its recession has been monitored for several decades. You can see the glacier recession in the GIF below. This is a series of Landsat satellite images from 1986 to 2019. See here for more information.

Recession of Columbia Glacier, Alaska

Here is a video from Prof. Mauri Pelto with a timelapse of photographs of another glacier’s recession.

Read more about global glacier recession here.

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