Pullman, WA

Olympic Peninsula in Washington has lost half of its glacier area, will melt away completely in the next 50 years

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The Olympic Peninsula in Washington State has lost 45% of its glacier coverage since 1980 and in the next 50 years, the glaciers will have largely disappeared, according to Andrew G. Fountain, professor of geology and geography at Portland State University, who has been researching the dwindling glaciers of the American West for past three decades.

Researchers think that disappearance of glaciers will activate a chain of impacts, with lessening alpine streams impacting species similar to huge bull trout and salmon which depend upon these glaciers to keep rivers flowing and cool each summer. Andrew G. Fountain, said:

These glaciers provide water during the hottest, driest parts of the year. We have to encourage our lawmakers to start enacting legislation to cut greenhouse gases. I think, for the foreseeable future, the fate[s] of the glaciers on the Olympic Peninsula are sealed. But you've got to fight the good fight when you can. And that's what I think a lot of the glaciologists are doing now.

The ice fields of Olympic National Park sit at relatively low elevations, about 5,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level, and are shrinking faster than higher-elevation glaciers. In 1982, the park had 266 glaciers; in 2009 there were 184.

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