Are the Glaciers of North America Advancing or Retreating?The glaciers of this continent have been known for so short a time that only small portions of their histories have been read. Their study is comprised almost entirely within the past decade and has been carried on in such a desultory way that for the most part only qualitative evidence as to their advance or retreat is available.
Israel Cook Russell, George Otis Smith, Glaciers of Mount Rainier (1898):
Current Opinion..., Volume 26, Issue 6 (1899):RECESSION AND SHRINKAGE OF THE GLACIERS.Every glacier about Mouut Rainier that was examined by the writer furnished evidence of a recent recession of its terminus and of a lowering of its surface. In two instances—the Carbon and Willis glaciers— rough measurements of the amount of these changes during the past fifteen years were obtained.
Retreat of the Glaciers New York SunIf the glaciers of the world are becoming smaller and showing a prevailing tendency to retreat, or in other words, to move a lesser distance down the valleys, the fact is of much interest in its bearing upon climatic changes. Professor Russell, of Michigan University, has shown that the minor advances and retreats of glaciers may be due to causes that are not meteorological, but the fact remains that changes in the larger glacial movements can be explained only by variations in the quantity of snow received and in the rate of melting caused by climatic fluctuations. The fact that glaciers are subject to quite rapid variations in volume, and that the tendency, in recent years at least, has seemed to be toward reduction in volume in all parts of the world, has excited much interest. The International Geological Congress at Zurich, in 1894, appointed a committee to collect data from different quarters of the globe with regard to the variation in the size of glaciers. Inquiry in this direction was greatly stimulated. The Alpine Clubs have been active, and most of the European glaciers have been systematically studied. A great deal of information has also been gathered from Central Asia and North America.
The "Deutsche Rundschau," for Geography and Statistics, has recently given a summary of the latest reports on the retreat and advance of glaciers, from which it appears that in the Swiss Alps thirty-nine glaciers are receding, five are stationary and twelve are advancing. The glaciers in the corner of Bavaria that push into the Alps are all receding, and also those of the Hollenthal in Paden and the Sonnblick group in the eastern part of the Austrian Alps. None of the Italian glaciers are advancing, while many are receding. The Cassandra group has recently retreated about eighty feet, and one glacier in the Bernina group has receded 3,508 feet in seven years. -One of the Swedish glaciers has retreated 393 feet, and the glaciers in Norway are also receding. The recent studies of Spitzbergen glaciers show that some of them have retreated more than a mile and a half; but it is not known, of course, how long this recession has been going on. In America many glaciers have receded to the snow line, as the limit of perpetual snow is called. The remarkable report comes from Turkestan not only that are the glaciers receding but also that some of them have entirely disappeared, and a similar report comes from the Altai Mountains on the southern edge of Siberia.
On The Retreat Of The Swiss Glaciers; And On The Legal Rights To Glaciers And To The Soil Beneath Them. By C. Marett.I Presume that one of the objects of the 'Alpine Journal' must be to contain a record of Alpine changes; and, as no one else has undertaken the task, I have thrown together some details of the very remarkable retreat of the glaciers which has now continued for some years, hoping that in the absence of anything better, this record, though imperfect, may be serviceable hereafter, and ma}* also be not unacceptable to the readers of the ' Alpine Journal.'Mr. F. F. Tuckett, in the sixth vol. of the ' Alpine Journal,' p. 30, has given an exceedingly interesting account of the retreat of the Lower Grindelwald Glacier, and of the uncovering of ancient marble quarries from beneath it. He also gives reasons for believing that the glaciers were at a minimum about the year 1750; that between that time and 1771 they had rapidly increased, and had not again diminished until after 1850, since which time the retreat has been continuous and very remarkable. Up to about that time the glaciers were no doubt increasing, and the Swiss expressed some anxiety on the subject. Soon afterwards the advance ceased, and in many of them a retreat began; not, however, in all of them, for the Findelen Glacier at Zermatt was in 1859 encroaching on the pastures and turning up old turf like a gigantic ploughshare. The natives give as a reason for the retreat, an unusual number of mild winters, and most old Swiss travellers will say that the summers have on the whole been hotter and finer than they were formerly. The inhabitants of Chamonix declare that their crops ripen a fortnight earlier, and attribute this to the diminution of the glaciers; more, however, is probably due to the warm summers and to improved cultivation.I have made no actual measurements, but as I was at Chamonix and at Grindelwald in 1830 and 1831, at Grindelwald again in 1852, at Chamonix again in 1854, and at both again in 1875, I am perhaps able to form a tolerable estimate of the vast changes of which the younger generation of tourists can have no notion. I find, moreover, that my rough estimate agrees very exactly with the estimates formed by the Swiss engineers from careful measurements and continued observations. 'My recollections of 1830 and 1831 were in 1852 and 1854 tolerably distinct, and I am sure that I saw no remarkable changes when I then visited the glaciers. The change in 1875 was so great that I can best give the younger readers of the Journal a notion by saying that the difference is as much as that between the Thames opposite Greenwich at high water, and the same at low water. I now proceed to details.1. The Glacier of Argentiere.—This I did not visit, but from the Tete Noire road I saw clearly that it had sunk and retreated very remarkably, and was much smaller than in 1854 when I had last seen it.2. The Mer de Glace or Glacier des Bois.—This glacier I found occupying in width at the foot not above a third of its old width. It is now entirely on the Chapeau side; but it formerly occupied the whole space between Chapeau and Montanvert, almost protruding into the valley. The red rocks which now (1875) adjoin Montanvert and cover two-thirds of the space between that and Chapeau were formerly buried under ice; and the source of the Arveiron was close to the foot of Montanvert. In fact, as mentioned in the guide books, there was a steep descent from the Montanvert path which led straight down to the Cavern of the Source and was usually taken by tourists
There is now on each side of the glacier, a moraine of grey rubbish rising some 300 feet above the glacier, up and down which zigzag paths have been made by which to reach the glacier from Montanvert and from the rocks on the Chapeau side. There were in 1854 at many places high moraines, but only the outside slope was to be seen; and. my impression is that the ice, instead of being below the moraine, was then in many places above it. The path to the Jardin is now entirely different from that which was formerly taken, as the sinking of the glacier has rendered the old path impracticable.3. The Glacier des Bossons I had not visited in 1854, but it was in 1875 obvious that some 200 feet depth of moraine had been recently exposed, and I was told that the foot had retreated full 200 yards.4. The Upper Glacier of Grindelwald, which formerly filled the whole space between the Wetterhorn and Mettenberg and projected well into the valley, has now retreated a quarter of a mile, and does not occupy above one-fourth of the space between the mountains, being not above 100 yards wide. It is now close to the Mettenberg; and a large mass of glacier-worn rock—a sort of spur from the Wetterhorn—now occupies the rest of the space. The foot of the glacier still (1875) reaches the plain, but at the present rate of decrease it would not long do so. According to the statements of my guide, it had in the last three years retreated about 100 yards from a large mass of polished rocks which he pointed out. All the limestone rocks where the glacier had been were much striated, and the scratches looked white and fresh. The foot of the glacier was steep but smooth and very dirty. About 200 feet above the plain the glacier was deeply crevassed and rose into pinnacles of ice.5. The Lower Glacier of Grindelwald.—This glacier, which formerly projected into the valley, has fallen back at least a quarter of a mile, leaving some bare rocks and a large irregular piece of ground covered with stones and rubbish. The front is now well within the line of the Mettenhorn and Eiger, and the celebrated pinnacles of ice which were formed by the pressure in that narrow space have all vanished. There is now (1875) merely a dirty front, or rather tongue, of smooth ice deeply crevassed coming down to the plain and just filling the narrow space between the mountains. The deep scores in the rocks above show how great the pressure used to be. This glacier has also sunk at least 300 feet. The stream from it is now seen flowing through a deep ravine or cleft in the rocks which was until of late years buried under the glacier and invisible. It is to this glacier that the very interesting paper by Mr. P. F. Tuckett in the 'Alpine Journal,' vol. vi. p. 30, relates.6. The Rosenlaui Glacier, formerly celebrated for its beauty, has, I am told, almost disappeared or retreated into the mountains.7. Glacier of the Rhone.—The Federal Government for two years made careful measurements of this glacier; and they ought to be complete, having cost 80CM. The result arrived at is that in the nineteen years before 1875 the glacier had retreated about a quarter of a mile, and had sunk 300 feet.