Study anticipates disappearance of ice from Juneau Ice Field by 2099

This week’s study published in the Journal Glaciology anticipates a disappearance of ice in the Juneau Ice Field, Alaska by the end of this century. The loss to ice will continue with rise in global temperature and this would eventually turn the area devoid of ice by 2099. The Juneau Ice Field is a popular tourist attraction, which lured 450,000 tourists to a US Forest Service center last year.

“By the end of this century, people will most likely not be able to see the Mendenhall Glacier anymore from the visitor’s center,” said Regine Hock, a UAF glaciologist and one of the authors of the study. Regine added that glacier’s ice will be harder to find at the Juneau Ice Field by 2099.

The Mendenhall Glacier, a 13-mile river of ice, terminates about 10 miles north of downtown Juneau. One of the largest ice fields in the Western Hemisphere, the Juneau Ice Field, covers 1,500 square miles in the steep Coast Mountains, the range that lines Alaska’s Panhandle and much of British Columbia.

According to Florian Ziemen, lead author of the study, it was difficult modeling melt of the ice field as there were only few weather stations in remote mountains. Therefore, the modeling was done using the data from physical characteristics such as sunlight, clouds and their movement and precipitation. Ziemen is from Hamburg, Germany and worked on the study during a year of post-doctoral work at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The results estimated that if current global temperature will keep on climbing, a loss of 60% of the ice in Juneau Ice Field would be nowhere to be seen. The climate models also anticipated no halt in the process of global warming.