Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Mount Shasta Glaciers Defy Global Warming, Grow
by John Iander
MOUNT SHASTA (CBS13) ― The debate over global warming has taken a pretty odd twist in Northern California. Up on Mount Shasta, the glaciers are not behaving like you'd expect.
Big mountains often produce their own weather patterns. Mount Shasta, at 14,162 feet seems to have a mind of its own these days. Shasta has seven glaciers. The biggest is the one on the middle, Whitney Glacier. What has surprised scientists about the glacier is that if the theories about global warming are true, the glacier ought to be shrinking, but it's not.
"Unlike most areas around the world, these glaciers are advancing, they are growing. Thirty percent in the last fifty years," says scientist Erik White.
White and mountain climber Chris Carr are Shasta experts.
"Every year it's a little bit different. But the glacier changes dramatically, year to year," says Carr.
So why are the glaciers larger today than they were a century or more ago?
"Mount Shasta is right at the very northern end of areas influenced by El Nino and were at the southern end of areas affected by La Nina. So between the two we get to see the benefits of that which means more snow and rain in this area," says White.
Snow scientists have been tracking the glaciers' size by comparing photos from a century ago to those taken decades later, and then using satellite data and computer modeling to determine the rate of growth.
Those models predict Shasta will continue to receive more than normal snowfall, but if the temperature continues to rise, the glaciers will begin to recede.
For now, the growing glaciers are good news to the town of Mount Shasta which hosts the thousands of tourists who come to here to experience the thrill of ice climbing.
You can climb mountain Shasta all the way to the glaciers to see for yourself, but, you'd better have good hiking equipment and be in good shape too!