Glaciers In Alaska Facts: How They're Affected By Climate Change

Arpitha Rajendra
Mar 20, 2023 By Arpitha Rajendra
Originally Published on Mar 20, 2023
Fact-checked by Dolly Chhatwani
These are some incredible and interesting Glaciers in Alaska facts on Kidadl.

Alaska's glaciers range from massive valley glaciers to cirque glaciers.

Glacial ice covers about 10% of Earth's surface, including ice sheets of the Antarctic continent and Greenland, ice caps, and glaciers. Alaska's glaciers are the largest glaciers. The glacier ice can be as big as a baseball.

Alaska glaciers are divided into four subcategories. There are over 90 glaciers in Alaska. Alaska's glaciers covered almost one-third of planet earth in the last Ice Age.

Also, around half of the Alaskan landscape was covered in ice during this period of the Ice Age. Only 5% of ice remains today, which is the largest glacier in the world. Also, the longest and largest glacier in North America is Southeast Alaska's Bering glacier.

Alaska glaciers also alter the land by crashing into the sea, deposition of fertile silt, and carving mountains. Piedmont glacier and Tidewater glacier are two kinds of glaciers. Even now, glaciers shape the landscape.

They slide across with the aid of gravity. The surrounding terrain's shape and size impact glacier's average speed. You will discover many more exciting and fun facts about the melting glaciers in Alaska.

Tourism In Alaska

Alaska has five areas, the inside passage, south central, southwest, interior, and far north regions. Traveling across the state will take a lot of time. However, transport facilities like planes, boats, cars, and buses are available.

One of the famous national parks in Alaska is Kenai Fjords National Park. It is neither the ancientest nor the most extensive glacier.

However, Kenai Fjords National park is now the mark of the environmental effect of the climate crisis. The Glacier Bay National Park in southeast Alaska has around 1,000 glaciers. Tourists can visit several locations: the huge Sargent Icefield, the Chugach National Forest, Kenai Fjords national park, and the glacier outback tour.

Sailing around Whittier and Seward in a boat will give you a great look at the blue ice or floating ice. Tourists have several opportunities to explore Alaska, like whale watching excursions, deep sea fishing, and hiking.

Tourists have a chance to take a helicopter tour to Yanert Glacier while staying at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. Several guides are there to help tourists and also provide interesting facts.

Tourists can choose the Juneau Mendenhall Glacier Ice Adventure Tour to travel in a canoe paddle through the Mendenhall, and the guide will also provide information about the Mendenhall Glacier. Then, hiking will take the tourists into an ice cave to the bright blue light of the ice.

Another choice is the Juneau Mendenhall Glacier Guided Walk via Helicopter takes tourists over glacial ice features, lakes, and rainforests. Once they land on the Mendenhall Glacier, the guide will lead them on a short guided walk.

Juneau Taku Glacier Flight and Feast takes tourists to remote wilderness. Tourists will also see five glaciers via seaplane.

Alaskan Glaciers vs. Other Glaciers

Glaciers do not only have ice but other materials like organic, dirt, and gravel as they move through soil and rock. Icefields in Antarctica are a million years old, but exit glaciers are comparatively young.

When glacier ice is dense, it appears blue. The reason behind this is the air bubbles leaving from crystals which formed due to gradual compression. This thick glacier ice absorbs red light from white light and reflects blue light due to its short wavelengths.

If the glacier ice is white, the air pockets are trapped. Alaskan glaciers have eight formations, ice aprons, cirque glaciers, hanging glaciers, piedmont glaciers, tidewater glaciers, valley glaciers, mountain glaciers, and ice fields.

Continental (ice sheets) and valley glaciers are two types of glaciers. Tidewater glaciers are valley glaciers that reach sea level. They are found in Southeast Alaska. Large ice pieces crack off the Tidewater glaciers and fall into the sea. Russell Fjord Wilderness' Surging Glacier advances every 20 years, unlike most glaciers. You will also find icebergs in tidewater glaciers.

Mountain glaciers or Alpine glaciers begin high in the mountains, flowing through mountainous regions. Piedmont glaciers spill down to hit level valleys and start to fan out.

Small glaciers called ice aprons attach to the high mountains' steep sides. Due to their small sizes, most of Alaska's ice aprons have yet to be named. The bowl-like glaciers are called cirque glaciers, with a larger width than their length.

Today, glaciers have about 69% of the freshwater on the Earth in ice form. That is a lot of water within such a small glacier surface.

Temperatures are also cold enough to keep the ice from melting. Crevasses are formed when glaciers rapidly move over a steep region or uneven terrain, which causes internal stresses that increase in ice.

Agassiz glacier is Saint Elias Mountains' valley glacier. New York Times' member William Libbey named the glacier in 1886. Denali Nationa Park and Preserve's Harper glacier starts on Denali between the South peak and the North peak of Denali.

A local miner named Scott Glacier in 1908 is located in the Chugach Mountains. Alaska's West Fork glacier.

Three of them have the same name: the Wrangell Mountains, southeast of Alaska's Healy, and Denali National Park and Preserve. Some other glaciers found in the Alaska Range are Peters glacier, Surprise glacier, Sunrise glacier, Smith glacier, and Columbia Glacier.

Glacial ice is blue because of its density as layers of ice absorb all colors except blue.

Wildlife/Biodiversity on Glaciers

The Glacier Bay National park consists of post-glacial thickets and meadows, icefields, glaciers, alpine tundra, Sitka spruce forest or coastal western hemlock, and wet tundra.

Fjord estuaries, wave-beaten coasts, and continental shelves are three marine ecosystems. Glacier Bay's animals and plants are primarily located between south-central Alaska and northern California. Species distribution depends on past and present glacial movements. Wind and birds carry spores and seeds to exposed land regions. Plants can grow on fertile blankets from mosses, algae, and lichens.

Humpback whales, spectacled wider, and Steller sea lions are threatened and endangered species of Glacier Bay. Although endangered outside Alaska, bald eagles and marbled murrelet are now located in Glacier Bay National Park.

This park houses 40 different mammal species. Sea otters, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, harbor porpoises, and killer whales are marine mammals in Alaska. The park houses about 420 plant species.

Ice worms are small worms found in British Columbia, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska's glacial ice. However, they do not give the blue color to glacier ice. Alaska also has a temperate rainforest.

The Alaskan Bald Eagle is found in inland forests and lakes in summer and in coastal regions of Alaska. Polar bears occur between October and early November on sub-Arctic and Arctic shores.

There are three sub-species of Alaskan Brown bears. The isolated Kodiak Island Bear is the world's biggest terrestrial carnivore. Grizzly bears occur far north and in inland regions.

In contrast, the third subspecies are found in coastal regions. Two kinds of puffins in Alaska are black puffins and horned puffins with white bellies. Both occur in coastal waters. Other Alaska creatures are Bison, Gray wolves, Willow Pitarmugan, Pelagic cormorants, and gulls.

Impact Of Climate Change

Alaskan glaciers are the fastest melting in the world. The rising air temperatures around the world due to global climate change are causing the rapid melting of glaciers. Predictions show that glacier melting contributes to sea level rise.

Alaska warmed two times faster than the rest of the U. S over many decades. Alaskan glacier is around 22% Arctic land ice region. The glaciers are expected to melt further. Some consequences of melting include ecological habitat loss, degradation of agricultural soils and water quality, rise in coastal erosion, displacement of societies, and lowland flooding.

The reduced storage capacity of ice and snow will impact the terrestrial and marine ecosystems at different levels, negatively affecting essential species. It will impact the fishing industry. These changes will increase the frequency and magnitude of cryosphere hazards like glacier collapses and avalanches.

The recent melting of glaciers created ice-dammed lakes in valleys which were occupied by glaciers. As the lakes are unstable, they can cause floods that can damage infrastructure and threaten communities. The slopes around glaciers are also unsafe, leading to increase in landslides.

If glaciers of our Earth melted, the sea level would rise about 230 ft (70.1 m). Also, glaciers take a long time to form. The cooling period must be longer than the melting period.

If the ice melts too quickly, the freshwater will pill into oceans, which cannot reform during its next cooling duration. Around 47 countries, like Greenland and Antarctica, have conditions that favor the formation of glaciers. They also form on moons and planets.

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Written by Arpitha Rajendra

Bachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

Arpitha Rajendra picture

Arpitha RajendraBachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

With a background in Aeronautical Engineering and practical experience in various technical areas, Arpitha is a valuable member of the Kidadl content writing team. She did her Bachelor's degree in Engineering, specializing in Aeronautical Engineering, at Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology in 2020. Arpitha has honed her skills through her work with leading companies in Bangalore, where she contributed to several noteworthy projects, including the development of high-performance aircraft using morphing technology and the analysis of crack propagation using Abaqus XFEM.

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Fact-checked by Dolly Chhatwani

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in English Literature

Dolly Chhatwani picture

Dolly ChhatwaniBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in English Literature

A skilled professional-client manager, Dolly brings a wealth of experience to any team. Holding a Master's in English Literature, she has worked in various customer relations and operations management roles throughout her career. With a degree in both English and Psychology, she is passionate about promoting mental health. Dolly is an avid reader, particularly of classic literature, and enjoys writing book reviews. Additionally, she maintains a food blog and is active on social media.

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