Mount Shasta glaciers are shrinking at an alarming rate due to extreme heat

Mount Shasta glaciers are shrinking at an alarming rate due to extreme heat

Whitney Glacier and Mount Shasta as seen from Shastina in 1870. Photo by CE Watkins, Public Domain (CC0 1.0)

This month’s heat wave broke temperature records in the American West, and now the summit of Mount Shasta in California is mostly brown.

Mount Shasta a potentially active volcano at the southern end of the Cascade Range in Siskiyou County, California. At 14,179 feet (4,321.8 meters), it is the second highest peak in the Cascades arc and the fifth highest peak in the state.

Arc cascades is a series of volcanoes in a volcanic arc in western North America, extending from southwestern British Columbia through Washington, Oregon, to northern California, over a distance of over 700 miles (1,100 kilometers).

The mountain and surroundings are part of Shasta Trinity National Wildlife Refuge.

Mount Shasta has seven named glaciers, four of which are the largest (WhitnatBolam, Hotlum and Wintun), radiating from the height of the main cone of the summit to an altitude below 10,000 feet (3,000 m), mainly on the northern and eastern sides.

The three largest glaciers in question at the 14,179-foot summit near the California-Oregon border were expanding as early as 2008. according to research published at the time by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz. But everything changed after a severe drought began in the west.

Diller Canyon on Mount Shasta as seen from Weed in February 2013. Credit – Daniel Mayer SS CA 3.0.

In August 2021, Dr Maury Pelto, an expert on glaciers and climate change, stated that Mount Shasta’s Whitney Glacier, the longest in California, has retreated 800 meters, or about 25% of its length, over the past 16 years. Even more stunning is the “impressive loss of snow cover” at over 12,000 feet, which helped to nearly halve the Whitney’s total mass. Mount Shasta News.

Curtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle Reporter, says that the summit of Mount Shasta was covered in snow all year round. However, the absence of any significant rainfall over the past three years has destabilized the rocks, debris and soil that make up Mount Shasta, and in many places debris flows and landslides have washed away roads, drainage systems and power lines.

“Glaciers really help keep the landscape moist. This water is also good for water supply. … Water seeps into the ground and fills aquifers. And then the springs … are filled so that they [communities] can extract this water [from] Shasta too,” explains Alexander. “Some snow and glacier runoff goes into Lake Shasta, which…is the largest reservoir in California. And that sends water across the state to cities and farms.”

Lake Shasta provides water not only to agriculture in the Central Valley, but also to several regional water systems in the Bay Area. Shasta Lake is located 10 miles from Redding in Shasta County and about 200 miles north of the Bay Area.

This year we 124 feet down which is a significant loss of a lot of storage,” said Don Bader, regional manager for Northern California for the US Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees the Shasta Dam and manages water flowing from the lake.

On a larger scale, glaciers reflect solar energy and heat, so the loss of snow and ice means more global warming, Alexander says.

“These glaciers, like the Whitney Glacier, are probably only about 100 feet thick. So when you say nine inches a day, you are saying a lot of what part.” He adds: “We are seeing a rate of melt, and as the climate warms, we will see more years where the rate of melt is high.”

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