File:McCarty Glacier.jpg

From Global Warming Art



Map of changes in mountain glacier thickness around the world since 1970.

Comparison photos of McCarty Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska. McCarty glacier retreated ~20 km between the period these two photos were taken and is not visible in the 2004 photo. Prior to this, McCarty achieved its maximum known extent circa 1850 approximately 0.5 km from its position in 1909 and was relatively stable at that time [1]. Most of the observed retreat occurred before 1964, and this glacier is even known to have advanced some (at least 0.6 km) during somewhat colder conditions in the 1970s, before retreating 0.4 km between 1984 and 2002 (Hall et al. 2005).

As McCarty Glacier is a tidewater glacier, i.e. a glacier which terminates in ocean water but is sufficiently thick to keep from floating, its behavior can respond somewhat erratically to climate change. Glaciers of this type are often some of the fastest in retreat because glacier thinning can cause partial flotation and the infiltration of sea water under the glacier that aids in the calving of icebergs and further retreat. As a result the rate of retreat, once triggered by climate perturbations, may more strongly correlate to channel depth than to the actual changes in temperature or precipitation (Vieli et al. 2002).


  • July 7th, 1909 by Ulysses Sherman Grant, USGS photo library, public domain [2]
  • August 11, 2004 by Bruce F. Molnia, USGS, public domain [3]


This composition was prepared by Robert A. Rohde from the two public domain sources noted above. The composition itself is released under the Global Warming Art license.

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  • [abstract] [full text] Dorothy K. Hall, Bruce A. Giffin, and Janet Y.L. Chien (2005). "Changes in the Harding Icefield and the Grewingk-Yalik Glacier Complex". Proceeding of the 62nd Eastern Snow Conference. 
  • [abstract] Vieli, Andreas, Jacek Jania, and Lezek Kolondra (2002). "The retreat of a tidewater glacier: observations and model calculations on Hansbreen, Spitsbergen". Journal of Glaciology 48 (163): 592-600. 

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