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Glaciers Disappear at Montana's Iconic Glacier National Park Due to Climate Change, Research Finds

The glaciers are disappearing as a result of the climate changing in Montana's Glacier National Park, recent research found.

Researchers with the United States Geological Survey have been photographing the park's glaciers since 1997 and comparing those photos with historic ones of the same glaciers.

The glaciers may disappear altogether by 2030, the USGS said. Only 26 named glaciers presently exist of the 150 glaciers present in 1850 and those that do are mere remnants of their previous size, according to researchers.

Global temperatures have overall been trending upward since 1910, but the highest rate of increase has been in the last 30 years, Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

"In terms of the contiguous U.S., temperatures have risen at a rate of 0.13 F/decade since 1910," Anderson said. "There was a pause in the rise between the 1940s and 1970s before resuming at an increasing rate from the 1980s on."

The data support continued warming due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, he said.

"However, there will still be brief periods where the warming is reduced or halted due to natural variations [such as what we have seen in recent years], but the long-term trend will continue to be up [warmer]," he said.

It may also cause the habitat of the western glacier stonefly, a rare aquatic insect, to disappear.

In a two-year period beginning in 2011, scientists re-sampled six streams and found the western glacier stonefly in only one previously occupied stream and in two new locations at higher elevations.

Researchers at the USGS, Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and the University of Montana collected the stonefly data. It will be published in an upcoming article in the journal Freshwater Science.

"Many aquatic species are considered vulnerable to climate change because they are cold water dependent and confined to mountaintop streams immediately below melting glaciers and permanent snowfields," USGS scientist and project leader Joe Giersch said in a news release.

"Few studies have documented changes in distributions associated with temperature warming and glacial recession, and this is the first to do so for an aquatic species in the Rockies," Giersch said.