Lyell Glacier was Yellowstone National Park’s largest glacier. In 1883, US park officials took a photograph of the ice giant. This year, NASA’s climate team recreated that photo with the glacier in its current state. The comparison is stunning.
Lyell Glacier is not only the largest in Yellowstone, it’s also the second largest in the Sierra Nevada range. Since 1883, it’s lost 80 per cent of its surface area, to the point where it covers only 0.25km2 — and of that loss, 10 per cent occurred in just the last four years.
The historical loss is huge, but even more sobering is what it suggests for the future. We’re rapidly losing the ice and snowpack that have been especially key for American Western and mountain states — not just in Yellowstone or the parks, but all over. That ice and snowpack has long made up a basic part of America’s water supply, and as it dwindles down, it’s looking like the future will be even drier.
Image: NASA Climate