May 22, 2011

Hopper Glacier Retreat, will not survive

Posted by Mauri Pelto

The Hopper Glacier is in the Beartooth Range of southwest Montana. The glacier is on the east side of Medicine Mountain and Sky Pilot Mountain. In 1966 the glacier in the USGS map ended at a lake marked simply as 10183 feet. The red line marks the mapped glacier boundary. The glacier comprise two parts, one from beneath Medicine Mountain that was smaller, and the larger section below Sky Pilot. By 1998 (top image) in this aerial image from the USGS the two parts are separate and the glacier has retreated 200 meters from the shores of the lake, the terminus is marked by the green line. By 2004 the northern section is gone. The southern section of the glacier remains thin and the lack of snow cover anywhere on the glacier in 1998 indicates the lack of a persistent accumulation zone (Pelto, 2010). glacier cannot survive without a persistent accumulation zone. This is similar to the nearby and similarly named Grasshopper Glacier. In 2004 (middle image) the glacier has undergone an additional 180 meters of retreat and considerable thinning exposing new areas of rock and moraine that had been beneath the glacier. The blue line is the 2004 terminus. The 2009 image is from early in the summer and snow remains on the glacier, but not much for June (bottom image). By the end of summer this glacier will lose all of its snowcover. A comparison with 1998 indicates a number of locations of moraine that are showing indicating the thinning and disappearance of glacier ice in the basin. The blue placemarks point such locations. The southern section has an area of 0.18 km2. The glacier has retreated 420 m since 1966 and has lost 70% of its total area. This pattern of disappearing glaciers is also evident in the Wind River Range, Wyoming for example Minor Glacier. The winter of 2011 has lots of snowpack even in late May and the Hopper Glacier will not experience much if any loss in area this summer. The nearby Monument Peak Snotel site at 8850 feet maintained by the USDA, on May 20th 2011 had 79 inches of snow depth with 29 inches of water content (snow water equivalent). This compares to snow water equivalent of 16 inches in 1998, 11 inches in 2004 and 24 inches in 2009 on that same date.