July 28, 2020


Posted by Mauri Pelto

Field season images from 2019 indicating crevasse stratigraphy, annotated by Clara Deck.

Director: Mauri S. Pelto, [email protected]Nichols College

Field Artist & Scientist: Jill Pelto, [email protected]

Who we are? NCGCP was founded in 1983 to identify the response of North Cascade glaciers to regional climate change, particularly changes in mass balance, glacier runoff and terminus behavior.   NCGCP is a field project that has a broader interdisciplinary scope and examines more glaciers than any other program in North America.  It does so cost effectively relying on no permanent camps, helicopter support or salaries for the director. The field season includes no days off and each day is spent completing measurements on glaciers.  The focus is on glacier mapping, mass balance measurement, terminus observations and glacier runoff monitoring.  This program monitors two of the World Glacier Monitoring Service’s reference glaciers. There are ~45 such glaciers in the world with 30 years of continuous measurements. We complete mass balance and terminus observations on Columbia, Daniels, Easton, Ice Worm, Lower Curtis, Lynch, Rainbow and Sholes Glacier with runoff measurements below Sholes and Ice Worm.

Why study glaciers in the North Cascades? Glaciers are one of the world’s best climate monitors and are a critical water resource to many populated glaciated regions. This is particularly true in the North Cascades where 700 glaciers yield 200 billion gallons of summer runoff and glaciers have lost 30 % of their area in the last century.

Field Team 2020:

Jill Pelto is an artist and scientist from New England who grew up loving winter sports and trips to the mountains. She incorporates scientific research and data into paintings and prints to communicate environmental changes. Her multi-disciplinary work weaves visual narratives that reveal the reality of human impacts on this planet, as earlier in July was illustrated on the cover of TIME. She completed both her B.A. degrees in Studio Art and Earth and Climate Sciences and her M.S. focused on studying the stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet at the University of Maine, spending two field seasons at a remote camp in the southern Transantarctic Mountains. Jill will be joining the project for her 12th field season. She is excited about continuing to document the change in North Cascade glaciers that she has witnessed each of the last ten years — through science and art.

Mauri Pelto has directed the project since its founding in 1984, spending more than 700 nights camped out adjacent to these glaciers. He is the United States representative to the World Glacier Monitoring Service, author of the AGU blog “From a Glacier’s Perspective”, and on the Science Advisory Board for NASA’s Earth Observatory.  His primary job is Dean of Academic Affairs at Nichols College, where he has been a professor since 1989.

Cal Waichler is an environmental science major at Colby College in Maine and is from Winthrop, WA. She looks to bridge the gap between science and the public by creating impactful, accurate climate art and storytelling. This summer’s research goal is to generate building blocks to contextualize her work within two fields: glacier science and climate communication.

Mariama Dryak (she/her) is an earth scientist, science communicator/writer and an advocate for action on creating solutions to the global climate crisis. Mariama is the creator and editor of an environmental advocacy blog Let’s Do Something BIG. and the ‘we persist.’ podcast, which shares the stories of underrepresented people in the earth, ocean and environmental sciences. Mariama received her Master’s from the University of Maine in 2019 in Earth and Climate Science, during which she drew connections between inferred ocean conditions and glacier change along the Antarctic Peninsula. Mariama can most often be found chatting science, going on adventures or getting muddy whilst doing something outdoors.

Columbia Glacier terminus with the 2018 field team.

 Field Partners 2020

Victoria Jarvis and Michelle Tanz are Wilderness Stewardship Fellows who will be gathering information about the Henry M Jackson Wilderness including the glacier. They are looking to understand the Columbia Glacier and our research within the scope of the 5 qualities of wilderness character (untrammeled, undeveloped, natural, solitude and primitive rec, other). They will then be able to incorporate our long-term monitoring efforts into their wilderness character narrative– a synthesized agency document providing insight about the wilderness.

Alia Khan, Western Washington University Cryosphere Studies and Aquatic Biochemistry Lab:

The research team including grad students Molly Peek and Shannon Healy focus on environmental chemistry in the cryosphere, including black carbon and snow algae to document global change of glacier and snow melt in mountainous and polar regions.

Tom Hammond, North Cascade Conservation Council,Will be joining us for the 17th year leveraging his experience with our for understanding the ongoing impact of climate change and our stewardship on the region.

Nooksack Indian Tribe, for the 9th consecutive year we will be conducting field work aimed at providing field validation and streamflow calibration data below Sholes Glacier for the ongoing work of the tribe.

Measuring flow below Sholes Glacier