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Glacier National Park replacing signs predicting glaciers’ imminent demise by 2020


The predicted demise of Glacier National Park’s glaciers by 2020 seems to have been premature, and the signs predicting their complete melt by 2020 are being rewritten to reflect that.

The best climate change forecasts available more than a decade ago pointed to a full disappearance by 2020, the U.S. Geological Survey said at the time, according to CNN.

But three years ago, the agency told park officials that the pace was not what scientists had expected and the melt was not happening as fast as expected, park spokeswoman Gina Kurzmen told CNN. While the glaciers in the iconic Montana park are still getting smaller, the process is more complex that original predictions allowed for, Kurzmen told KPAX-TV.

Park officials knew back then the signs should be changed, but the money was lacking. Now the signs are finally being replaced, starting with the most prominent ones, at St. Mary's Visitor Center, which were changed last May. Two other spots are awaiting update funds, Kurzmen said.

This does not mean the ice sheets are not melting, Kurzmen told CNN. It just means the speed is slower than expected. The signs will still caution that such changes are imminent.

“When they will completely disappear depends on how and when we act,” the new signs will say. “One thing is consistent: the glaciers in the park are shrinking.”

Glaciers everywhere are shrinking, as recent research has shown. A 2017 study by the USGS and Portland State University noted that some ice formations in Montana — the state where Glacier National Park is located — had lost 85% of their size.

The glaciers there on average had shrunk by 39%, the study authors said in a statement, and only 26 of them were now larger than 25 acres, a baseline for deciding whether something qualifies as a glacier at all, the researchers noted.

Worldwide, glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate, from the Himalayas to the Andes to the Canadian Arctic and beyond, recent measurements have shown.

“While the shrinkage in Montana is more severe than some other places in the U.S., it is in line with trends that have been happening on a global scale,” Portland State geologist Andrew G. Fountain said in the 2017 study statement.