Grant Awarded:  2013

Ice Surface Elevations, Kinematic Waves, and Monitoring
Long-Term Nisqually Glacier Changes Related to Climate

Barbara Samora,  MORA

Glaciers define Mount Rainier National Park (MORA). Perennial ice covers 34 square miles of the mountain, and most of it is distributed in 25 major glaciers. In fact, MORA sports more glacier ice than any other peak in the contiguous United States—more than all the other Cascade volcanoes combined (Dreidger and Kennard 1986). The Nisqually glacier is among the most accessible in the United States, one of the most visible glaciers in Mount Rainier, and provides scientists an important field site and park visitors a chance to see a glacier from close up. In addition, the Nisqually glacier has one of the longest and most complete research records in the Western hemisphere, starting in 1857. The Nisqually glacier elevation surveys have produced a significant amount of information on glacier responses to differing snow accumulation rates.  Climate change may be most quickly seen in glacier terminus fluctuations and changes in mass balance. The Nisqually Glacier profiles are the only such measurements being made in the Pacific Northwest area and currently provide our only evidence for how local glacier termini will respond to climatic variation. 

The SLN proposal provided support to continue the surface elevation measurements and to develop less expensive methods of monitoring the glacier using the park Total Station. Funding was used to contract with professional surveyors to continue measurements along the three primary transects (lower, middle, and upper). The survey crew was able to obtain measurements of the lower transect in late September, before bad weather moved in and they had to abandon the fieldwork. They had planned to return sometime during the first two weeks of October to complete the survey within the sampling window.  However, the government shut down prevented their return. Park staff were able to return in late October and obtain measurements of the middle transect, however no measurements were obtained for the upper transect. The fieldwork did show that future surveys can be conducted by park staff using the park’s total station.

Funding was also provided to purchase equipment to install a time lapse camera. However, installation was planned during early October and the government shut down prevented installation. It was decided to postpone installation of the camera until the spring of 2014.