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Geologic Publications for Mount Rainier

Inventory of information on glaciers in Mount Rainier National Park

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Author(s): Barbara A. Samora, Anne Malver

Document Type: Unpublished report
Publisher: Mount Rainier National Park
Published Year: 1996
Pages: 417
DOI Identifier:
ISBN Identifier:

There are 25 major glaciers on Mount Rainier and numerous unnamed snow or ice patches. The Emmons Glacier has the largest area (4.3 square miles) and Carbon Glacier has the lowest terminus altitude (3,600 feet) of all glaciers in the lower 48 states. The Nisqually Glacier has shown dramatic changes in dimension within the last century (Heliker, Johnson and Hodge 1983). Mount Rainier's glaciers are important indicators of climatic change, major visitor interpretive objects, sources of water for park aquatic ecosystems, and hydroelectric and recreation pursuits outside of the park.

Global temperatures are increasing at a rate ten times more rapidly than the average rate of natural change. Global climate models predict temperature and precipitation changes in our region. Climate change may be most quickly seen in glacier terminus fluctuations and changes in mass balance. Global warming may decrease the size of large glaciers and smaller glaciers may disappear. Glaciers store information on temperature (Meier 1991, Raymond 1991) and past atmospheric composition (Lorius 1990) and may provide essential information for studying global climate change. Global warming may cause variations in glacial runoff. Approximately 14% of the total freshwater runoff in the lower 48 states is from glaciers (Mayo and Trabant 1986). Variations in glacial runoff may have significant effects on park waters, particularly effecting flow, temperature, and sediment regimes in downstream areas. Reduced stream temperatures may eliminate or alter life cycles of certain invertebrate species.

Interpretation of wilderness features, wilderness travel safety and glacier hazards are important management concerns. Greater understanding of past history and glacial processes, and establishment of baseline monitoring programs are needed to address resource management needs.

This report was initially prepared with funding assistance from the Columbia Cascades Cluster Natural Resource Funding Program. Information on glaciers within Mount Rainier National Park is available through many sources and for many years. However, no comprehensive reference is available that provides detailed information on Mount Rainier glaciers and changes that have occurred over the past century. This report summarizes information that is available from the park’s establishment to the present, and where to obtain it.

This report was initially prepared by Anne Malver (Mount Rainier National Park seasonal Resource Assistant) and Barbara Samora (Mount Rainier National Park Biologist), Natural and Cultural Resources Division of Mount Rainier National Park in 1999. In addition, Carolyn Driedger, U.S. Geologic Survey, Cascades Volcano Observatory, provided many of the records listed in the 1999 document, and direction on additional sources to obtain. A complete bibliography of park glaciers is also included in this report. The initial report has been updated with information current through 2011. This report will continue to be updated as new information on Mount Rainier glaciers becomes available.

View Report:
View Report (28.20M)

Suggested Citations:
In Text Citation:
Samora and Malver (1996) or (Samora and Malver, 1996)

References Citation:
Samora, B.A. and A. Malver, 1996, Inventory of information on glaciers in Mount Rainier National Park: Unpublished report, Mount Rainier National Park, 417 p..