Glacier National Park is replacing signs predicting that its glaciers will be “gone by 2020.”
Sharp-eyed visitors have noticed that far from disappearing by 2020, some of them have actually increased in size, and 29 of the glaciers in the Montana park remain stubbornly unmelted, despite “climate change.”
The National Park Service (NPS) — presumably to hide its embarrassment — started removing the signs by stealth last year.
But it was rumbled by Roger Roots, founder of Lysander Spooner University, who wrote in a post at Watts Up With That?:
The centerpiece of the visitor center at St. Mary near the east boundary is a large three-dimensional diorama showing lights going out as the glaciers disappear. Visitors press a button to see the diorama lit up like a Christmas tree in 1850, then showing fewer and fewer lights until the diorama goes completely dark. As recently as September 2018 the diorama displayed a sign saying GNP’s glaciers were expected to disappear completely by 2020.
But at some point during this past winter (as the visitor center was closed to the public), workers replaced the diorama’s “gone by 2020” engraving with a new sign indicating the glaciers will disappear in “future generations.”
Almost everywhere, the Park’s specific claims of impending glacier disappearance have been replaced with more nuanced messaging indicating that everyone agrees that the glaciers are melting. Some signs indicate that glacial melt is “accelerating.”
A common trick used by the National Park Service at GNP is to display old black-and-white photos of glaciers from bygone years (say, “1922”) next to photos of the same glaciers taken in more recent years showing the glaciers much diminished (say, “2006”). Anyone familiar with glaciers in the northern Rockies knows that glaciers tend to grow for nine months each winter and melt for three months each summer. Thus, such photo displays without precise calendar dates may be highly deceptive.
A spokeswoman for the Park, Gina Kurzman, has now confirmed the changes to CNN:
The signs in the Montana park were added more than a decade ago to reflect climate change forecasts at the time by the US Geological Survey, park spokeswoman Gina Kurzmen told CNN.
In 2017, the park was told by the agency that the complete melting off of the glaciers was no longer expected to take place so quickly due to changes in the forecast model, Kurzmen said. But tight maintenance budgets made it impossible for the park to immediately change the signs.
The most prominent placards, at St. Mary’s Visitor Center, were changed last year. Kurzmen says that park is still waiting for budget authorization to update signs at two other locations.
But the glacier warning isn’t being removed entirely, she told CNN. Instead, the new signs will say: “When they will completely disappear depends on how and when we act. One thing is consistent: the glaciers in the park are shrinking.”
However, even the altered signs are not accurate.
Teams from Lysander Spooner University visiting the Park each September have noted that GNP’s most famous glaciers such as the Grinnell Glacier and the Jackson Glacier appear to have been growing—not shrinking—since about 2010. (The Jackson Glacier—easily seen from the Going-To-The-Sun Highway—may have grown as much as 25% or more over the past decade.)
The signs now say: “Currently, they are rapidly shrinking due to human-accelerated climate change. When they will completely disappear, however, depends on how and when we act.”
But this is green propaganda, not science.
In fact, glacier retreat has nothing whatsoever to do with “human-accelerated climate change” (whatever that is). As Gregory Wrightstone notes in his book Inconvenient Facts, the world’s glaciers began retreating in about 1820 (long before anthropogenic CO2 emissions could conceivably have made any difference to climate) as the planet started to emerge from the Little Ice Age.