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8 Images of Global Warming

The USGS Repeat Photography Project's side-by-side comparisons of glacier retreat over the course of a century reveal dramatic climatic change and global warming at Glacier National Park in Montana.


In 1997, the U.S. Geological Survey embarked on the Repeat Photography Project, a systematic method of studying climate change and global warming…

In 1997, the U.S. Geological Survey embarked on the Repeat Photography Project, a systematic method of studying climate change and global warming based on glacier retreat in Glacier National Park, Montana. Computer models predict that all the glaciers in the Park will melt by 2030 under current warming trends.

The Repeat Photography Project compares historic photos taken by the park’s early photographers (including Morton Elrod, T.J. Hileman, Ted Marble, and F.E. Matthes) and makes a side-by-side comparison with contemporary photos. Copies of the old photos are taken into the field in order to determine the exact vantage points of the original images, and the photography is done within a precise window of time when the previous winter’s snow has melted and only glacial ice remains. The historic images were taken by park photographers as a way to publicize the natural beauty of the park and earn a living, but they now serve as dramatic evidence of our changing climate.

Here are 8 side-by-side images that give a stark representation of global warming’s effects on our cold climates.

Top: The Chaney Glacier in Glacier National Park, Montana. Above, right: The red dots on this map represent selected repeat photographs of glaciers taken throughout Glacier National Park. For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.

In 1913, Sperry Glacier's mass spanned across the entire basin and the glacier's terminus (the end or bottom part of a glacier at any given point in…

In 1913, Sperry Glacier’s mass spanned across the entire basin and the glacier’s terminus (the end or bottom part of a glacier at any given point in time) was recorded at over 150 feet tall. Contemporary images show how the glacier has receded and separated into fragments.

For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.

This 1920 photo (left) shows National Park Service Director Steven Mather on Piatt Path near present day Grinnell Glacier Overlook.  Darren Pfeifle…

This 1920 photo (left) shows National Park Service Director Steven Mather on Piatt Path near present day Grinnell Glacier Overlook. Darren Pfeifle strikes a similar pose in the 2008 repeat photograph.

For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.

Nearly a century after Stanton's photograph was taken, Grinnell Glacier has receded into its cirque basin and is no longer visible from the trail…

Nearly a century after Stanton’s photograph was taken, Grinnell Glacier has receded into its cirque basin and is no longer visible from the trail above Grinnell Lake.

For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.

Oblique view of Grinnell Glacier taken from the summit of Mount Gould.  The relative sensitivity of glaciers to climate change is illustrated by the…

Oblique view of Grinnell Glacier taken from the summit of Mount Gould. The relative sensitivity of glaciers to climate change is illustrated by the dramatic recession of Grinnell Glacier while surrounding vegetation patterns remain stable.

For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.

Located in Glacier National Park., MT.  For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.

Located in Glacier National Park., MT.

For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.

Located in Glacier National Park, Montana.  For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.

Located in Glacier National Park, Montana.

For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.

Located in Glacier National Park, MT. For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.

Located in Glacier National Park, MT.

For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.

Located in Glacier National Park, MT. For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.

Located in Glacier National Park, MT.

For more information about the USGS Repeat Photography Project, visit www.nrmsc.usgs.gov.