LOOK: Grand Teton National Park Scientists Dig Deep to Record Snow Accumulation

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

Grand Teton National Park scientists recently conducted studies on snow accumulation on Middle Teton Glacier. The park posted about the study on Instagram, highlighting the scientists involved and the hard work they do every year.

“Glaciers naturally experience annual cycles of accumulation and ablation (a scientific term for melting),” Grand Teton National Park wrote on Instagram. “Glacial accumulation occurs from fall through late spring as snow falls, compacts, recrystallizes into ice. The rest of the year, glaciers melt and provide cool water to mountain streams. However, for a glacier to persist, it must accumulate at least as much snow as it loses from melt each summer.”

The first photo shows a scientist deep in the snowpack measuring the accumulation. They are rappelled down by a rope into a hole in the ice and snow in order to conduct measurements.

“Each spring, park scientists and external researchers hike up to Middle Teton Glacier to quantify winter accumulation and prepare for summer ablation,” the post continued. “Scientists dig snow pits, recording snow depth and density from the past accumulation season. Then, scientists drill PVC pipes called ‘ablation stakes’ into the snow. As temperatures rise and ablation season begins, scientists record how much the ablation stakes move downslope and how much PVC pipe becomes exposed. This provides a direction and speed of glacial melt.”

The next few photos show the scientists hiking up the mountain carrying their equipment. The next two photos show scientists taking measurements and setting up the equipment in the snow. Grand Teton National Park had some unfortunate news to share with this recent study, as it turns out.

Grand Teton National Park Shares News on Glacier Melt

“Unfortunately,” the park wrote, “the data show that Middle Teton Glacier is overall melting faster than it is gaining. In 2021 alone, scientists calculated 2-6 meters of ice loss from ablation stakes.”

The national park bid enthusiasts to follow along for more information on the glacier melt and the ablation studies. The final photos showed the hole the scientists created for measurements. All in all, some unfortunate news about Middle Teton Glacier, and we’ll be sure to follow the park’s announcements as they continue their studies. But, it’s interesting to learn about the studies in general and to know how park scientists measure ice melt.

Grand Teton Scientists Team Up To Study Grizzly Bears

Grand Teton National Park and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team are teaming up to study grizzlies in the national park. “As part of ongoing efforts required under the Endangered Species Act to monitor the population of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” Grand Teton National Park wrote in a statement recently, “park biologists in cooperation with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) will conduct capture operations within Grand Teton National Park.”

This will affect areas of the park as biologists will bait certain areas to capture the bears. This means, from Oct. 3 to Oct. 28, be sure to pay attention to all posted signs and warnings as the captures are taking place.