Yosemite National Park Glacier Nearing ‘Oblivion,’ Pics Taken Over a Century Apart Show

by Shelby Scott
(Photo By MICHAEL MACOR/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Glaciers and ice shelves around the world have been disappearing in recent years at an alarming rate thanks to the ongoing climate crisis. While extreme drought conditions in the southern United States along the Mississippi River have aided in demonstrating the severity of changing climate conditions, two photos, taken at Yosemite National Park a century apart, threaten that the park’s Lyell Glacier is rapidly nearing “oblivion.”

Newsweek reports that glaciers across Yosemite National Park could disappear in just 28 years if humans are unable to reverse some of the already devastating effects of climate change. This is especially significant in the California national park as the outlet reports glaciers were crucial in the formation of Yosemite’s landscape.

A pair of photos, one dated 1883 and the other dated 2013—nearly 150 years apart—shows just how much snow and ice has already melted amid the climate crisis. The earlier image sees snow and ice covering much of the Yosemite National Park glacier while the latter sees snow and ice just coating the top region.

The Lyell Glacier’s rapid disappearance, however, is also prominent as it represents the largest in the national park. The glacier is also vital to local ecosystems as it’s a dynamic source of drinking water, tasked with supplying the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.

Ella Gilbert, a climate scientist and presenter, spoke about how glaciers around the world are disappearing at large, and the effect they will eventually have on us.

“Melting glaciers are the largest contributor to rising sea levels, and a poignant symbol of how human actions are transforming our environment,” she began. “The [UNESCO] report shows that we have already pushed some glaciers too far, with the loss of iconic tropical glaciers like those on Kilamanjaro inevitable.”

Yosemite National Park Glaciers One of Many That Are Threatened

Although the loss of glacial landscape at Yosemite National Park is gut-wrenching, it’s hardly the only location in the country and on the planet to see the disappearance of these frozen giants. In addition to the Lyell Glacier, affected UNESCO World Heritage sites include Yellowstone National Park and the Canadian Rocky Mountains, not to mention Mount Kilimanjaro.

Still, despite that we’ve practically already lost about a third of the world’s glaciers, natural formations that were created millennia ago, scientists state that if we can keep global warming to 1.5° C, which equates to 37.5° F, then we might just be able to prevent any more future glacial loss, in Yosemite and in other regions around the globe.

Nevertheless, experts have also emphasized that the shrinking number of glaciers around the globe is making for more dangerous landscapes. Simon Cook, a senior lecturer in environmental change at the University of Dundee, explained how one natural occurrence affects the other.

“Glaciers are shrinking in almost all parts of the world,” Cook began. “There’s a sense that as these [glaciers] shrink, these landscapes are becoming more dangerous.”

He stated that melting glaciers are resulting in ice avalanches and total glacial collapse. In addition, “There’s also more potential for landslides and catastrophic floods, and so on.”