Lyell Glacier was Yosemite’s National Park’s largest glacier. In 1883, park officials took a photograph of the ice giant. This year, NASA’s climate team recreated that photo with the glacier in its current state. The comparison is stunning.
Lyell Glacier is not only the largest in Yosemite, it’s also the second largest in the Sierra Nevada range. Since 1883, it’s lost 80 percent of its surface area, to the point where it covers only 1/10th of a square mile—and of that loss, 10 percent occurred in just the last four years.
The historical loss is huge, but even more sobering is what it suggests for the future. We’re rapidly losing the ice and snowpack that have been especially key for Western and mountain states—not just in the parks, but all over. That ice and snowpack has long made up a basic part of our water supply, and as it dwindles down, it’s looking like our future will be even drier.
Correction: An earlier version of the post misidentified the national park as Yellowstone. It is, however, Yosemite and has been corrected.
Image: NASA Climate