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News Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey

Release: September 25, 2001
Robert M. Krimmel
253-428-3600, ext. 2647

Dramatic changes for Columbia Glacier, study shows

Aerial photography of the Columbia Glacier near Valdez, Alaska, shows dramatic changes in the glacier in the last two decades, according to a report released by the Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

"From 1982 to 2000, the glacier retreated nearly 7.5 miles," said Robert M. Krimmel, USGS research hydrologist and author of the report. "Thickness was reduced by as much as 1,300 feet, and the speed of the glacier's movement toward the sea increased from about 15 to 100 feet per day. The rate at which ice was lost to calving (ice breaking away from a glacier) increased from about 100 to 600 million cubic feet per day."

Columbia Glacier is within 10 miles of shipping lanes used by oil tankers from Valdez. When more ice is calved from the glacier, there is an increased chance that icebergs will interfere with shipping.

Measurements of the glacier made by the USGS include the glacier's speed, thickness, and location of its terminus, as well as rates at which it loses ice to calving and other processes. The photographic record contained in the report is the longest and most detailed that exists for any tidewater glacier (glacier that ends in the sea), making it an important resource for answering major questions about ice sheet stability for this type of glacier.

The report, "Photogrammetric Data Set, 1957-2000, and Bathymetric Measurements for Columbia Glacier, Alaska," by Robert M. Krimmel, is published as U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4089. The report includes a CD-ROM containing all of the data. Copies of the report are available for reading at the U.S. Geological Survey, 1201 Pacific Avenue, Suite 600, Tacoma, WA 98402. Copies can be purchased from the U.S. Geological Survey, Information Services, Box 25286, Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225-0286, telephone 303-202-4200.

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to: describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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