Status of the Whitney Glacier

As a general rule, I try to avoid discussion of political topics on my blog. It's not because I'm apolitical - far from it - but because I know that you can find political commentary anywhere else; and this is why I usually try to confine my discussion of topics to what I see and experience, along with making the occasional obscure literary, musical, or sci-fi references that pop into my brain. But, when I was on Shasta this year, I did notice something that caught my attention – a large-ish pool of water atop the Whitney Glacier. For my readers who are not avid mountaineering buffs, the Whitney Glacier is one of the permanent glaciers on Mt. Shasta, and is the only valley glacier in all of California.

At the time, I thought that it was strange, and something I’d never seen before; so when I got back and I had a spare moment, I went back to my archives to look at my prior pictures of the Whitney Glacier from past climbs. Unfortunately, the pictures from my 1998 climb have disappeared – or have been redacted by a secret agency or, more likely than not, I simply lost them.  While that’s a bit disappointing, perhaps it’s for the best – I remember that those photos were on an arcane and strange medium that ancients like myself called, “35mm film”. In any case, I was able to find my photos of my 2002 climb, my 2010 climb, and of course, my most recent climb this year.

Before I let you look at the pictures, and draw what conclusions you may, let me say the following. I am an independent person – and as an independent, I think critically about everything. In addition to that, I respect all viewpoints in the vein of Voltaire, who once famously said, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” I am also not a scientist – I am a blogger, and I have a day job that unfortunately, does not involve as much science as I would like. The following comments are solely my opinions, and should not be construed as facts or absolute truth in any way. Finally, and most importantly, when I researched this issue, I learned the following – the Whitney Glacier, as of 2002, was actually slightly growing due to climactic change (Wikipedia, USA Today). Having put all those disclaimers out there, here’s what I think based from what I’ve seen over the past decade: it appears to me the glacier may now be possibly shrinking. Full disclosure: I’m basing my opinion on what I observed this year – 2012. It’s my opinion that there shouldn’t be a fairly large pool of water atop the glacier; and toward the base by Misery Hill, conditions were downright slushy as the lower pictures attest to. Is this definitive proof? No, of course not – it could just be standard seasonal variation that I am unaware of – and, it has been a dry year after all. It is true, however, that the planet is warming , and whether you believe the cause is man-made or not – this warming is occurring; and is occurring right now. This alone should give you pause: it means that these features may not be there in a short period of time. Placing science and political debates aside, I think this also serves as a reminder that life is short; and one should experience these features while one can. Anyhow, feel free to chime in below - tell me I'm right, wrong, or just plain confused. If not, enjoy the photos! 

Whitney Glacier, July 2002

Whitney Glacier, July 2002

Whitney Glacier, September 2010

Whitney Glacier, September 2010

Whitney Glacier, August 2012 - the "pool" I am referencing is in the middle. Wish I had taken my camera, but this is as good as it gets as I was using my mobile. 

Whitney Glacier, August 2012 - the "pool" I am referencing is in the middle. Wish I had taken my camera, but this is as good as it gets as I was using my mobile. 

Base of Whitney Glacier/Misery Hill, July 2002

Base of Whitney Glacier/Misery Hill, July 2002

Base of Whitney Glacier/Misery Hill, August 2012

Base of Whitney Glacier/Misery Hill, August 2012