Glacier National Park is an amazing place. Serving as the headwaters for rivers and streams that end up in the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, and all the way north to Hudson’s Bay, it affects a huge portion of North American waters. The glaciers, though, are disappearing, and they’re disappearing fast. So fast, in fact, that a new study conducted in the area is predicting that the contiguous United States will be entirely glacier-free in the next few decades.
Of the 150 glaciers that were previously found in Glacier National Park, only 26 remain. The others have been slowly melting over the last few decades, and are no longer big enough be officially be classified as glaciers.
The study, conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and Portland State University, looked back as far as 1966 and concentrated on 39 of the named glaciers in Montana. After looking at temperatures and glacier size, the found that, on average, the glaciers had decreased by 39 percent. In some cases, though, they found a melt rate of up to 85 percent. “It’s inevitable that we will lose them all over the next few decades,” Dr. Daniel Fagre, lead scientist at the USGS, told The Guardian. “The Colorado glaciers started melting before Montana’s and while there are larger glaciers in the Pacific northwest that will hold on longer, the number vanishing will steadily grow until none are left.”
Here’s the scary part: although Montana is seeing faster glacial melting than most other parts of the United States, it’s on par with what researchers have found all over the world. And, according to IFL, there’s nothing we can do about it. “Halting the warming of the planet will not be enough to save them,” the science-centric website wrote. “It will take a reversal in average temperatures, something which is effectively never going to happen.