Where do you think glaciers are? Most people think about the north and south poles, but glaciers are in many areas we know. There was little controversy about glaciers in Colorado, the state in the western US. We are explorers of interesting geographical stories like this, and so eager to share what we found with our readers.
Glorious days of glaciers in Colorado
Colorado valleys were full of glaciers back in the ice age. Especially during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. large valley glaciers were there across most of Colorado’s high altitude mountain ranges during that time. A quite small icecap was created in the northwest part of Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado. Valley glaciers in the Front Range were in size from 9.3 to 15.5 miles long and 0.6 to 1.9 miles wide, reaching a peak altitude of 8000 to 9000 ft. These former glaciers were 705 to 1500 ft thick.
The icecap in the Cache la Poudre River valley fed the longest glacier. It was 45 kilometers long. Bull Lake and Pinedale are the only Pleistocene glacial advances that were in Colorado. In addition, three tiny Holocene glacial advances named Triple Lakes, Audubon, and Arapaho Peak, from oldest to youngest.
Neoglaciation is the name given to these small advancements, and the greatest glacier during this time was only 1.6 kilometers long. The advancement of Arapaho Peak is local evidence of the Little Ice Age (Not a true ice age but a regional cooling period that happened in the Medieval Warm Period). The ragged relics of these little Ice Age glaciers make up the majority of the glaciers and perennial ice patches in Colorado today.
Current situation of glaciers in Colorado
Glaciers covered most of the summits in Colorado have been for years until they began to melt away 11,000 to 15,000 years ago. There are some leftovers still in the mountains, but they are nothing compared to how it was before.
There is a standard that separates a glacier from a large piece of ice. Glaciers can flow. They are flowing under their weight like a slow river. This article will not dig into facts about glaciers. Many ice-covered areas do have not glacier characteristics. So, we gathered all the information and check if the Colorado glaciers are true glaciers or not.
16 snowy areas are considered glaciers in Colorado. All of them are southern rocky mountains but protected from sunlight. Wind and snow slides are keeping these assumed glaciers tight every year. When considering standards, most of them are not fall into the categories. Out of the 16, only a few shows glacier characteristics.
What happened to the glaciers in Colorado?
Glaciers in Colorado started to melt down and disappear when the earth is warming up. The rest have been losing glacier characteristics over time. Some glaciers cannot consider glaciers by today’s standards. The famous Saint Mary’s Glacier, located in the James Peak Wilderness is a perfect example. Researchers are working on finding the rate of disappearance and its effects on the landscape and life.
Andrews Glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the few real glaciers left in Colorado. This alpine glacier is quite popular among hikers. Andrews glacier starts elevating 9240′ at Trailhead and has a 2150′ elevation gain. One end of the glacier is extending to Andrews Tarn (mountain lake). By analyzing images of the Andrews glacier, we can determine it is retiring. Glacier shows a negative mass balance, so it is only a matter of time before it completely fades away. June to September is the best time to hike Andrews glacier. You experience the beauty of Waterfalls, wildlife, lakes, streams, wildflowers, and the glacier.
Arapaho Glacier is an alpine glacier too. Located in a cirque immediately southeast of North Arapaho Peak, in Roosevelt National Forest, Arapaho Glacier is a source of water for the city of Boulder. It wears the crown of Colorado’s largest glacier. Unfortunately, it has a negative glacier mass balance too. It lost 52% of its surface area during the 20th Century. So, with time Arapaho Glaciers will remain history. The glacier is just east of the Continental Divide and has a beautiful trail of 13,397′ as the highest point.
Saint Mary’s Glacier
Don’t let the name fools you. Even though it is named a glacier it is not a glacier according to today’s standards. The most accurate description for the Saint Mary’s is a semi-permanent snowfield. It is in the Arapaho National Forest. People going hiking in this former glacier.
What is the difference between a glacier and a snowfield?
Do you already know what a glacier is but what is a snowfield? A snowfield is a large permanent area of snow on a mountain or at the peak of a glacier. Most Colorado glaciers are snowfields. Perito Moreno Glacier, Vatnajokull, and Jostedalsbreen are some of the famous glaciers. Snowfields can be seen in many northern and southern countries. Snowfields are used for winter sports.
What type of glaciers is in Colorado?
All glaciers in Colorado are cirque glaciers. A cirque glacier is a glacier that has a bowl-shaped basin at the head of a mountain valley. These are the remaining ice of much larger valley glaciers. Those former stream valleys are not in Rocky Mountain National Park today but 15 000 years ago the park has been covered by them.
The Continental ice sheet is the largest type of glacier. They can cover up land on a square kilometer scale. There are no continental ice sheet glaciers in Colorado.
Future of glaciers in Colorado
Glaciers in Colorado are fading away as I mentioned multiple times. Many glaciers were losing glacier characteristics. Now only a few can consider glaciers but even they will lose that. Climate changes and global warming have further increased the rate of glaciers melting. So, it is a matter of time.
Glacier melting down will make permanent changes to the environment. Since some glaciers are used to supply water to the population those communities will have a hard time finding new sources of water.
So, that is what we discovered. I hope this information has helped you. Stay with us and explore the world.