Heatwave causing ‘biggest glacier melt in Washington state in a century’

‘I think this is definitely unprecedented. We’re going to set a lot of records,’ says water expert

<p>Mt Rainier seen from Air Force One in 2012</p>

Mt Rainier seen from Air Force One in 2012

The record-breaking heatwave in the US northwest and Canada is causing what’s thought to be the biggest glacier melt in Washington state in a century.

Milky, sandy water has been reported running into Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. Scientists say it could be rocks and minerals from melting glaciers.

The heatwave, with temperatures of nearly 50C (122F), is believed to have killed hundreds of people since last week in western Canada, along with the US states of Oregon and Washington.

The extreme heatwave is caused by a “heat dome” of high pressure over the region, which is being made more intense by the human-driven climate crisis.

University of Washington assistant research professor of glaciers and climate TJ Fudge told the state’s Komo News the extreme conditions were also causing the biggest glacier melt in the state in about 100 years.

Snow and ice on Washington’s iconic Mount Rainier– the most glaciated peak in the contiguous USA – is likewise melting.

Scott Pattee, of the Washington Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting, said: “Now we’re melting into glaciers and so probably that is what’s causing the milky waters down below.

“It is a big deal, I mean we’ve been losing glaciers a lot lately due to climate change or whatever it is - but to have them go this rapidly is really quite scary.”

Mr Pattee said Paradise, an area on the western slope of Mt Rainier, lost nearly 3ft of snow in just five days.

The melting, which comes months after heavy winter snow, raises the risk of fires by exposing surface vegetation, experts say.

“In my 30 years here in Washington doing this job, I don’t recall ever seeing this rapid of a melt when we have a lot of snow,” Mr Pattee told Kiro7.

“I’ve seen this amount of snow when we’ve had low pack years. But when we have this much snow? No. I think this is definitely unprecedented. We’re going to set a lot of records.”

Authorities in British Columbia recorded at least 486 “sudden and unexpected” deaths between Saturday and Wednesday.

Another 60 fatalities in Oregon have been linked to the heat and more than a dozen in Washington.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in