Tuning Helicopters and Chasing Ice in Alaska


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
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Just a typical day in Juneau. But when it's raining in town, the mountains are accumulating snow.

Mid-winter in Alaska and the excitement I held last September when I started my job here still puts a smile on my face as I bike to work. I have often talked of owning my own heli-ski business one day. So when the job opportunity to work for Coastal Helicopters arose, I packed my bags and flew to the offer.

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Being a helicopter mechanic in Juneau means I’m out in the elements: wind, rain, rain, more rain, and snow. I need quality clothing to tackle everyday tasks here in this southeast rainforest and Carhartt is my go-to gear. My usual work uniform is their flannel hoodie with their Double Knee Dungarees.

My first week on the job was sensory overload in a glorious way. Hovering machines that defy gravity. Turbine engines that scream. The smell of jet fuel. This is definitely different than my previous aviation experience of working on bush planes.

Tourists come year round and book scenic flights to view Juneau’s ice-field and glaciers. When there’s an empty seat, sometimes I’m lucky to be asked to fill it. The sensation of hovering in space sends my stomach straight to my throat as we effortlessly move around the clouds. The views from the plastic bubble are incredible despite overcast weather. When the pilot picks a spot in the middle of severely crevassed glacier and tells me that’s where we are going to land, my eyes do a double take. This is way different than landing a ski-plane on a snowy glacier runway where, although sketchy at best, the landing strip is in sight. This is an opportunity to get close with mother nature and look deep down into her scars. The experience is always awe-inspiring, yet also alarming, especially after I watched the film, “Chasing Ice.”

“Chasing Ice” is a film about the affect of global warming on glaciers around the world. James Balog, a photographer whose work revolves around the relationship between humans and nature, created a documentary on glacial melt. Chasing Ice, his latest work, reports on the Extreme Ice Survey, which captures the twisting, soaring forms of threatened wild ice and shares shocking footage of the world’s largest ice fields degrading at a rate faster than we could imagine. Images of ice blocks the size of the Empire State building calving into the ocean will make us rethink our views on global climate change.

The experience of hovering above these hostile living glaciers to landing on their ever-fracturing crust was even more powerful after seeing this film. With such warm temperatures this winter, I’m more motivated than ever to get out and chase some ice before our backcountry playground melts away.

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Mendenhall Glacier, 5 minutes from home.

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Looking down Herbert Glacier towards the sea. Herbert Glacier is one of Juneau Icefield's many glaciers. Although we had a short 20 minute flight to view this beauty, there are access trails to its retreating terminus and the surrounding mountains. Endless possibilities for exploration, mountaineering and backcountry skiing!

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Although these crevasses are awe-inspiring in their beauty, the flowing water is just another sign of the warming temperatures.

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Moulin, a hole in the glacier with water pouring in. In 1999 a NOLS student fell into one of these on the Matanuska, he was never found. Moulins can be deeper than normal crevasses as the water eventually bores down all the way to the rock the glacier glides on.

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Glorious Alaska.

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Flow lines of the moving glacier.

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View from above.

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Back at work where I'm not the only one living in Carhartts.

Add Alaska to your style, Carhartts on sale here.

WildSnow Girl, Amy Heuer, grew up in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. When she wasn’t skiing, she was flying small planes with her father. Now she pursues both passions in Juneau, Alaska, where she is an aviation mechanic.

Comments

39 Responses to “Tuning Helicopters and Chasing Ice in Alaska”

  1. Mike February 25th, 2013 10:59 am

    Beautiful photos. Sad to thin about the glaciers melting.

  2. Craig February 25th, 2013 3:21 pm

    Burning jet fuel to go and chase the glaciers and appreciate them before they melt is more than a bit ironic considering the inefficiency of the mode of transport (helicopter) and its unusually high impact on global warming.

    I know we are all guilty of this type cognitive dissonance, but I think we as outdoor recreational need to discuss this idea more. Especially the ski industry very existance is at stake. And whose whole premise is on travel (air travel can easily double your CO2 emissions with a trip to Europe). And is such a gear intense activity that makes me want to get new gear all the time.

    Craig.

  3. Dirk February 25th, 2013 3:55 pm

    I don’t mean to be rude, but Amy what exactly do you think your personal role in climate change is? You are part of the problem. I don’t think you can “love the smell of jet-a in the morning”, want to open yet another heli ski operation AND still think you’re saving the glaciers. Is flying tourists around in circles at a rate of 30-40 GALLONS per hour really that necessary/appropriate? I understand flying machines are exciting, but maybe you could be a bit more honest in the impact they really have.

  4. Lou Dawson February 25th, 2013 3:58 pm

    Craig, interesting point, but in my opinion that logic trail just leads to the “we should all shoot ourselves” conclusion. More reasonable is the total picture, use a heli, but be less consumptive in other ways. It’s all about balance.

    On the other hand, one does have to wonder, if we were to actually stop or reverse GW (which I personally think is impossible), what would we have to give up? It would be more than the occasional helicopter ride, that is well documented.

    What is more, it’s the transportation industry that supplies our basic needs that one of the biggest culprits (trucking, that sort of thing). But we talk about how much gear we use or how much wind power a resort buys. That, actually, as cognitive dissonance. (grin)

    Lou

  5. Lou Dawson February 25th, 2013 7:34 pm

    Look you guys. Debate but be nice, please get out of attack mode. Lou

  6. Joe Risi February 25th, 2013 8:32 pm

    Stoked for the girl perspective amongst the bro brah heli camps we all hear about.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures this winter!

  7. Amy February 26th, 2013 12:48 am

    Dirk, I am honest about what I do and what I love. Clearly, helicopters are not the way to save global warming, but Lou is right…it’s about balance and trying to be less consumptive in other ways. I saw the film Chasing Ice after my scenic flight and it opened my eyes to what’s really going on in the world. Am i going to quit my job tomorrow? No, but I will do what I can in other areas of my life…just like I hope everyone else does.

  8. TKA February 26th, 2013 1:25 am

    Wow Lou!! Although I suspected all along we were on the same side of the coin, I agree….the offensive (in every way) comments are misguided. GW is not going to be reversed by a helicopter mechanic taking a dream job in AK. And just because they see the effects and reality of it while trying to educate others by a short photo essay whilst riding a in a helo doesn’t make them a hypocrite. The reality is 7 billion people,….and it doesn’t matter at all if 1 person starts a new helo business. If she can incorporate some type of environmental awareness into her business, more power to her. We had absolutely no education incorporated into the tours where I worked on the glaciers above Juneau. Any population ecologist will tell you…it just doesn’t matter…it’s not a moral or lifestyle issue, it’s K (I think your logic trail is correct Lou). We could vaporize 7 billion people overnight and the effects of our last 200 years will be felt for the next 10000. Might as well fill’er up with Jet-A, enjoy the scenery, make some turns, and make a buck or two. I will say that we should try and go out gracefully by conserving what we have left though. I fell in love with Juneau while living there. Very beautiful, great culture, and ironically home to some of the most liberal folks in AK despite being able to see Russia….

  9. Lenka K. February 26th, 2013 4:47 am

    Frankly, I doubt that people who go on heli-skiing trips are terribly environmentally conscious, let alone trying to compensate for their heli-use impact in other ways. Because if they were, it would never occur to them to go on such a trip, when there are so many less-polluting ways of enjoying even very remote backcountry (re. the amazing Valhalla-report).

    And yes, I immediatelly had the same reaction as Craig.

    I was also a bit surprised by Amy’s article here on WildSnow, because my impression was that human-powered backcountry skiing was what WildSnow primarily stands for.

    Off to enjoy some fresh euro powder (I’m taking the train :) ),

    Lenka K.

  10. Lisa Dawson February 26th, 2013 5:10 am

    Amy, thanks for tuning up those helicopters so they are as fuel efficient as possible.

    My love for the environment has grown out of my experiences in the wild, and yes, I have had to burn fossil fuels to get there. But I wouldn’t be as environmentally conscious if I hadn’t went on those trips – they help me respect the beautiful places I see in photos but will never get to travel to. And like most people, those big trips are few, mostly once in a lifetime experiences. I try to compensate in ways like riding my bike often instead of driving.

    There’s a simple, economically feasible solution to global warming in Superfeakonomics by Dubner, Levitt. Wish folks would start talking about that!

  11. Frank February 26th, 2013 6:33 am

    Kinda like enjoying trout for dinner and wanting to do everything possible to keep our streams unpolluted. Oooops, did it get flown in along with the vino?

  12. Lou Dawson February 26th, 2013 7:06 am

    Guys (and perhaps that should be all caps), Lisa works hard to bring us an attractive and interesting female guest blogger. And some of you pile on the criticism?

    What’s disappointing when these sorts of GW threads get going, is that they’re usually the result of a bunch of finger pointing, generally by people who know next to nothing about the lifestyles of who they’re pointing fingers at. It’s ugly, and this isn’t the place for it.

    In fact, when this stuff goes on it starts looking like a classroom of 5th graders all pointing their fingers at each other and saying “you did it.”

    I think our approach here at WildSnow is to in any way possible discourage the unpleasant unproductive negativity of finger pointing when it comes to global warming. There are ways to make a point while being humorous and nice. If someone doesn’t have the basic social skills to do so, I’d prefer they go elsewhere.

    Global warming is a problem, no doubt. But acting like a bunch of church ladies isn’t the solution.

    Industrial tourism and industry (e.g. helicopter) do contribute to GW. No doubt. But the solution is about striking a balance between what we want as a modern civilization, and what we can change or give up. It’s not about church lady finger pointing.

  13. Lou Dawson February 26th, 2013 7:14 am

    Lenka, we are indeed about human powered skiing. But that includes the transportation that gets us to the goods. Heli and fixed wing drops are used all over the world to enable human powered skiing. I’m not going to try and be a fake. We use aircraft. We use automobiles. We use helicopters. Part of our mission here at WildSnow is to explore and enjoy all aspects of human powered skiing, including the mechanized transportation that gets us to where we start climbing. Amy’s post fits exactly into that.

    Along with that, we’re also aware that the climate is changing. Kudos to Amy for having the verve to observe and report.

  14. Alicia February 26th, 2013 7:39 am

    “Life takes on new meaning when looking down on the world through the lens of the atmosphere, across mountains, deserts and forestlands. Perhaps for the first time one begins to see the interconnections and relationships of the natural landscape and the holism of the biosphere. The view from the top is life-changing.”

    To build stewardship and gain support to protect the places we love, people of all shapes and sizes need some sort of access, whether its a photo, video or heli ride…How else do you think Alaska gets monetary support for all their parks, reserves etc? And yes, above all we should do our best to tread lightly in ALL areas of life.. Just a thought.
    Nice article Amy.

  15. Lisa February 26th, 2013 7:53 am

    Well said, Alicia. Thank you for your eloquent thoughts.

  16. Dave Field February 26th, 2013 8:04 am

    Thanks for your amazing photos and snapshot of your life up in Juneau Amy! I was suprised to see the negative comments arrive so quickly. Thanks Lou and Lisa for your reasoned moderation. Climate change is a fact and as has been pointed out its so easy to point your finger and blame somebody else as the culprit when in reality its a global issue and anybody who lives in the industrial world is contributing their part.

  17. Lisa February 26th, 2013 8:13 am

    Thanks, Dave. Appreciate your positive input.

  18. Bill February 26th, 2013 8:29 am

    One of the things I like about Wildsnow is the different trip reports. It is refreshing to read reports from young people who are doing something constructive with their lives, both in work and play. Good for you Amy and thanks. I wish my daughter, who has wrecked her life with crack and crime, had taken your path.

  19. Dirk February 26th, 2013 9:41 am

    Amy, sorry if my first post came across quite so negative. It takes a lot of guts, hard work, and brains to follow your dreams like you are, and that is admirable. I in no way wanted to “finger point” and say that GW is all your fault and not mine. I make my living flying, so every day at work I’m out there burning up ridiculous amounts of fossil fuel. I struggle to rationalize the fact that I’m personally profiting from being a big polluter. Also, early in my career I flew for a air tour company out at the Grand Canyon and it opened my eyes to how invasive aviation can be to a wild area. Again it is wildly hypocritical of me, but I’ve come to really dislike the constant background noise of all these aircraft make in these beautiful areas. Perhaps seeing how superficial an impact a scenic flight has on the average tourist colors my view a bit too.

    P.S. speaking of carrharrts, I don’t know if I could live without my “Alaskan tuxuedo” a.k.a. insulated coveralls

  20. Amy February 26th, 2013 10:27 am

    Thanks for all the positive comments!

    And now that winter has finally shown itself, I’m also loving my insulated Carhartts :)

  21. Bjørnar Bjørhusdal February 26th, 2013 4:39 pm

    I am a norwegian glacier guide, and have seen our glaciers do what glaciers do the last 20 years. What do they do? All glaciers build mass in winter and melt in the summer. A glacier always floats down the hill, it always moves. Some glaciers where there is permafrost will “stick” to the ground a bit during winter, but they always slide with gravity.

    What else do glaciers do? They always grow, or shrink, depending on the snowfall of past winters, and of how severe the melting season has been. They never stick around in the same spot, that would be too much of a coincidense between melting and snowfall.

    What else is natural for a glacier? To have big streams of running rivers coming out the terminal glacier, and running on top of the glacier during melting season. This is not a sign of dying glaciers.
    It is also completely natural for a glacier to calve big blocks of ice, even the size of Empire State Building. It’s not a sign of the glacier disappearing.

    Last year we had a journalist visiting us, from the renowned mag of National Geographic. We tried to explain to him these natural truths about glaciers, and he seemed to take it in. But the article that was printed fell more in the category of pseudo-scientific terror-creating nonsense, which seems to have a lot of readers/buyers in the US, and in the rest of the world.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that humans haven’t created the global warming we are experiencing, cause we are, it’s a fact scientifically. What I’m saying is that glaciers naturally grow and shrink. That is also a fact. Glaciers have come and gone over thousands of years, and will continue to do so. We may well have been the creators of global warming, especially countries like the US and f.e. little Norway with it’s massive oil production could be to blame. But all this non-scientific, touchy-feely stuff about glaciers is ticking me off, get your facts right, and not through National geo, for instance, not through Exxon as well…

  22. Matt February 27th, 2013 1:37 am

    It’s hard not to see the irony in admiring retreating glaciers from a helicopter, so you can’t blame these “guys” too much for pointing out the obvious. I think most alaskans would be more embarassed by all the talk about carhatts, then by the global warming issue.

    As someone who lives in Southeast Alaska and is studying the effects of climate change on ecosystems, it’s hard not get a little cynical. Truth is, as individuals there isn’t much we can do, besides voting for someone who will address the issue from a more powerful position (wait… didn’t we do that?).

    I enjoyed the post, Juneau is a great place to be a skier (or snowboarder)- amazing mountains and ocean, good snow, and no roads to bring in the touristas. It’s nice to see our little skiing community broadcast on such a reputable blog.

  23. Lou Dawson February 27th, 2013 7:23 am

    Matt thanks, all good points. While editing, I was thinking of the Carhartt’s as both tounge in cheek since they are a bit over exposed as the cool earthy style, but also we do need to make some affiliate sales so we can afford to keep doing this (the blog), so the reference for that is in there as well. Mostly, it is fun to see Carhartt being sported by someone who actually needs them for work… and they are super for both style as well as practicality.

    I’ve been to AK enough to know that much of our take from down here in the lower 48 is a chuckle or even a howler to you guys. We can live with that. I’ll take the risk of being laughed at by 90% of your population (6 people) while amusing our friends down here (several million). Grin. When it comes to AK, we are cheechakoos and freely admit it (is that the spelling, and can I use that term?).

    Though in Amy’s case it sounds like she might finally qualify as an Alaskan (grin)? So long as her Carhartts are displaying a few threads of wear and a patina of residue from various petroleum powered machinery?

    As for energy use, let’s talk reality. The first step in actually stopping or reversing global warming would be to completely eliminate all modern civilization in Alaska. Then we can start on Las Vegas.

    Lou

  24. Lou Dawson February 27th, 2013 7:41 am

    Dirk (thanks for your recent comment) and all, regarding the enviro issues. Yes indeed, short distance air transport produces a lot of CO2 per passenger mile. I’ve studied it quite a bit on the net. Is it appropriate as recreation? Sitting in moral judgment of that (finger pointing) seems a bit ridiculous unless one has the complete CO2 footprint picture of each person who engages such service, as well as what they’re doing in terms of mitigating their footprint in other ways, being an activist, etc. Say for example the flightseeing causes that person to go join the Sierra Club because of the awful melting glacier stuff they saw, and they gave the Sierra Club their life savings to support opposition to energy development in AK, then they changed their their life to that of an aesetic yoga master living in a hut on the beach in Belize, eating nothing but fruit from the trees in their backyard and making their clothing out of bamboo?

    Or, perhaps that flightseeing is such a small part of the whole picture that so long as it’s done as efficiently as possible, it’s really no big deal and we should be worrying about trucking our food instead of train transport, or coal burning in China?

    Lou

  25. Mary Lee February 27th, 2013 1:04 pm

    Amy bikes to work, recycles, and is an outdoor enthusiast in all aspects. Anyone who has ever met this awesome lady is rolling their eyes at the opinions she is anyway related to global warming. This is not a trust fund girl out to prove something. Her love for aeronautics should be applauded. I remember when she was tickled to painstakingly reskin the wings of a piper cub for the first time. She is just relaying her passion for work and the beautiful and harsh environment she has the privilege to work in. She is an inspiration whom I’ve had the opportunity to call friend. Thanks for sharing, and bringing a topic that is dear to many people as indicated in the outpouring of responses.

  26. Dirk February 27th, 2013 2:00 pm

    Lou, I think we definitely agree that this is a wayyyy bigger issue than some flight seeing up in AK. It is a cumulative (global) problem of emissions so I don’t think you can really say hey this one heli is “insignificant”. That would be a lot like saying voting is insignificant too, “hey it’s only one in 200 million so who cares”. A better (more honest) way of looking at it is: admitting its a dirty/noisy way of getting around, but it’s worth it (it’s fun, my job, easier,etc…..), and I’m fine with the damage it causes.

    Mary Lee, For anyone who makes a career in aviation I really think its hard to honestly say “I’m doing more good than bad to the environment”. No level of stoke or recycling can change that. I’m not saying don’t care or give up (quite the opposite). Just take that Super Cub for example: it exhilarating to fly it around the backcountry(I’ve done my share), but the whole time its pretty much “crop dusting” LEAD (see heavy metal toxin) out there for all the mammals to ingest.

  27. Lou Dawson February 27th, 2013 2:23 pm

    Dirk, this gets into interesting territory. For example, websites will say “fight global warming” or “help prevent global warming” then give you a list of things to do, such as driving less. Most if not all that stuff is like saying “reduce the size of the sun, use an umbrella.” There are some pretty smart people out there who believe GW exists, but in the same paragraph will tell you that if we want to stop it or reverse it we need some drastic measures, not just a bunch of talk, and not just a few less airplane flights or driving a few less miles. Or yes, worrying about flightseeing.

    At a certain point there could be a tipping in human motivation due to extreme climate events that could be directly tied to GW, as well as proven to be extreme. When that happens, indeed, perhaps we will take those drastic measures. Until then, usually all the GW chatter I hear is just a sort of guilting shaming routine that does nothing but look unpleasant and in the end sound rather dumb. Worse, we end up with politician’s vague promises — the truly insulting part of this whole deal.

    Or, on the other side, all the little ultimately meaningless GW prevention measures are used as “conspicuous conservation” for boosting self esteem and keeping up with the Jonses, such as folks who put solar panels on the wrong exposure just so they can be seen from the street (I heard that on a Freakonomics podcast, and knowing human nature had no trouble believing it.).

  28. Bjørnar Bjørhusdal February 27th, 2013 4:06 pm

    Humans are no good for the rest of natural life, except domestic animals which would get killed off fast in a world without humans.

    And we are fine with it, too use Dirk’s words.

    You might as well all admit to it, recycling(sic) or not, you are no good. So please stop defending yourselves saying you do enough or more to tip a balance in a favourable way for Gaia, because you are no good. Ok, some are worse than others, but that is just splitting heirs. Dirk’s point again, if a vote counts, so does anyones contribution to help GW along, to kill of species, to consume.

    High horses are hard to get off, but try down-climbing a bit first, then maybe you won’t have to come crashing down face first at the next hurdle

  29. Jim February 27th, 2013 5:18 pm

    Ice flow covered 70% of North America 20,000 years ago. The last ice age was as recent as 10-20,000 years ago and ice covered a large part of North America. Global warming is the end of the current ice age and has provided good weather and prosperity and the growth of civilization and the human race for 20,000 years. If man was able to reverse global warming, should we? The reverse of global warming, namely cooling, is not an attractive alternative. Imagine if cooling began. It would mean summers with snow that did not melt lasting through destroying crops. 4 years of snow on the ground through summer would wipe out most of the world population. 4 years of 40 foot snow accumulation would erase most signs of civilization under a layer of ice. When Krakatoa went off in 1883 the ash plume circled the world and there was no summer in the US that year. Imagine the impact on gnp and the markets if cooling commenced. Its awful to imagine. At 600 inches the National Guard had to come in to prevent buildings from collapsing. If it hit 1000 inches, as it does up higher, they might have to abandon the place.So its a case of unintended consequences or be careful what you wish for should they figure out how to reverse global warming. Look at Valdez AK with 200 inches of snow, its a full time job to remove snow.

  30. Matt Kinney February 27th, 2013 6:14 pm

    Amy, it must have been a great experience to help with that project. I saw the trailer of “Chasing Ice” awhile back. Some of it was filmed real close to here at the Columbia Glacier. I have followed the film’s development and know of its mission seek proof, not deny or avoid it. It looks exciting people to work around who are trying to get the message out. Ah to be young in Alaska and love to backcountry ski these days. Being around glaciers for work or play is really special. The film is another attempt to bring global warming reality to people. Your company helped pull it off. They say it may be one the most profound environmental movies ever made. Bravo if it is . Have a good season, tan well, and fly safe.

    I am still stunned by the glacier mass lost last summer that I see skiing as recently as last week.. I know I sound like a broken record, but after another round of record rains beating down on snowless glaciers last fall across the Chugach Range, it’s hard not be a witness, as if to a foreign or domestic civil rights violation, injustice, war crimes, and now climate change. While western wild fires causes can be debated by opposing opinions on global warming, there is little doubt as to what melts glaciers. Rains are displacing snowfall earlier in spring, melting the snow faster so the rain can eat away at the glaciers longer before the snow returns in the fall. Things are not looking good for glaciers. This is all exacerbated by a winter that is now shorter winter than in the past and leaves less snow on the glacier each spring. I guess since glacier seem so huge its hard to fathom them melting to those who don’t live near them. Though it has been reported that Alaska was cooler last year, it was actually much wetter than normal along the coast where glaciers grow, a trend consistent with global warming models for coastal Alaska. The main stream media missed by focused on temperature and not the rainfall amounts. ISSW was held during that unusual monsoon in Anchorage. The rain events are happening more with greater rainfall totals, smashing existing recording by inches not ¼ inches.

    Just to reassure everyone that glaciers aren’t going extinct anytime soon, so I doubt any pesky 1970’s environmentalist will be clamoring for a glacier as an endangered species. Despite the geological diversity they add to mountain landscapes and importance to most the fresh drinking water on earth, there is little we can do stop their demise over the next century or two. Besides the term “environmentalist” is silly old school labeling and doesn’t fit those who are working on a variety of fronts on the issue of global warming in 2013. It’s not a “them” thing anymore.

    To understand how rain on a glacier works, first think of leaving an ice cube in a bowl of cold water till it melts. It might take an hour to melt. Hold another cube in in a bowl and then slowly run the coldest tap water over it and it will erode in 10 minutes. Now you can understand what relentless rains and water flow can do to the surface of glaciers. It is not just warmer ambient air melting glacier at the surface. Warmer climate means more rain in places that get a lot of rain and snow. Falling rain and surface runoff are having a greater erosive effect on the loss of glacier ice compared to other erosive factors. This is serious stuff when models indicate earlier springs and a later beginning of winter due to man induced global warming. I am not sure glaciologist considered this in mass balance studies when comparing the commonly defined six erosive effects glaciers have, but it may be considered “permeability” of if though of in the example of the ice cube. We are witnessing the most rapid melt of glacier ever in world history and it filling up the oceans ever so slowly.

    The overwhelming evidence supports the world wide loss of polar sea ice and glacier ice at record pace unpredicted by models just ten years ago.(except for Norway it seems.) Ocean are rising much faster than thought. Increased heavy rainfall as a product of global warming is having a profound effect on eroding glaciers. The seas will rise and towns will move, including Valdez and others in the world (but not Vail) in the next 50 years. Or like some, we could hope for a doomsday volcano eruption to cool us off.

  31. Bjørnar Bjørhusdal February 28th, 2013 2:12 am

    Thanks Matt for bringing in the fact that rain is worse than sun when it comes to melting. This is the biggest melting-factor on our glaciers too. The glaciers of Norway are retreating, a few steep valley-glaciers coming off plateus are advancing, but most likely just for a few years due too some heavy snowfall the last 2-4 years.

    In the alps, glaciologists are looking at how GW has made some 5 or 6 summer snowfall events in summer into rain. That means the glacier didn’t get that cover of maybe 5 inches of snow, but rather melting rain. Fresh-snow on a high-altitude glacier in summer is reflecting the sun in a much better way than “old” snow. That means a small snowfall at this time of year can prevent melting maybe for a couple of days. This is of course huge, if you are looking at what used to be 6 snowfalls and maybe 12 days of zero melt in summer. That has turned into 12 days of rain and maximum melting.

  32. Dirk February 28th, 2013 9:14 am

    Lou great point about the “consipcuous consumption”. Now I have my urban scavenger hunt to find some of those fashion solar panels!

    Speaking of “boosting self-esteem”, there is a curious amount of enviro self-righteousness out there on the skin track. I just don’t think we’re out saving the world by going for a tour. Just yesterday, I had to laugh at the “boycott BP” bumper sticker someone was sporting on their rig up at the mountain…..

  33. Lou Dawson February 28th, 2013 9:18 am

    Perhaps I’m guilty. “Ski Uphill” sticker on the rear window of my Duramax! At least I don’t have that sticker on my snowmobile — yet. (grin).

    BTW, the term is “conspicuous conservation” and adjunct to “conspicuous consumption.” Not my terms, they’re from a podcast.

  34. Lou Dawson February 28th, 2013 9:20 am
  35. Matt Kinney February 28th, 2013 10:00 am

    Boycotting BP is nothing to laugh at. They are the largest criminal polluter in US history, fouling the Gulf and North Slope with spills since they started doing business in the US.. They have practically been kicked out of Alaska due criminal negligence Most of this is recent. Perhaps they are not doing business in your county or stat. There is also the Texas refinery issue that killed people and the drill rig incident that killed even more American workers. The boycott has everything to do with accountability by a foreign company doing business here, not global warming.

    “Conspicuous polluter” is a term than comes to mind. (grin)

  36. Dirk February 28th, 2013 12:51 pm

    Ok Matt, so bottcotting BP, unless it extends to all oil companies, is symbolic, and feels good, but not much else. Avoiding the green and yellow pumps with the auto is easy. But how about all that stuff we love to get shipped to us (BP also manufactures a significant amount of marine “bunker fuel”). Also they are omnipresent in commercial aviation with their “air BP” fuels so that last airline flight….

    Or ok maybe I’ll go to Shell instead, wait they have those pesky human rights violations in Nigeria. Maybe Chevron? Oh no, they have been dumping waste and poisoning people in Ecuador (see Lago Agrio). Exxon? Too bad they wrecked that tanker right there in Valdez. Hey Citgo? Rather not support Venezuelen dictators….

    It is perhaps an INDUSTRY that would feel a boycott, but going after one company might not really affect much change.

  37. Mary Lee February 28th, 2013 3:58 pm

    Amy, nice blog. It’s a beautiful day here in western South Dakota. I am actually working in the mainstream sector as a cook at a hospital. Never thought I’d like it but it is so much better than all the stress filled government jobs I’ve done, or newspaper work. I do use propane to cook, but try to rejuvenate leftovers into my recipes. Let’s see if this can be spun into a segment on glaciers melting, instead of finding a career doing something I love. Would love to see AK before I leave this world. Congrats on your engagement.

  38. Kevin S March 3rd, 2013 4:57 pm

    As always a great post on Wildsnow. Is it lost on anyone criticizing Amy that their PC, Ipad, or laptop used to post contains significant petroleum based products and manufacturing processes that might cause global warming, man made or otherwise? This reminds me of the Exxon Valdez protesters driving to protests in their Saabs and BMWs……….. You go girl!!!

  39. Njord March 8th, 2013 4:51 pm

    I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning! Smells like victory.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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