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Glacial recession, in what park scientists and rangers are stating as an increased amount of melting on the Nisqually and adjacent glaciers have led to more sediment and rocks free flowing down river and filling up the riverbeds. As the glacier recedes, more rock and earth is exposed leaving it susceptible to falling and being swept downstream. However the National Climatic Data Center tells a different story of the history of Washington’s annual average temperature.

Seattle Times- In the park, this increased amount of rocks threaten to raise the water level to the point of flooding roads and possibly the historic complex at Longmire. The park visitor center, with its stone buildings and National Park Inn, now sits more than 30 feet below the Nisqually River. The park constructed concrete-reinforced berms to keep the water at bay.

The bed of the Nisqually River below its namesake glacier has risen by 38 feet since 1910, largely as a result of debris flows from the margins of the rapidly retreating ice, Park Service geologist Paul Kennard said.

Short of relocating Longmire, dredging is the only obvious way to keep the river from swallowing the park complex, Kennard said. Downstream, Reinelt said, a more effective approach might be to move levees back to give the rivers more room to spill their banks, meander and deposit gravel without impacting homes or businesses. There are already signs that riverbeds near Auburn and Puyallup are rising. As glaciers continue to pull back, the result could be increased flood danger across the Puget Sound lowlands for decades.

Climate experts blame global warming, triggered by emissions from industries and cars, for much of the ongoing retreat of glaciers worldwide.

—- However, the National Climatic Data Center might have a different story to tell.  This graph displays the annual average 1895-2008 temperature for Washington State according to satellite temperature readings.

Annual 1895 – 2008 Average = 48.05 degF
Annual 1895 – 2008 Trend = 0.06 degF / Decade

If you notice, the highest annual temperature recorded was right around 1935 and the trending temperature has risen hardly a degree in over a hundred years. Now if we zoom in on the past 20 or so years, we actually see a slight dip in trending temperatures since 1990 as shown below. On the NCDC website, you can enter any range of dates. Some ranges may show inclines or declines, as trends.

Annual 1895 – 2008 Average = 48.05 degF
Annual 1990 – 2008 Trend = -0.22 degF / Decade

Is it possible that warming is only occuring on Mount Rainer itself or the surrounding areas causing the melting? Glaciers retreat and grow every year with the changing seasons leaving earth exposed during the spring and summer and covered up by the snow and ice during the winter. This is most apparent and drastic changes occur in the Arctic where hundreds of miles of glacier melts and freezes over with the seasons. The University of Illinois has kept extensive records for 30 years and you can  view full animations of global polar ice for every day since 1979 showing this incredible natural occurance. If you are on an iPhone, you can view the cryosphere animations and tools HERE as well. What else can be explained for the retreating glaciers that are said to be threatening to flood the park’s visitor center? Comment below!

If flooding around the Puyallup and Auburn areas is a threat to you and your family because your home is in a low-lying area, consider purchasing a flood insurance policy to protect your assets. With spring just around the corner, the Nisqually glacier will surely be melting, exposing weak rock that fills the riverbed and flowing more water into the rivers downstream.

Prostar Insurance


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