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The Late-Neoglacial Histories of the Agassiz and Jackson Glaciers, Glacier National Park, Montana
Paul E. Carrara and Robert G. McGimsey
Arctic and Alpine Research
Vol. 13, No. 2 (May, 1981), pp. 183-196
Published by: INSTAAR, University of Colorado
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1551194
Page Count: 14
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Twenty-one tree-ring stations, totaling 116 trees, were sampled at various localities within the forest trimlines fronting the Agassiz and Jackson glaciers, Glacier National Park, Montana. Tree ages within these zones became progressively younger from the region of the maximum late-Neoglacial position to the bases of the bedrock slopes on which these glaciers are now confined. The age of the oldest tree plus 15 yr was used to estimate the date of glacier withdrawal from a given station. It was found that both the Agassiz and Jackson glaciers began to retreat from their maximum late-Neoglacial positions about 1860. Hence, Matthes's (1940) estimate of glacial advances culminating about 1850 to 1855 for many glaciers in the western United States seems reasonable for the Glacier National Park region. Retreat rates, derived from the tree-ring data, appear to have been modest (<7 m yr-1) until about 1910 when they increased reaching more than 40 m yr-1 for the Agassiz Glacier between 1917 and 1926. Retreat rates after the late 1920s could not be monitored by tree-ring analysis as both glaciers had retreated onto bare bedrock dip slopes. However, from various literature descriptions and National Park Service records, both glaciers experienced rapid retreat (>100 m yr-1) from this time until 1932. In addition, while the Agassiz Glacier was monitored by the National Park Service (1932 to 1942) retreat continued at a rapid rate (>90 m yr-1). This period of rapid retreat corresponds with a period of above-average summer temperatures and decreased precipitation in the climatic record of the region. Since the mid-1940s the retreat rate of both glaciers has slowed markedly.