On the Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center plaza, a triangular-shaped kiosk displays three signs. The Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center is on one side with the snow-capped mountains rising behind it. Commercial buildings and the marina are on the other side.

Disappearing Ice

The sign's title, text and inset photos appear over a satellite image from September 2014 showing an aerial view of Harding Icefield and its glaciers.

Sign Text:
"Change is not new to Kenai Fjords. For thousands of years, ice coverage has varied with the climate. The dramatic scenery surrounding you is a result of this dynamic interaction between ice, mountains, and sea. Studies begun at Kenai Fjords in the early 1900s document a relatively steady glacial retreat. But in recent decades the pace has sped up dramatically.

Change is expected, but this new trend is not. Rapid disappearance of glaciers and ice sheets here and throughout the world greatly outpaces the rate over the past tens of thousands of years. Today's changing climate has been traced to increased carbon in the atmosphere — a direct result of human activity."

The satellite image shows the icefield, which forms a white coating over a rugged coastline. Labels point out three glaciers. Dotted lines indicate the previous sizes of the glaciers. Farther north, beyond the icefield, a "You Are Here" arrow points to the shoreline east of Harding Icefield and Exit Glacier.

Inset Photos and Captions

Three pair of inset photographs show the change at the area's glaciers:

Exit Glacier:
Photos show the same view in 1998 and 2010 with a rocky slope on the right side of the photo and gravel on the ground. Just beyond the rock slope in 1998, a light blue glacier wall towers several stories above a group of visitors. In 2010, the glacier is not visible from this view.

Text: "Visitors to Exit Glacier notice dramatic changes from year to year. Not only has Exit Glacier lost ice at its leading edge, it has thinned and narrowed considerably. The once-impressive wall of blue ice at its terminus has shrunk to a gradual slope of ice and gravel."

Northwestern Glacier:
Photos show the same view in 1940 and 2005. In 1940, snow-covered mountains are on each side blend into the large white icy glacier that meets the bay waters. Floating ice chunks cover the surface of the bay. In 2005, there is no ice in the bay, the glacier is not visible, and the mountains are only snow-capped.

Text: "In just 60 years, Northwestern Glacier completely disappeared from this view. Several factors, including temperature, annual snowfall, and local geography, influenced the loss of over 10 miles of ice."

McCarty Glacier:
Photos show the same view in 1909 and 2004. In 1909, the glacier is at the water's edge and appears to be about one-third as tall as the mountains. In 2004, the glacier is barely visible because it has receded behind two previously covered mountain ridges.

"In the last 100 years, the position of McCarty Glacier made it especially vulnerable to climate change causing a retreat of over 13 miles. Many of these tidewater glaciers will cease to exist in warming seas."