To understand climate change, the glacier resource, and the effect of glaciers on other resources at NOCA, long-term monitoring of glaciers is needed. The National Park Service began long-term monitoring of glacier mass balance within NOCA in 1993. Mass balance monitoring includes direct field measurements of accumulation and melt to estimate the volume gained and lost on a seasonal and water-year basis. Noisy Creek, Silver Creek, and North Klawatti Glaciers have been monitored at NOCA since 1993 and a fourth glacier, Sandalee, since 1995. South Cascade Glacier, located just outside NOCA, has been monitored by the U.S.G.S. Water Resources Division since the mid-1950s. Each of these glaciers represents different characteristics of the greater glacier population, including geographic position, aspect and elevation. Since that time we have learned that each glacier in the North Cascades has a unique response to climate, but that all of the glaciers are retreating (Riedel and Larrabee 2011).
Four broad goals are identified to monitor glaciers as important vital signs of the ecological health of NOCA:
- Monitor range of variation and trends in volume of NOCA glaciers.
- Relate glacier changes to status of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
- Link glacier observations to research on climate and ecosystem change.
- Share information on glaciers with the public and professionals.
Riedel, J. and M. A. Larrabee. 2016. Impact of Recent Glacial Recession on Summer Streamflow in the Skagit River. Northwest Science, 90(1): 5-22.
Riedel, J. and M. A. Larrabee. 2011. North Cascades National Park Complex glacier mass balance monitoring annual report, water year 2009: North Coast and Cascades Network. Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NCCN/NRTR--2011/483. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.