World of Change: Glacier National Park

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Based on Earth Observatory’s World of Change series, this segment details the dramatic changes in the size and numbers of glaciers in Glacier National Park through a series of satellite images captured over 30 years.

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory (

Text, World of Change
Ice Loss in Glacier National Park
Snow-capped mountains around a lake. Text, Glacier National Park, Montana, United States. World of Change, 1984 to 2015.
In 1850, roughly 150 glaciers were documented in the region of the Rocky Mountains that is now Glacier National Park.
Most were still there when the park was established in 1910.
Today, there are only 26.
Scientists have tracked dramatic changes in places like the Blackfoot-Jackson Glacier Basin for more than a century.
Blackfoot and Jackson glaciers once ran together.
By 2009, the glaciers had retreated into separate valleys.
This series of false-color images from Landsat satellites chronicles the changes in the central area of park between 1984 and 2015.
In these images, clouds are in white, vegetation is in green, and water is black. Permanent snow and ice appear blue.
Although some year-to-year changes reflect weather variations, the majority of the ice loss is caused by long-term temperature increases in the region.
An aerial view of Blackfoot Glacier, Jackson Glacier, and Grinnell Glacier in 1984
An aerial view of Blackfoot Glacier, Jackson Glacier, and Grinnell Glacier from 1984 to 2015 as the amount of permanent snow and ice fluctuate.
Aerial views from 1984 and 2015 side by side. By 2015, a large amount of snow and ice has disappeared.