National Park Service

North Coast and Cascades Network (NCCN)

Glacier Monitoring

Silver Glacier and Silver Lake at North Cascades NP
Silver Glacier and Silver Lake at North Cascades NP

Resource Briefs

Monitoring Reports

Protocol Documents

Science Learning Network videos (YouTube)YouTube logo

For more information contact: Jon Riedel

Importance & Issues

Glaciers are a significant resource of many mountain ranges of the world, including the three large parks in the NCCN where 516 glaciers are found. Combined, the glacial resources of this network are extensive, covering 211 km2. They are integral components of the region's hydrologic, ecologic, and geologic systems, and they are retreating rapidly. At North Cascades National Park, geologic mapping data and a recent inventory indicate that glacier area has declined about 50% in the last century.

Parks Monitored

Monitoring Objectives

  • Monitor range of variation and trends in volume of NOCA and MORA glaciers
  • Relate glacier changes to status of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and hazards
  • Link glacier observations to research on climate and ecosystem change
  • Share information on glaciers with the public and professionals


  • Winter balance at six index glaciers
  • Summer balance at six index glaciers
  • Net mass balance at six index glaciers
  • Assess surface cover in late fall for each index glacier
  • Assess surface features (lakes, crevasse patterns, debris cover) changes related to glacial hazards
  • Glacier volume/area for index glaciers at 10-year intervals
  • Glacier volume/area for all glaciers at 20 year intervals
  • Glacial contribution to summer runoff for four watersheds at NOCA and two at MORA

Management Applications

During the hot, dry summers in the Pacific Northwest, glaciers buffer the region's aquatic ecosystems from seasonal and interannual droughts. Aquatic ecosystems, endangered species such as salmon, bull trout and western cutthroat trout, and the hydroelectric and agricultural industries benefit from the stability glaciers impart to the region's hydrologic systems. Glaciers also provide valuable insight to climate change over longer time periods than most other climate measures.

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster