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Aspen defends environmental stance

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But warmer air carries more precipitation. Temperatures remain cold enough in the high mountains for snow. So, that increased precipitation is yielding more snow in just one place that the team of researchers have found, Mt. Shasta. Shasta is located in far northern California and, with a height of 14,161 feet, is second in height only to Mt. Rainier in the volcanic Cascade Range. Tulaczyk and his team believe the glacier on Shasta is the only river of ice in the world that is now growing.

“At the higher elevations and on Mount Shasta, more snow is being dumped,” Tulaczyk told the Sacramento Bee. By the calculations of Tulaczyk and his team of researchers, the newspaper noted, it takes a 20 per cent increase in snow precipitation to counteract a one degree rise in the temperature.

But why is the glacier on Shasta growing, but not those on Rainier, Mt. Baker and other high peaks in the Cascade Range in Washington state?

The climate of California differs from that of the Pacific Northwest. California peaks, including Shasta, get nearly all their precipitation during winter, in the form of snow. But farther north, at Rainier, precipitation is more evenly distributed throughout the year.

That means more rain, and rain actually helps melt snowpack, said Tulaczyk, when asked by Mountain Town News. “This is our guess as to why there is a difference in glacier behavior.

Tulaczyk and his team do not expect the glacier on Shasta to continue expanding. Climate change computer models forecast temperature increases of 3 to 4 degrees Celsius, and Tulaczyk said snow precipitation at the higher levels would have to double to maintain the equilibrium.

Indeed, Tulaczyk and his team see just the opposite ending: increasing temperatures will “result in the loss of most of Mount Shasta’s glacier volume over the next 50 years, with near total loss by the end of the century,” they say in a paper published by Climate Dynamics. A separate paper issued by the research team says the same thing will happen in the Sierra Nevada.

The Bee notes that Nestlé USA is planning to tap springs fed by Shasta for a 500-million-gallon-a-year bottling plant. The bottles are to be issued under the brand of Arrowhead. However, given the 50-year contract, Shasta could be reduced to a pile of rocks for half the year. “This is quite worrisome, a Nestlé spokesman told the Bee.

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