Local glacier expert speaks on further impact of climate change

From rising sea levels, warmer ocean waters and more weather extremes, our climate continues to change. Our team of meteorologists has been studying these changes as part of our Boston 25 Climate Matters Special.

Now a local expert on glaciers from Nichols College says he's found another impact of climate change.

"Even in a state where our climate is changing, it's warming, which is not good for glaciers," said Dr. Mauri Pelto, a glaciologist at Nichols College.

Pelto has studied and worked on 250 glaciers in Alaska and Washington for more than 36 years.

"The map has totally changed and today, all of them are retreating," he said.

In other words, the ice is melting faster than the snow can accumulate and form new ice.

"A few of the glaciers I have worked on have disappeared," he said. "Other glaciers I have worked on are more difficult to reach."

That can make it more dangerous for Pelto and his team to access those glaciers. Taku Glacier was the most recent one to retreat.

"As these glaciers retreat, you see new lakes being formed, new fjords, new islands," he said. "So the map of our world is really changing."

Boston 25 meteorologist Vicki Graf asked Pelto if this could just be a pattern we are in and if it could eventually be reversed. He said that since the glaciers have been studied in the 1940s, the warming trend has accelerated, causing the glaciers to melt more and faster.

"So that is what we are seeing," he said. "This is overtaking the natural cycles."

Scientists expected the glaciers to retreat, just not at this rate. The issues with warming temperatures go beyond the glaciers melting.

"Every one of these glaciers that melts is contributing to sea level rise." Pelto said.

An issue we are all too familiar with here in New England.

While we can't reverse what has already been done to these glaciers, Pelto feels we can make changes going forward to help the environment.

"Whatever it is that works for your lifestyle that you can change that saves you money but also reduces your footprint," he said.