Mount Shasta in California, one of the highest peaks in the continental US, has a giant bald spot.
The top of the mountain, a dormant volcano that rises some 14,179 feet above sea level, is usually covered in snow all year round.
But satellite analysis comparing snow cover at the peak of Shasta in July and August with previous summers paints a bleak picture — with sparse white areas.
Record high temperatures and devastating droughts made the peak nearly snowless earlier in the year, experts say, accelerating the melting of the already endangered glaciers.
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Record heatwaves and drought have left Mount Shasts in California nearly snowless. This August 24 post from Mount Shasta Ski Park shows the iconic peak seemingly devoid of nearly all powder.
Shasta’s glaciers are losing “a lot more volume because you cleared your snow in mid-July,” glaciologist Mauri Pelto, director of the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project, told me. The Washington Post.
When Mount Shasta has gone bare in the past, it’s in late summer or even fall.
“Imagine how quickly it melted for two months instead of maybe a few days at the end of September,” Pelto said.
In the town of Shasta, California — about five miles southwest of the mountain and 3,500 feet above sea level — the thermometer has hit 103 degrees twice this summer.
Satellite images from June 16, 28 and July 18 illustrating the gradual loss of snow cover on Mount Shasta’s Whitney Glacier, the largest in California
A photo of Mount Shasta from August 1973 shows that it is completely covered in snow. About a square mile of glacial ice remains on Mount Shasta today, less than half of what there was in the early 1980s
Even halfway up the mountain, temperatures reached between 77 and 84 degrees in late June, leading to the rapid melting of Whitney Glacier, the largest in California.
Whitney Glacier has retreated about half a mile over the past 16 years — nearly a quarter of its total length.
In 2021 alone, it will have lost 15 to 20 percent of its volume, the Post reported, splintering into two smaller glaciers.
There’s about a square mile of glacial ice left on Mount Shasta today, Pelto said, less than half of what there was in the early ’80s.
“The loss is mounting and 2021 will be the biggest year of volume loss,” he told the Post.
on TwitterPelto said the fragmentation of Shasta’s glaciers due to the exceptional melting “is not readily or likely reversible.”
A map indicating that glaciers on Mount Shasta are fragmenting as a result of the exceptional melting, a situation Pelto says is “not easily or likely to be reversible.”
Geologist Nick Caselli, director of operations for Shasta Mountain Guides, said: mt. Shasta News in August that the ‘spectacular loss of snow pack’ has left the western side of the mountain bare.
At high altitudes, snowpack is a buildup on the ground that lasts until the arrival of warmer weather.
It contributes mass to glaciers and when the snowpack melts, it feeds streams and rivers and provides drinking water for numerous communities.
As the glaciers recede, he added, there are places where there’s a “striking difference when you’re up there.”
The top part of a ridge emerging from the Hotlum and Bolam glaciers used to be “all snow when you got above, say, 11,200 feet,” Caselli told the news. “You were in the snow 100% of the time.”
Now the bare ground is starting to come out of the snow and ice “and now appears to be a permanent feature,” he said. “There’s even a small path uphill.”
The Hotlum Glacier has also reportedly broken into smaller fragments.
Ryan Sandler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says there have been other periods when Shasta has had little to no snow, including during the peak of the California drought in 2014.
Sandler told the San Francisco Gate he would also see a 1992 photo showing almost no snow on the mountain, but that was from October of that year.
California relies on just a few severe winter storms to explain the snowpack and rainfall, he said, and in recent years the Golden State has seen warmer temperatures and fewer major storms, “which would make it more common to experience a lack of snow.” to be seen on Mount Shasta by summer.’
“What’s happening on Mount Shasta is a visual representation of the drought,” Sandler told the outlet. ‘We are dealing with extreme to exceptional drought in the area.’
On August 24, Mount Shasta Ski Park posted a photo on facebook from the iconic summit seemingly devoid of nearly all snow.
“In the old days, Mount Shasta had snow on the top all year round. This summer is different,” the post read, indicating a small white spot in the photo “is glacial ice, not snow.”
According to the park’s post, Mount Shasta got half of its typical snow cover last winter.
As a result, Shasta Lake, the largest reservoir in the state, has a 25 percent capacity and drops by a whopping half a foot per day.
“The snow later lingered in the trees where it is sheltered from sun and wind,” the post continued. ‘The snow that fell on the mountain was not protected from the wind and the sun [and] was blown off the mountain. When summer came, there wasn’t much snow, and the sun/heat took care of the rest.’
Glaciers visible from the mountain’s north side are melting “very quickly,” the pole continued, causing mudslides known as lahars, which can wash away roads and bridges.
“The effects of climate change are visible,” the park concluded. Our hearts go out to our neighbors who are currently affected by the mudslides and fires.’