Teton Glacier Older Than Previously Thought

Jan 5, 2021

Teton Glacier to the right of Grand Teton and below Mount Owen
Credit chascar via CC-By-2.0

New research suggests the Teton Glacier in the Teton Range is much older than originally thought.

Darren Larsen, assistant professor in the department of geology at Occidental College in California, and his team looked at the sediment in the glacial lake below the glacier to see how it would react to the warming climate. And it turns out the glacier has survived in some form for the last ten thousand years.

"Including during the earlier parts of the Holocene or interglacial, which are considered to be a little bit warmer and or a little bit drier than today," said Larsen.

He said it seems the glacier retreats and continues to survive underneath heavy debris cover during warmer climates.

"They're hanging on in these kind of shaded, high elevation cirques that are receiving abundance snowfall, and redistributed snow from wind and avalanching off these steep mountain slopes onto the glacier,' he said.

The fact that the glacier is older than previously thought is a hopeful sign that it may survive future warming temperatures.

Larsen said although snowfall changes are going to have a large impact on the future of these glaciers.