Irony Alert: Postal Service’s New ‘Forever’ Stamp Is Shrinking Alaskan Glacier!
By Joe Romm on Oct 1, 2012 at 5:08 pm
On Sunday, National Parks Traveler online explained:
Come Monday, you can send Kenai Fjords National Park around the country. At least figuratively, thanks to a new stamp from the U.S. Postal Service.
On Monday the Postal Service releases its Earthscapes stamp seriesfeaturing a new perspective on one of Kenai Fjords’ most photographed locations, Bear Glacier.
It is a very photographed glacier. Here, for instance, are a couple of Landsat photos NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey have put together in their fact sheet, “A Sensitive Giant: Alaska’s Bear Glacier:”
As the caption from NASA and USGS explains:
Look closely at the massive Bear Glacier shown in these Landsat satellite images and you’ll notice significant changes between 1986 and 2002. As the glacier has receded, many pieces of ice have broken off its end. In the 2002 image, you can see them floating like shards of white glass in the blue water. Bear Glacier is shrinking! From the early 1950s–1990s, Bear Glacier thinned about 2.5 feet (0.75 m) per year. Glaciers are particularly sensitive to climate trends, and widespread glacier recession is considered an indicator of global warming.
Note to Postal Service: Diamonds are forever. Glaciers, not so much.
Finally, the USGS has a series of images of Bear Glacier from 2002, 2005 and 2007 with a full explanation of the recent changes, which include thinning by “about 10 meters (33 feet)”:
Prior to 1950, the entire basin of Bear Lake was filled by Bear Glacier’s piedmont lobe. By 1961, a small lake occupying less than 10% of the basin had developed adjacent to the southeast margin of the glacier. By 1984, the lake nearly doubled in size. In the 18 years between 1984 and September 2002, the lake quadrupled in size. The triangular-shaped terminus of the glacier depicted here has retreated at least 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from its 1984 maximum position. The large tabular icebergs and the low relief, low-gradient terminus suggests that the terminus has thinned so much that much of its lower reaches are afloat…. The second photograph was made on August 6, 2005. During the 35 months between photographs, the triangular-shaped terminus of the glacier retreating more than 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) with the large triangular lobe disappearing, the result of intensive passive calving. The glacier has also thinned by about 10 meters (33 feet)…. (USGS).
Now that would make a good stamp.
h/t Hilobrow, who poses this question:
The Earthscapes stamps cost 45¢ apiece; back when Bear Glacier’s piedmont lobe filled its lake, it cost 3¢ to mail a letter. But the “Forever” stamps, unlike glaciers, are meant to survive rate increases. How much will it cost to mail a letter when Bear Glacier is gone?