Glaciers of the Winds
Your. Support helps us bring you programs you love go. To Wyoming pbs.org. Click. On support and become, a sustaining, member or an annual member it's. Easy and secure, thank. You. These. Are still some of the biggest glaciers. In the lower 48. When. You actually stand on a glacier, that's. A lot of water sitting beneath it there's. Plants and animals that need that water to survive, we. Can't see what's gonna happen to all the animals living in that for us but. It's certainly gonna change. We're. Trying to see how climate. Change is affecting the, quality of the water this. Is a logistically. Highly, intensive, highly complex, expedition. There's. No question, about it rerun. The Chesebrough, transect. With both antennae. What. We're trying to do is find, the volume of the glacier. We'd. Like to create a new benchmark, for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, a. Lot. Of people hear about melting, glaciers and they think oh no, glaciers, are melting we're in big trouble I. Think. Many, many people would fail to recognize, the significance. Of the loss of lasher's, in the wind rivers why. Are these glaciers melting how are they melting, what's. The cause of it. The. Glaciers leave we, can't survive. Water. Is key in farming, and ranching. Irrigation. Is just to support municipal, water is used to support livestock. Water, is important, all, these other things are just as important. If we have reduced, streamflow. That, can definitely affect, our trout populations. How. Does that impact the wildlife how does it impact the vegetation. They're, absolutely, fascinating. And they're incredible, to look at, I'm. Always in awe in, that size and power when, you stand in front of a glacier and. You. See how massive it is. Major. Funding for glaciers, of the winds was provided, in part by a grant from Wyoming. Humanities. Expanding. The Wyoming narrative to, promote engaged communities. Additional. Funding provided by Wind, River outdoor company proudly serving Wyoming, with outdoor supplies camping. Gear and guided, fishing since, 2010. Located. On the web at Wind River outdoor, company comm. Glaciers. Are on every continent, except Australia. They. Cover nearly 10%, of the Earth's land surface, and provide. Nearly three-quarters, of the world's freshwater. For. Millennia, glaciers. Have carved valleys, and eroded. And scoured the landscape. Continental. Glaciers or ice sheets cover, nearly all of Greenland, and Antarctica. Mountain. Glaciers, specifically. Around the world served over, a billion, people in terms, of their water resource. The. Alps, the. Andes, they, have glaciers as well right. On the equator that are incredibly, important to their communities. But. Huge glaciers, in polar regions are disappearing, at an alarming rate a mass. Of ice the size of Delaware recently. Broke away from Antarctica. And. Greenland. Glaciers. Regularly. Calve huge, icebergs, into the North Atlantic, as. A result sea, levels are rising in low-lying, areas around the world and, while. Interior, mountain, glaciers are not nearly as large as those near the poles their. Cumulative melting. Could potentially, raise sea levels even more quickly. Alpine. Glaciers are, found only in steep-walled, mountain, basins, and u-shaped valleys. Like. Those in the Wind River Range. The. Wind River slash across 120. Miles of west central Wyoming. They're. Home to more than 40, named peaks over 13,000. Feet. And. Seven. Of the largest glaciers in the American, Rockies. Glaciers. Represent, a unique source of fresh water for, cities farms. Ranches. Factories. Fish, and wildlife and are, important, components of an area's recreation. Opportunities, and tourism. But. In Wyoming, as in, the rest of the world melting.
Glaciers Pose a threat to communities, and ecosystems. We'll. Follow the trail around Borough, flats, on this. East Side we. Top out at a ten. Thousand, eight and, we're. Starting, out down here. At about seventy, six so. You. Do the math. A group. Of citizen scientists, are heading deep into the Wind River Range towards, Gannett peak, the. Highest point in the state. At. Thirteen thousand, eight hundred four feet it. Is considered, to be one of the country's most difficult, points to summit. Gannett. Is in the midst of steep rugged, and remote wilderness. Tucked. Away on its northern and eastern slopes by, two of the largest ice masses in the American, Rockies Gannett. And den woody glaciers. The. Glaciers of the winds have been shrinking at an accelerated, rate over the past 40, years, the. Impact from glacial retreat could, have significant, effects on the local ecosystem and, downstream. Farms, and ranches. Use. This to springboard yourself. Jackie, clencher was assistant, professor of environmental. Health at central Wyoming college and her students are on a scientific, expedition to understand, the impact, of melting glaciers. They. Call it the interdisciplinary, climate, change expedition, or. Ice. Much. Of their work is done at the den woody Cirque a steep. Hollow filled with rock and ice at, an altitude of 11,000. Feet. Unpredictable. Weather is a constant, challenge this. Is a logistically. Highly. Intense highly, complex, expedition. There's no question, about it. For. Us to bring them to, an environment that's difficult to access 20. Miles in the backcountry, where. The weather plays a significant, role and. They work at elevation, and they. Work in an astounding physical. Environment, where. They're, tired, and. The challenges, they face are some that they don't even anticipate, working. Together in a big group having, them display. Leadership, and tolerance. For adversity. And for. Challenging, travel conditions and. Set some up well to have to work together as a team man. We, can kind of just mock maps, and stuff while we're sitting here so you guys can see what's in there you, know we have combined. Geophysics. Geographic. Information science. Biology. Geomorphology. And archaeology, into one research expedition. It's. Intense, it's fascinating, it's all-consuming it. Can be draining but it's also exhilarating. We, can bring it up over. First. Thing to start with is how. Do you get a glacier the snow falls and lands. On the side of the mouses and it starts building up if you look at the maps here in the wind rivers most, of the glaciers are on the east side because. That's where a lot of that moisture is getting dropped and it also gets less sun exposure, so. If winter after winter more, snow falls than melts in the summer you're. Gonna have a bigger and bigger snow patch once. That snow patch gets big enough and heavy enough it's gonna compress itself, into ice and once, there's enough ice, it'll, have enough mass on top of it that is gonna start to flow.
I'm Sorry Conrad I'm a glaciologist and I'm up here on the Dinwiddie glacier in Wyoming. One. Of the reasons that I'm here is because I'm deputy director of Wyoming, EPSCoR which, is the grant funding organization. That's allowed this trip to take place and Wyoming. EPSCoR is an organization. Funded by the National, Science Foundation to, help us increase research. Infrastructure, in the state we. Are encouraging. These community college students before they come to the University of Wyoming to. Get a little research under their belts. So. We're in the middle of August right now we're getting pretty close to the ends of the, melt season if. You look up at the very top you, can see snow white white snow and if you look at the bottom it's gray and that's exposed ice it's. Called the fern line so. The fern line moves, up and it's the balance, between. Accumulation. And ablation, ablation means melting what, glaciologists. Do is they look at where that line is over. The years on a glacier if that, line is moving up the, glacier is becoming, smaller and receding, if the line is moving down the, glacier is gaining mass. All. The glaciers in the winds every, year that line is getting a little higher up and a little higher. So. The first time I came into this area was actually in 1983. It, was really interesting for me to come in again this year, 30. Years later and to. See the changes in the glaciers. What. I remember, from then was in 1983. I climbed, the North Face of Gannett. Peak and the, climb was a snow climb and it. Was snow from the Gannett glacier going. Up across the bergschrund up, a couloir up to the very summit we never got on Rock and this, year walking in and looking at at the mountain as we came in there, was at least a stretch above the above the Gannett glacier, of probably, 300. Feet of rock so really, significant, change in the size of the glaciers, the. Wind, River Range is an important, contributor, to Wyoming status. As a headwater, state, the. Continental, Divide which. Runs along the spine of the winds determines. Which direction water, will flow. Melting. Snow and glacial, melt on the eastern slopes empty, into the Wind River which, flows into the Missouri River Basin and then, on to the Gulf of Mexico. Waters. From the western slopes drained into the Green and Colorado, rivers and on. To the Pacific Ocean. This. Is the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and. Of course there's all kinds of plants and animals that exist up here and they need that water to survive. My. Name is Jeff van LOI I am an associate professor in, the Department, of Earth System science and policy at, the University of North Dakota. They've. Always been interested in sort of these extreme, environments, the first time I got to stand on a glacier was when we actually took a family trip up. To Alaska, when I was in high school and I. Started to really sort of fall in love with them because they're so incredible, I mean this huge mass of ice that's that's sitting there on the landscape are incredible. To look at they're, gorgeous I'm. Always in awe in that, in, that size and that power when, you stand in front of a glacier and, you see how massive it is.
We've. Been doing, research in the Wind River Range since, about 2011, and, have. Done. GPS. Surveys to get elevations, of the glacier as, well. As streamflow, measurements, from water that's actually coming off the glacier. Also. Ice-penetrating radar to. Understand, how much volume is left in the glacier. These. Glaciers, here in the Wind River Range are alpine. Glaciers, they. Are definitely, smaller than a lot of glaciers but it doesn't diminish their importance, again as a water resource, and, it. Doesn't diminish their importance in terms of the science looking at why, are these glaciers melting how are they melting what's, the cause of it they. Are definitely a barometer, to climatic. Conditions. The. Ice ages that totally. Mantled, the Rocky Mountains with ice and the. Big ice advanced that went all the way down and formed these valleys was. Over ten thousand years ago well. It didn't woody glacier that we're sitting on right now would, have been maybe, 30 miles long as. Opposed to a half-mile that it is now. The, way that glaciologists. And glacial geologists. Are able to tell when advances, happen is because the glacier will flow down the mountain and when it gets to the its furthest point it'll leave a pile of debris which, is known as the moraine. If. A glacier advances, to a certain point leaves, a moraine and then later advances. To a further point, that, first moraine is wiped out and there's no longer any record, of it. It's. Like a glacier essentially, putting down roots and, grabbing. Up big pieces of rock which it then carries with it down the valley and leaves, in the moraine. So. It's really easy to tell where glaciers have been because. Of the the u-shaped, valley, and also by the piles of debris that, they leave behind. We. Are right on the terminal moraine of this. Glacier. This. Is a terminal, moraine, of the, Little Ice Age advanced. One. Thing that happened, from, about 1400, to 1900, ad was this period, this cool period called, the Little Ice Age the. Glaciers actually would have been almost doubled, the size as to what they are today. The. Little Ice Age I always like to say is is a bit of a misnomer because, when. Modern, people hear the word Ice Age they think woolly mammoths, and saber-toothed, Tigers, and ice, everywhere, and the Little Ice Age is is so called because it was really the most recent. Cooling period that, happened in historical, time is scientists. Are not necessarily, conclusive. As to how or why the Little, Ice Age kirb, nonetheless. At, that time these glaciers advanced, so, it was significant, and it was the last real. Advance that's recorded, in the moraine history, but, compared, to the real big, ice ages, where where, the earth was significantly, colder it, was just a little blip. Glaciers. Are big, masses, of ice that are carrying all sorts of load bits, of rock and as, those rock come down and are moved by the glacier, like sandpaper, standing. Away and polishing, you, end up after the glacier comes through this, classic, u-shaped, valley where. So, much has been taken out of the bottom of the valley as opposed to the size so it really opens up a valley compared, to what a stream would do. When. The glacier comes through it, does all this eroding, some, really, big chunks of boulders even a little silt sized bits of sand which, is what makes the stream so milky colored and that's called facial silt or glacial milk, the. Sand that's left in the valley gets, picked up over the years by winds it, hits the corner here at the end of the valley and in, the process, of hitting that corner the, wind slows down it does not have the same energy that it had and the. Sand was deposited, right here at the corner.
We're. Standing right now on these sand dunes that are on the side of the valley and go, up up against, the mountain on the edge of the valley well. We were joking, about camping, here on a beach and it's. Something that's not so often seen an elephant environment. As. Far as the, actual glaciers, in the Wind River Range, they're. Pretty sizable, for being glaciers this far south latitudinal. E. They're, up, around 12,000. 13,000. Feet in elevation so, those higher elevations, help to keep things cool helps, to keep them around. The, Beartooth Suppan up north of Yellowstone. The Teton Range the absorbers, they all have glaciers as well there's. More glacial mass in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, than, anywhere else within the Rocky Mountains of the United States, blasier, is generally. Speaking are often found in pretty remote areas, and. They. Can be extremely difficult, to get to, the. Ones here in the Wind River Range are deep in the wilderness far. From any roads, the. Wilderness, Act which, was created, in 1964, is very important at least in my mind as far as protection of these wild lands. The, Wilderness, Act protects, pristine areas within national forests, by. Prohibiting motorized. Vehicles. Mechanized. Activities, roads. Permanent. Structures. Mining. And drilling. Most. Of the 728. Thousand, acres of the Wind River Range is designated. Wilderness, encompassing. The Bridger Fitzpatrick. And Papo CHEO wilderness, areas. Visitors. Are encouraged, to follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace. Including. Leave what you find, respect. Wildlife and, properly. Dispose of waste. These. Glaciers here are kind of out of sight out of mind they're so deep in the wilderness that I think a lot of people don't realize they're there you know, you could be across from there but we're also really tight in the trails coming around here with something you. Know Bloggie up there so we're somewhere within this stretch here that's, what we think we, are well, away from any. Front, country services, for, emergency. Care for instance. Getting. Back here with. Moderately. Heavy packs around forty. To sixty pounds. Requires. An allocation of at least two and a half days of steady travel. It's. An, adventure all and, of itself just to get back here. We. Can't just fly, in whatever we want or take an ATV, or some, other motorized, vehicle, and just jump, off and be right at the glacier you actually have to make the hard trek to, get all the equipment in on horseback and, on foot to. Be able to do the research. Simply. To get permitting. Access to work in a, designated wilderness area, is still a reasonably, daunting, written, proposal. Many. Of the wind rivers glaciers are more than a mile across and. Hundreds. Of feet thick a. Lot. Of people might think well you, know that's not very big that doesn't sound very substantial, when you actually stand on a glacier that's, a lot of water sitting beneath you for. Perspective, one, of the smallest glaciers, knifepoint, is, about 200, feet deep, that's almost a 20-story building that's. A lot of ice. Continental. Glacier on the other hand has, been measured at nearly 600, feet thick but. It is apparently melting, at a rate of a foot per year so. More than 50, feet of ice has been lost over the last half, century, the.
Glacier Still holds over 94, million cubic, yards of ice. If. You were to take all of that ice and melt it out it would basically cover over. 52,000. Acres in, one foot of water so. That's a pretty substantial amount of water to actually. Melt. Out and, to be able to use in the future you know as a resource, and that's. Just off of one glacier, within, this range. Glaciers. Of the winds can account for as much as thirty to forty percent of the late summer streamflow in the green and Wind River watersheds. A. Significant. Amount of late summer water is important, to the high desert communities downstream. The. Dinwiddie glacier itself is a water resource, for Wyoming for Ranchers for municipal, and agricultural, use so. Once, it's gone especially. During the summer I assume. There will be a pretty a, pretty. Noticeable, loss in the summer streamflow. Annual. Snowpack in the winds and rain fall on the Wind River Reservation has. Been dropping since the turn of the 21st century, driven, by warming temperatures. Increasingly. Frequent water shortages, and droughts on the reservation, are threatening, its farmers ranchers, and others. Who depend on snowmelt, and rainfall, for their livelihoods. Disappearing. Glaciers make, these threats even more serious. The. Glaciers up above Bullock they're disappearing, and they're disappearing, fast, there's. 26,000. Acres irrigated. Lands on the reservation, my, name is Richard Baldus I'm a current member of the Tribal Water Board we, control the water through. The tribe Alana engineer's, office for, everything, whether. It's Fish Wildlife or. Irrigation one is just as important, as the other. Those. Late season waters, that farmers. Depend on and others depend on we're. Not going to be available, they're. Going to be gone, because. Of the remoteness of these glaciers, and because people don't. Necessarily. Associate. Turning. On the tap with. Climate, change with glaciers, many, many people would fail to recognize, the significance, of the loss of all, of. The glaciers and the wind rivers which are exhibiting, the same pattern, of recession. In. The winter of 2017. There was actually a substantial snowpack. That fell up in the winter of range and throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It. Doesn't necessarily mean that these glaciers are on the rebound, in. 2011. We also had a really healthy snowpack, up in the mountains if we. Look at the years in between 2012. 2016. Those, were all pretty darn dry years, we. Saw quite a bit of melting going on then so, even if you have a, couple, of years where there's a large snowpack, it's all those other hot dry years in between that, are gonna make the difference overall and whether or not the glacier is going to be a little hang, around you, need that snowfall, to build the glacier that's one contributing, factor, but, also the low temperatures, are actually going up and that's, one of the contributing, factors to, these glaciers melting away, glaciers. React differently, in different locations, given their conditions, but, nonetheless, we're. Seeing the same thing worldwide. This, fits right along with what's happening elsewhere. Today. Really, is the culmination of a. Couple, of years of effort. In, remeasuring. The depth of the den woody so that's pretty exciting. Darren. Wells is one of the professors with the ice expedition. And his, head of the GPR, team. Last. Years you guys know we had a different. Antenna and, it, just didn't quite give us enough depth, to get good, readings on the glaciers. We. Were using a GPR, which stands for a ground-penetrating radar. Basically. What we were trying to do is find the volume of the glacier. So. We were dragging the, antenna. Across the glacier on a specific transect. Hoping to hit, bedrock and tell. How deep the ices but. Due to some datum shift we. Were 200, meters off. Jacqui clancer had contacted. My advisor jeff van looy she, wanted to use his ice-penetrating, radar which. Would reach all the way to bedrock in this glacier, my. Name is Lance DeAngelis I'm with the University of North Dakota, my. Field of study is Earth System science is specifically. Glaciology. CWC. It run previous. Transects. Of the Dinwiddie glacier, and. Over. One of the sections were unable to reach bedrock, I'm. Hoping. We'll be able to remeasure. The den woody glacier. Along. A transect, line, around 11,000 600 feet. What. We're trying to do is see how far these glaciers are receding how far they're melting.
We. See recession, since the Little Ice Age there's, been many documented, papers on it the. First scientific, observation. Of glaciers in the winds was done in 1931. And followed. Up in 1950. By Mark F Meyer who. Mapped and recorded measurements, of 14, of the largest glaciers Mya. Reported, the glaciers were growing, but. Later papers in the 1950s. 60s, and, 70s, showed. The glaciers were shrinking what. We'd like to do is create a new benchmark for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. There. Was a study conducted in 2006, by cheese borough where he had run two transects, across the ice let's. Rerun. The Chesebrough, transect. With both antennae. We'll use the, 100, megahertz antenna, today and. Now. We can compare these measurements, and really, get a sense of how far the glacier, is melted, and turned the depth. The. Ice-penetrating radar Thompson. Signal off the bedrock to the surface of the ice giving, you a profile, of depth along, various transects, of the ice, we're. Creating a baseline but. We're also building off of previous research in hopes to be able to come, up with a accurate, figure of when this glacier might disappear. Completely. When. We were doing our field test there are some significant, sections of the glacier that are now for, the first time below, that 30 meter depth. Hard. To imagine that, they were able to get. Something over this even, in 2006. Without. Doing these studies on the ground we. Can't really, determine. Exactly, what the glaciers volume is and. I suspect, since the 2006, transect, we're gonna see a pretty big difference in, volume. We're. Gonna refold. The. Upper, den woody from a couple of different angles and that, will allow us to compare these, photos, with photos. From 2006. Photos, from the 80s, and all the way back to the 30s. Just. Looking at the photos. Of the glacier the changes, are just dramatic, so I think. We're gonna see a big, drop in volume. Glacial. Melt affects water quality, as well as quantity and, headwater, streams, as. The. Ice recedes, and exposes. More bedrock, what does that tell us could, be stuff coming out of the ice melting. Into the water changing. Yeah. We might be exposing, more. Variety. In the geological. Substrate, and it might be changing, the, pH, we're. Curious whether that will change water, quality in any way and. Made. An assessment of, the. Quality of the water coming off the glacier. Water. Quality in a headwater, stream, at the base of a glacier in a wilderness area should, be excellent. And. All. Indicators, suggested. That. Jackie. Clancy, and I hiked, up to the Dinwiddie, search to. Collect, water samples because. It's such. A highly impacted, area by climbers, and hikers alike their, waste management. Ideas are not always, correct.
And So, we wanted to take water samples and. If there was harmful, e.coli, in it is, there more presence. Of e.coli in heavily used areas versus. Less. Impacted, areas even. Where there may be even less e.coli or none we're. Gonna put a little V coli into. This tube, it. Will change the pH of this growth and turn it to yellow and. We'll know that it's a positive symbol. So. The magic of this having. This incubator here, and feel, collecting, up here is that we, can actually get the process, of analysis started. Because. We are about. 21 miles from the road head there is no physical way we could get this to the lab within four to six hours so we essentially brought the lab to us so we could start analysis, of, our samples, via incubation. 103. Degrees sweet. Yes. Yeah. It is really good. Country. Science. There, has been debate as to well what's causing it is it humans is it is. It the greenhouse gases is it natural cycles, from. 1900. Out of the Little Ice Age you're compounding, it with increases. In human activity in the greenhouse gases, and so, it is a bit of a combination, but anything from this point on is going to be more likely related to the human-induced changes. The. Truth is glaciers. Always melt and essentially. What's causing it to melt is is the, heat the infrared radiation from the Sun hitting it and. In many cases since. The the ice and the snow is is really, white it doesn't absorb heat, that much but, little particulate, matter little, rocks small. Rocks dust actually. Really, increases, the melting because it's so much darkens, the snow that it can absorb more. Infrared. Heat as opposed to reflecting, it. If. You look around here you see this dark rock and. You see all these dark, dirty spots, they. Absorb, the UV radiation, and, they heat up faster, than the reflective, snow and ice and they. Melt out the snow and ice faster, so, essentially, black carbon can. Be viewed. Like that rock there that's melting, a hole in the snow we're standing on right now but we just can't see how it's melting it. So. We're trying to get down to the, whitest little snow everything fine. Black. Carbon is believed, to be a part of the incomplete, combustion, of the burning, of fossil fuels. Wildfires. Or, man-made, fires, it's. Also believed to, be found in the byproducts, of industries. Like the oil and gas industry, and any. Kind, of plants. Or warehouses, that are exhausting. Pollution, into the atmosphere it. Gets into, the air and it travels, via, the weather systems, and, once. It gets down on the, snow and, the ice it. Increases, the melt rate of it. After. We collect all these bags of snow in these samples we, take them back, on-site and, keep the samples, is fresh. And impact as possible. Taking. All our temples we've collected, the past few days where melt in the samples to, put. In these syringes so. We can push, the water through these and. Employers. And, collect. The black carbon particulates. And. Those filters are what we collect in log, our data off of, these. Samples we took today are, gonna be sent off to University, of Wyoming tether, isotopes, analyzed to find the true source of the black carbon. Last. Year we, actually found traces, of black carbon in all 17, samples. We took on, the glacier, and. No. One had done black carbon sampling, upon glaciers, in the lower 48, states nothing. At this altitude or this remote, of an area. This. Is original, research that has not been performed, in the winds. Black, carbon sampling. Provided, results, not entirely, different, from other snow samples throughout the. Nation, but, of significance, for a remote wilderness area. There. Are some, land-use. Changes, that you can make in human activity changes that can reduce black carbon deposition. We're. Eager to continue to sample throughout the winds.
While. Black carbon deposits hasten. Glacial melting. Temperature. Increases, also play a large role in, increasing melt, rates. What. We're seeing is the temperature causing, higher melt rates even though this year was a larger, than average snowpack, we, had very, high temperatures, that had melted a lot of that snowpack away. We're, trying to see how, the, change in, both, temperature and how, climate change is affecting the. Flow of the water the quality of the water we. Know that the water is going to be lower. Slower. In. The morning and I hopped in the water with the flow meter and. I was measuring depth. And velocity of. The water going, from one side of the stream to the other, that's. The day goes on the Sun gets higher gets. Warmer it's warming things up up on the glaciers, and, more water is, rushing. Down and coming. Through this moraine, behind, me here, going. Through the rocks and coming out so. In the morning it's gonna decrease, again as it gets colder. From. Previous studies we can get an average melt rate per year as. These. Melt rates continue. To fluctuate it, affects downstream, communities, one. Other way a, glacier. Might melt is rainfall, so. If you get a summer rainstorm or a thunderstorm the, water that hits is warmer, than freezing and so, it brings heats of the glacier and it, melts on impact, and as it percolates, down through the glacier it also carries, that heat energy with, it and as, it cools it melts some of the glacier ice as well. All, of those natural processes, that we've talked about can be exacerbated. By, climate change the, increase of greenhouse, gases. Is going to increase global, temperatures, which is going to cause the, mass balance of glaciers to change and they're going to lose mass and they're going to recede and they're gonna melt. Each. Year is that glacier recedes, we're, curious whether that will change actual. Water body temperatures, over time, if. There was no glacier, feeding the surface water the. Temperature review remarkably. Different the, fish that rely on a certain temperature as well as a certain amount of water in the streams may end up disappearing, as those glaciers go away. Those. Fish going away may have an impact on other aquatic species. The. Health and productivity of, the winds cold water trout streams and lakes depend, on macro invertebrates.
Insects. Like mayflies. Caddisflies. And stone flies, important. Food for trout. The, water that comes onto the reservation, for irrigation, is primarily. From the little Wind River most. Of the water in the little wind system comes from Worcester reservoir, fed, by smaller glaciers, I'm. Former, project leader for the lander field office for the US Fish & Wildlife Service and our, main responsibility. Was a Fish & Wildlife Management, on. The reservation, working with both the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes. Some. Of the best fishing in in the country it's right here on this reservation, one. Of the reasons the chief wants key and the tribes picked this area was. Because of cold clear, streams, with lots, of fish and lots of wildlife. Well. We have low water years, there's. Not much water. Left in the river because most of it is diverted. For irrigation. Dewatering. In general, can have a lot, of effects on fish populations, it can raise water temperatures, which can, affect. Larval. Fish development. And possibly, even kill fish, eggs. 18.7. Yeah we. Are taking, thin clips on these sagres because we want to evaluate genetic. Purity Sagra. Are definitely, native. Species to the drainage and if we don't have a healthy sagar population. That's, definitely. Kind, of a red flag that the, ecosystems, not doing great either house. Sauger, have been evolving in this drainage, since glaciers, started, to recede, about 10,000, years ago, you. Know of course the environment changes, is that glaciers, recede. When. The glaciers disappear, in they are disappearing. There's. Less flowing, in the rivers and system but especially during. A drought year and late. In the season, that. Will, kill fish, invertebrates. Reduce. Stream, flow in our river systems, particularly, at higher elevations. That trout and habit can. Definitely, affect our trout, populations. And another native fish if. We have receding, glaciers, and it leads to a lower, stream flow a complete, to increase the water temperatures, that, are not ideal for a Coldwater fish like trout, trout. Have to have cold, clear, streams, they're cold water species if it gets up to around 70, especially, a little bit above 70, they die it's. As simple as that. Less. Snow and rainfall and shrinking. Glaciers can. Increase the temperatures, in these fisheries, impacting. Macro invertebrate populations and. Imperiling. Trout and, species, like frogs and birds that prey on these insects. These. Are still some of the biggest glaciers. In the lower 48, so, they're still really significant, and they still hold a lot of water in them, it's. Really important, because. Glaciers. In Alpine. Environments, like this are like the freezer that you have in your garage for, preserving, things there the freezer of water and they preserve water, for, summer, use you. Know we're not a super, highly populated state but, we do have a lot of agriculture, and are very dependent on water and irrigation. Not. Only is it just for a Wyoming but we're the headwaters, for many of the western states. During. The dry, years, when there's a relatively low snowpack, glaciers. Are potentially, contributing, as much as, 45%. To. The creeks to the basins in which flow, into the Wind River. It's. Pretty substantial and, important, to agriculture, in this area. Because. None of us can predict the weather or know how much of a drought we're going to get at anytime our goal, every, irrigation. Season is to, fill, these reservoirs. In. Preparation. For the irrigation, season and. The. Amount of water available to, us is. The. Biggest factor of course in making that happen. My. Name is John Howell I'm the manager, of medval irrigation, district. Middle. Irrigation, district, is the largest irrigation district. In the state the. Sole purpose of, diversion. Dam is as, the name implies, is, divert water, from, the, Wind River into.
Wyoming, Canal, which is the. Source of all of our irrigation. Water. We. Have two stories ridge of course in the district, bull Lake Reservoir in Pilot Butte reservoir. That's. Our goal is to fill those reservoirs. Having. Said that, they. Have a finite. Capacity they. Could only hold so much water. Safely. When. You think about the, floods that come in May and June a lot, of that water is not captured by, smaller. Dams and reservoirs that we have because they're simply not big enough to catch it all. It's. Almost too much water it wants too much of a good thing. Water. Is kind of the liquid, gold of the West if. There's, one month of a deluge and you just can't store it and you can't put it all away well then it's gone and it's lost you forever. That. Water and in May or in June that's all coming from runoff and that water is relatively. Cheap, if you want to put a value on it, compared. To the water that you're getting in July and August. There's. Been times the 1st of August, this. Time of year. There. Was no water in the in the system to, irrigate, well. After. You hey you need to irrigate the ground, some. Years we were not able to do that. And when you have water shortages of water the glaciers disappearing and, droughts. Like we've had the less you. Know quite a few years. The. After storage and. And. We we are short of storage especially on the reservation. Drought. Periods, have a significant. Impact on. Our. Irrigation district. It's. All about available. Water and. The. Water that we have available, is the water that's in the river and the. Water that is, in. Our storage, reservoirs. Water. You're getting in July in August a significant. Portion is coming from glacier, ice instead, of having a dam you, got a glacier, so, really. Having glaciers, keeps us from building more dams if we lost the glaciers we'd probably have to build more dams to, be able to have that constant supply of water. Are. They're incredibly, expensive. And, highly. Regulated. My. Guess is just about any district, would like another reservoir. Unfortunately. Sometimes reservoirs. Or. The. You, could look at them as being a bad, thing a reservoir. To, be built today depending. On the size of course would, be probably, over a million, dollars. Who knows maybe, more if, they're being built on a river, system well, that could be detrimental to fisheries. As. A biologist. That, can be, in. Stream, flow is a floor water that is designated by bow, just, to provide, enough water for life in the river diversion. Dam is probably the worst thing that ever happened to the Wind River as. Most of the water is diverted into a, well, manned canal it. Blocked fish passage, for upstream movement. Expanding. Capacity of off stream storage, is a promising, approach to reducing, in-stream, flow related impact, on fish habitat. Tanks. Or reservoirs, can be filled in the wet season when water is abundant and used, for irrigation and, other needs during droughts. Well. In this reservation, there's been all kinds of sites for 25, to 30 years and, it's. Been continuing, to this day yet. Not ones have been built. Even. Though we've got pretty, good climate, models from the climate scientists it's hard to say for sure exactly. How long bleh sure is going to be around the. Estimate, for continental glacier, is that, it may be around for another hundred and thirty years or so that's, really not that long if you really think about it. What. Do we need to do with our crops how, do we change our water use habits, what, does that mean for the future generations. For the future farmers that are going to be living in these valleys. I was, born and raised on the. Wind River Reservation. My, grandpa homesteaded, out there in 42. Then. My dad took over and my, two other brothers still farm out there. My, name is Scott fais glar I. Live. Here and Shoshone, Wyoming, and this. Is the farm I. Mainly. Raise. Alfalfa. And malt barley and, red. Beans. Agriculture. And it's often heavy use of irrigation is one, of the largest consumers, of fresh water in the United States. Water. Is used for irrigating, crops but. It is also needed for livestock. In. Addition, water, is needed for the crops that are fed to the livestock the. Cumulative. Effect is significant. The, alfalfa's, mainly for livestock. Most of my alfalfa. Gets shipped out of state. And. The red beans get, shipped to Greeley, Colorado and, then. Processed, and packaged. And shipped all over the world, most. Of everything is flood irrigated, so, all of the canals. And lateral systems, that Midvale put in are all designed, to pretty, much flood every acre that they could get under when, I was flood irrigating, it I would never turn the water off it, was non-stop water, you're. Putting at least three inches of water on the ground, for. This pivot I can water two hundred and thirty acres in three days and everything. Is covered evenly and, then.
As, Soon as it dries up a little bit I can turn it back on and then three days cover it again there's, no waste there's no runoff, and. We're just watering the crops they. Are I would say around ninety percent efficient. Late-season. Water is very. Key for us for, them glaciers, to you. Know they formed in the mountains that's where we like to see the snow. It's. The most important, part of an irrigation. Everything. On this side of the Continental, Divide runs. Towards the Wind River it's, coming, here. Glacier. Water is one. Of many contributors. To. The water that's in the river we. Had a high snowpack, year and. A lot of precipitation. Probably. Wouldn't matter. But. On a very severe, drought year, it, might have more of an impact in a typical drought situation. The storage, water is. Extremely. Important, because that's usually. Even. A higher percentage, of the water that would be available to us since the river is running. Usually. Much lower than the, normal in a drought period, we're. Watering right up till the. Middle of September. Alfalfa. That's. Probably one of the biggest crops that need the latest irrigation. Going. Into the winter if your alfalfa, crop does you. Know dry and you haven't watered it. You're, gonna have a lot of winter kill and your stand is not gonna last, sugar beets they're just like alfalfa they need too late season irrigation, to, finish making the beet you, have to have moisture to pull them out of the ground to all. The, the late season irrigation, is crucial. The. Livestock still need water and. You. Know you don't have water where your pasture, is you have to run you, know irrigation water down to them so they have something to drink. If. We didn't have glaciers we need reservoirs, we need storage that. If the glaciers leave and we run out of water I will. Have to either go, somewhere where there is water, and farming or. You. Know learn to live without it I really. Can't see that. Happening, I don't want it to happen let's put it that way are. The farmers. And the ranchers of, down. The line are they going to be saying the same thing I hope, so I really. Hope that they're still able to survive with, the possible. Loss of water that may happen. Glaciers. Are not just a source, of water, for irrigation or, even. For the ecosystem, as a whole it's. Also municipal. Drinking water, and. When those glaciers melt away things. Are gonna have to change for these communities that's really my concern is what are the future generations, really going to be thinking and how did we manage things how did we take care of things I, think. What it really comes down to is adaptation. We're all really gonna just need to adapt, to the changes that we're gonna have to face in the future and if, we start now it'll, make things a lot easier. It's. Hard it's hard to think about sometimes, and, it's hard to it's hard to solve the. Problem too. There's. No easy answer. Leisure. Runoff gives life not only to agriculture. But. Also to the plants and animals in the region as, you. See right, below the glacier that we're sitting on there's, very little alive it's it's really, recently. Uncovered from, ice and as. You proceed down, valley you, get more and more suffering as soils, have have, set in since glaciation, in the. Last ten thousand years the. Whole Forest System in this glaciated, valley below us has, developed, and it, has developed that whole ten thousand, years with, this water source up above it so.
If This water source were to disappear it's, certainly going to change because, it, grew, up under these conditions. One. Of the concerns with the gy, e is, ecosystem. Management what, is going to happen to the, plants, and the animals as, the, water goes away how, does the management adapt, to these changes, in stream. Flow if the glaciers disappear. These. Alpine systems, they're very, extreme. And many of the plants and animals have special, adaptations to, deal, with that extreme, environment. Bighorn. Sheep certainly, are the primary, big. Game species that, people think of when they think of these Alpine, systems, we. Also have elk and mule deer my. Name is Greg Anderson, I'm a wildlife, biologist, with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department as, grass. Is cure out lower these animals, like to feed, on lush, green, new vegetation, that, helps with their energy production for lactation, you, see bighorn, sheep and, elk migrating. Up to higher elevations. In the summer time to take advantage of the lush green vegetation that's there, if, those glaciers were to disappear we'd be looking at likely. A more arid, environment. And a. Place like the wind rivers where we've. Got perennial, streams we might begin talking, about ephemeral. Streams that would flow for, early, through midsummer and then might dry up or, certainly, have less water flowing, towards the end of summer that would, impact the amount of feed available for the, species. Nesting. Habitat, for birds one. Of our main tasks, is to. Provide recreational. Hunting for, folks in the state, non-residents. Come in and take advantage of hunting that brings in a lot of revenue to the state and to the game and fish upwards. Of 13, million, in a county like Fremont County there. Are potential, big impacts, as game, species are, impacted. By something. Like changes, in these outline systems as. Soon as you remove something which. Was what originally, allowed it to grow and to create it's, going to have to adapt and weather. Different species will move in that can tolerate a less consistent. Water regime or whether. That means it's going to just dry out be much more prone to wildfire. And large, species animals will no longer be able to live because there won't be as, much cover and protection we, adapt, our management, to how things change on the ground obviously, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Isn't. Going to have an impact on Glacial. Presence, or glacial melt, but. You know if we see significant. Impacts over the decades. Due. To some loss of glacial milk our habitat, biologists, will have to make. Changes, in their programs, and you, know account for that and changing, habitat. If. The glaciers were to disappear would decrease, the amount of, alpine. Tundra areas, available for certain animals. We're. Responsible, for non. Game and game species in the state we've got a number of, non-game. Species, that. Rely. On, high. Alpine systems. Throughout their lifecycles, pikas. Are one that lived their entire lives, in the high mountains, above treeline. There, are several bird, species, that, are relying on alpine. Tundra. One. Of the main ones are rosy, finches, who nest. And, spend, their summers up in the highest elevation, portions of Wyoming up near Gannett peak. With. These streams potentially, drying, up altogether depending, on where they are the, plants, that are in those riparian, zones next to the streams are potentially. Going to change as well. Without.
A Doubt it would change the complexion, of the landscape. It'll. Have a very large impact on these mountain ecosystems. Water. From the glaciers is critical, for communities, farms. Ranches. Recreation. Fish, and wildlife, less. Water threatens. The way of life in central, and western Wyoming, there's. Natural variability in, the climate as. You. Add gases, to the atmosphere heat-trapping. Greenhouse, gases, you. See an increase in the temperatures, warming, the earth. If. You take out 20. 40 60 % to the streamflow that's going to be very significant, in those years, in which there is, very, very low snowpack I think. The implications. Of that for land managers, and users, agriculturalists. As well is really, significant. It's, astounding. To, see like, the difference between Dan, woody and Gannett. And the gooseneck glacier, they're all. Rapidly. Changing. It's. Kind of interesting and brings in a perspective, how, much water is, needed for, the irrigation process. Right. Here is, where, the water enters the system. But, if you go all the way to the end of the Wyoming canal, where, it eventually dumps. Back in the boys and reservoir, you could actually step, across it every. Time I do that it reminds, me of really. How much water is needed to irrigate those acres just. To, see this loss of snow and ice is kind of it's. A. It's. Tough and, the. Fact that we're losing them due to climate change is, really. Putting the onus on us and saying look if we can't change what we're doing not. Only will this place will be gone but the glaciers of the world we've gone. From. A spiritual, standpoint I'm quoting star weed he, said water. Is the lifeblood of of, everything. It's. Not water there's nothing. Major. Funding for glaciers, of the winds was, provided, in part by a grant from Wyoming. Humanities. Expanding. The Wyoming narrative to, promote engaged, communities. Additional. Funding provided by Wind, River outdoor company proudly serving Wyoming, with outdoor supplies camping. Gear and guided, fishing since 2010. Located. On the web at Wind River outdoor, company comm and by. The members of Wyoming, PBS, thank. You for your support, glaciers. Of the winds is available, on DVD for 1995. And on blu-ray for 2495. Order, online at shop Wyoming. Pbs.org.