Margerie Glacier, Tarr Inlet

Margerie Glacier, Tarr Inlet

by | Feb 17, 2021

Margerie Glacier starts on the south slope of Mount Root on the Alaska-Canada border, and flows southeast for 6.7 miles (11 km) and then northeast for 14 miles (23 km) to tidewater in Tarr Inlet, about 101 miles (163 km) southeast of Yakutat and 66 miles (107 km) northwest of Gustavus, Alaska. The glacier was named by Lawrence Martin of the U.S. Geological Survey in 1923 for Emmanuel de Margerie. Margerie was a prominent French geographer and geologist who visited Glacier Bay in 1913 and published many scientific papers including several on the geology of North America.

Margerie Glacier is a primary destination for cruise ships visiting Glacier Bay National Park. The glacier face at tidewater is about 1 mile (1.6 km) wide and 250 feet (76 m) high. About 100 feet (30 m) of the glacier is below sea level. The ice flows about 2,000 feet (610 m) per year or about 6 feet (2 m) per day. In 1990, Margerie Glacier was still joined to Grand Pacific Glacier which has since retreated about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the northwest. Since 1998, the northern third of the terminus of Margerie Glacier began a recession that formed a small embayment. In 2017, this section experienced dramatic changes with deep embayments and a large mass of bedrock now exposed. Perpetual meltwater discharges from subglacial streams below the water surface cause strong upwelling and occasional fountains. Where the ocean is disturbed by upwelling meltwater streams and calving icebergs, flocks of black-legged kittiwake gulls swarm and feed on fish and small marine invertebrates.

There are over 1,000 glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park, most are high in the mountains and only 11 are tidewater with eight in the bay and three on the Pacific coast. In general, tidewater and terrestrial glaciers in the park have been thinning and slowly receding over the last several decades. Reduced snowfall in the source icefields and warmer temperatures during winter, coupled with an apparent reduction in cloud cover and precipitation during the summer, are the probable causes of this trend. Johns Hopkins Glacier is currently the only advancing tidewater glacier on the eastern side of the Fairweather Range, and the glaciers in Lituya Bay also continue to advance. Margerie Glacier, and LaPerouse Glacier that flows from the western side of the Fairweather Range, are relatively stable, neither growing nor receding. Read more here and here. Explore more of Margerie Glacier here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2022 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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