Vassar Glacier, College Fjord

Vassar Glacier, College Fjord

by | Sep 6, 2019

Vassar Glacier flows southeast from the Chugach Mountains for 4.3 miles (7 km) to College Fjord in Prince William Sound, about 2 miles (3.2 km) west of College Point, 42 miles (68 km) northeast of Whittier and 52 miles (83 km) west of Valdez, Alaska. The glacier was named in 1899 for Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

College Fjord is as estuary located in the northwestern sector of Prince William Sound between Point Pakenham and College Point. The fjord was first discovered in 1899 during the Harriman Expedition. The expedition included a Harvard and an Amherst professor, and they named many of the glaciers after elite colleges. The fjord now contains five tidewater glaciers (glaciers that terminate in seawater), five large valley glaciers, and dozens of smaller glaciers, most named after renowned East Coast colleges (women’s colleges on the northwest side, and men’s colleges on the southeast side).

On the west side of College Fjord is a prominent peak named Mount Emerson, after Professor B.K. Emerson who was a member of the Harriman Alaska Expedition. Within a short distance north of this peak, several glaciers descend to College Fjord and are named, from south to north, the Wellesley, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, and Smith glaciers. Vassar Glacier was a tidewater glacier when it was first visited by the Harriman Alaska Expedition. In 1909, Grant and Higgins of the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the front of the glacier was about 200 feet (60 m) high and covered with rock debris to such an extent that the underlying ice could be seen only by close examination. The glacier was photographed in 1941 by the U.S. Army Air Forces and additionally on several occasions through 1968, and during this period the moraine covered terminal lobe had significantly diminished in volume. When the glacier was observed in 1978, vegetation was well established at the terminus and it was impossible to tell if any ice remained underneath the rock debris. In 2004, continuing retreat and thinning were apparent along the bare ice margins of the glacier. Read more here and here. Explore more of Vassar Glacier here:

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This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2021 (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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