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Mendenhall Glacier, Now and Then

by Gary Braasch

Many of the 50,000 passengers passing through Reagan National airport in Washington DC daily will now see a different kind of advertisement in the concourse:  a new public education initiative has installed a photographic billboard of ongoing climate change today.

This Is Climate Change, an educational project of the Del Mar Global Trust, put up the first of a series of large backlighted photographs on August 30, featuring my time series view of the shrinking Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska.  As part of my long-term climate documentation project World View of Global Warming, I rephotographed a 1894 image in 2008 to show the visible effect of global warming on the glacier near Juneau.

This pair of photographs shows how the famous Mendenhall Glacier has retreated since around the turn of the 20th C. The ice has thinned and melted back more than 2800 meters (more than 9000 feet) since it was measured in 1911. The archival photo from the National Snow and Ice Data Center/ NOAA archives was made in 1894 by William Ogilvie during a geologic survey.

Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau Alaska in 1894 , in a photograph made by William Ogilvie during a scientific survey of the region, and now part of the National Snow and Ice Data Center/NOAA archives. The foreground area shows spring snow in a wetland of the Mendenhall River, a gravelly moraine, and beyond, the huge ice cliffs of the glacier.

Over the past decade I have climbed and explored near glaciers in North America, The Alps and Andes to find the spots where old photographs were taken and carefully rephotograph the scene.  The  images together illustrate the data from current scientific observations of more than 100,000 glaciers around the world, measuring an ongoing trend of “global and rapid, if not accelerating, glacier shrinkage” which may lead to the deglaciation of large parts of many mountain ranges in the coming decades.  Loss of mountain glaciers, which threatens summer water supplies to communities and ecosystems worldwide, is a major effect of the atmospheric warming from man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

This is Climate Change was developed by the Del Mar Global Trust, a private charitable foundation with a focus on the environment, to publicize the real effects of climate change which have impacts on the environment and human lives around the world. The intent is to educate and increase awareness of climate change among the general public. In collaborating with the Trust, World View of Global Warming extends its work to inform Americans and people worldwide of the ongoing science of climate change and the effects of greenhouse gases which are being spewed into the air at record rates.

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau Alaska, seen in August 2008 with Mendenhall Lake. The glacier has retreated 2800 meters since 1910 and continues to retreat. The trimline on the mountainsides where the glacier used to be is evident, as is a large ridge which had been covered by the glacier. Photo was made by Gary Braasch as part of his World View of Global Warming documentation project.

Scientific observations and readings worldwide show that climate change is real, it is happening now, it is unusually rapid, and that the primary cause is the accumulation of man-made greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Despite the physical evidence that the earth’s climate is changing, many Americans remain skeptical of the reality of climate change, its severity, and even the science supporting it. A 2010 Pew Research Center poll found that only 59% of adults in the U.S. believe “there is solid evidence the earth is warming.”  A continuing poll by Yale/George Washington University showed that even though approximately 97% of publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and that it is caused primarily by human activities, most of the public does not realize this high level of scientific agreement.

This Is Climate Change counteracts misinformation disseminated by industry sponsored lobbyists and other special interests who deny not only the changes but the basic science.


About Gary Braasch

Gary Braasch is a world caliber environmental photojournalist who creates remarkable images and documentation about nature, environment, biodiversity and global warming.  He is a Founding Fellow of the International Leauge of Conservation Photographers (iLCP).

The views expressed in this guest blog post are those of the International League of Conservation Photographers and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Readers are welcome to exchange ideas or comments, but National Geographic reserves the right to edit or delete abusive or objectionable content.


The views expressed in this guest blog post are those of the International League of Conservation Photographers and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Readers are welcome to exchange ideas or comments, but National Geographic reserves the right to edit or delete abusive or objectionable content.


  1. […] It: While the Mendenhall Ice Caves are just 12 miles (19.3 kilometers) from downtown Juneau, they are not particularly easy to reach. […]

  2. […] of the glacier today I was amazed at just how much had changed. But even more dramatic are views of the Mendenhall taken back in 1894 versus more contemporary images from 2008. You can see the change in the image […]

  3. […] Juneau—Alaska’s tiny capital with a population of 32,000—sits at the base of the Juneau Icefield, and the Mendenhall glacier. “The Glacier,” as it is known there, is an icon that draws hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world. Unfortunately, it is melting at an alarming rate. […]

  4. Lori
    September 20, 2013, 9:44 pm

    Its been recently revealed that the retreating glacier is exposing an ancient forest, 1,000 old! So we can now realize that 1,000 years ago the area was much warmer and had a forest.

  5. Jeff
    July 16, 2013, 5:19 am

    Yes, the Mendenhall Glacier is retreating. To the south, the Taku Glacier is advancing. Some retreat, and some advance. That’s the way glaciers are, and have always been.

  6. […] View the display through August 2012 at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. https://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/09/15/mendenhall-glacier-now-and-then/ This entry was posted in Latest News and tagged Mendenhall Glacier, This Is Climate Change on 15 […]

  7. Jim Geraghty
    September 16, 2012, 1:16 pm

    I know within six inches where Ogilvie took this series of three 1894 photos. The current location is in deep forest. I would like to re-photo by raising a camera above the canopy but I don’t have the technology.
    Jim Geraghty – Juneau

  8. David Daroff
    Syracuse UT
    July 11, 2012, 6:52 pm

    I lived in this area for many years. Yes the glacier has receded some in that time. But this is a total lie. These two pictures were not taken from the same place. In fact they were taken miles apart. The 1894 picture is from the shore of the Mendenhall lake. The 2008 picture is taken from Douglas Island looking across Auke Bay and up the glacier valley. They in fact are miles and miles apart. The only reason a person would present this in this manner is because they have already lost the argument. and are trying to deceive those who are not smart enough to see the perspective of the mountains. It is totally obvious if you look closer.

  9. Chippy
    February 19, 2012, 3:51 am

    Yes, I did a huge eye roll with the opneing line, but loved reading about your trip. I think I need to put it on the list of places to go Luci

  10. DennisA
    September 18, 2011, 5:08 am

    This type of comparison is totally meaningless, just as it is pointless to try and negate the images. If Gary Braasch had images from say 4000 years ago, there would have been total ice. If he had then taken more images say 2000 years ago he would have seen much less ice. If he had taken images say 1200 years ago, he would have seen more lake than there is now and if he had images from say 500 years ago, there would have been more ice again, which is what we are recovering from today.

    There are some glaciers in Alaska that are currently surging, perhaps he should go and photograph those. In fact in the 60’s and 70’s they were of great concern because of causing glacial dams which eventually released the water trapped behind them, causing flooding. In 1969, it was recorded that there more than 200 surging glaciers identified in Alaska and adjacent Canadian provinces.

    In 2003 “A systematic review of 1959/60 aerial photography, and1999/2000 Landsat 7 imagery, identified 51 surge-type polythermal glaciers in the Canadian High Arctic.
    Of the 51surge-type glaciers identified in this study,15 were
    observed in the active phase in the 1959/60 and/or 1999/2000 imagery.” (Annals of Glaciology 36 2003)

    Short time scales are meaningless, paleolithic and archeological evidence exists showing warmer, colder, warmer, colder, over long time scales.

    The old Doran 97% again, this has been de-bunked on numerous occasions but is trotted out constantly to try and prove a “scientific consensus”. It turned out to be 97% of 75 self-selected scientists, who had published on climate change but were not necessarily true climate scientists.

  11. […] Claims Global Warming is 'Beneficial' for Human HealthInternational Business TimesMendenhall Glacier, Now and ThenNational GeographicSpiked -The Cypress Timesall 35 news […]

  12. Gary Braasch
    Portland Oregon
    September 16, 2011, 9:04 pm

    Date of photos:
    The 5 August 2008 image is on Kodak E100 film. The NSIDC photo archivist wrote “”The original photo print does not have a month associated with it. A little research however, turned up an article by Alexander Begg, “Notes
    on the Yukon Country”, from the Scottish Geographical Magazine (volume 12, issue 11, 1896). This article references that the trip was made by William Ogilvie (the photographer in question) in the summer of 1894.”

    Archival photo may be seen at http://nsidc.org/cgi-bin/gpd_deliver_jpg.pl?mendenhall1894000001 As seen here, the ragged negative edge and one of the black tape marks have been removed — all else is as in the archive.

    Photographs are not science, they can illustrate it. Widespread and rapid glacier retreat worldwide which correlates with atmospheric warming is well established science. Any information which may change the conclusion that the photos show that the Mendenhall glacier has receded may be directed to the photographer through ILCP.

  13. WastedYears
    September 16, 2011, 9:35 am

    I have specific questions for Gary Braasch (world caliber environmental photojournalist).

    [1] What is the exact date for both photos (1894 and 2008) including month and day?

    [2] You say you re-photographed that original 1894 photo. Why? Why not just print the original? You must then have links to the original. Where is it? I want to see it. Did you do anything to it (post process)?

    [3] You say you actually photographed the 2nd photo. How come you did not move to the exact same position (as the 1894 photo) for a better comparison? Anyone can see you should have been further to the ‘right’ to match the earlier photo, just look at the snow covered mountains in the distance in between the two closer mountains on the sides.

    [4] Are you knowingly comparing two photos of two different times of the year here? Is this an honest, scientific method?

    I would hate to think that NatGeo is sanctioning yet another Global Warming hoax here.

    iLCP Editors Note: “The views expressed in this guest blog post are those of the International League of Conservation Photographers and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Readers are welcome to exchange ideas or comments, but National Geographic reserves the right to edit or delete abusive or objectionable content.”

  14. Gary Braasch
    Portland Oregon
    September 15, 2011, 9:12 pm

    Regarding the survey of scientists about climate change, it logically asked those who are geoscientists rather than PhDs in any science — would you rather get advice on your heart disease from your podiatrist or GP, or from a practicing heart surgeon? Here is a link to the report: Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change
    tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf Quoting: “An invitation to participate in the survey
    was sent to 10,257 Earth scientists…. all geosciences
    faculty at reporting academic institutions,
    along with researchers at state
    geologic surveys associated with local
    universities, and researchers at U.S. federal
    research facilities….” The survey got more than a 30 percent response rate, whereas national opinion polls from which we often make decisions ask only about a thousand citizens to represent all Americans. “Results show that overall, 90% of participants answered “risen” to question 1 [has Earth temperature risen or not?] and 82% answered yes to question 2 [is it human activity significant in this change?]. In general, as the level of active research
    and specialization in climate science increases, so does agreement with the two primary questions” Very active climate researchers (our “heart surgeons”) polled at the 96-97 percent level. As to the timing of the melting of the Mendenhall, yes it has been receding all of the 20th C and into the 21st– just as CO2 levels and temperatures have been going up since before 1900.

  15. JM
    Juneau, AK
    September 15, 2011, 8:49 pm

    Though I feel the scientists are correct about global warming, I don’t think the photo of Mendenhall Glacier illustrates the issue honestly. Yes, it appears to be receding quickly BUT the glacier is still “in touch” with the lake in front of it. The photo makes it appear as if the glacier has receded back from the water and terminates on dry land – not so. Please check out the webcam currently active at the Mendenhall Glacier for a better look.

  16. k
    September 15, 2011, 6:03 pm

    omg what a bunch of losers commenting on this page. Yes the climate is changing, yes we should stop polluting. Yes to all. Kill off the dodo birds on this page please- they need to either go extinct or not reproduce.

  17. Jim Gord
    North Pole
    September 15, 2011, 5:39 pm

    Why is all publicly funded research busy studying ‘effects” and all private is studying “causes” of climate variation? And if you spend the time checking out the thousands of research papers, groups, science organizations etc., you will see that all publicly funded research is believer and all private is denier. And none of you remaining doomers can see that this was all a tragic exaggeration? It’s not a crime to exaggerate effects of an assumed crisis. Nobody lied.
    And how is that thousands of scientists don’t march en mass in the streets and get all over CNN and Ellen and at least ACT like its a REAL crisis. Only a comet hit is worse than a catastrophic climate crisis or do you remaining doomers think it’s possible to have a little climate crisis? That would be pure superstition.
    This is the end of life as we know it but there isn’t a believer anywhere that will say the words; “The End Is Near”.
    This politically correct madness of a consultant’s w&t dream called climate blame will be called modern day omen worship in the history books. It’s the left supporters and politicians that must now face their Iraq War of lies and climate crisis WMD’s. Climate Change was a liberal baited lie.
    The new denier is anyone who still thinks voters will vote yes to taxing the air to make the weather colder and lower the seas and vote YES to handing over the management of the planet’s temperature to carbon trading markets run by corporations and politicians.

  18. mememine69
    South Pole -67F
    September 15, 2011, 5:25 pm

    Remove the CO2 factor from the environmental equation entirely and nothing changes, except fear of the unknown. History will call us all omen worshipers with superstitious tendencies for this political correctness on steroid called climate change. History is watching and laughing just as we laughed at those back in 1900 that worried about where to put all of the horses needed by the year 2000.

  19. Mark Pommier
    Hibbing, Minnesota
    September 15, 2011, 5:22 pm

    60% of all statistics cannot be trusted.

  20. C. Bruce Richardson Jr.
    Houston, Texas
    September 15, 2011, 3:54 pm

    It is apparent from the two photographs that glaciers have retreated since the end of the Little Ice Age. Should that be a surprise?

    The article said that “approximately 97% of publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and that it is caused primarily by human activities.” The article didn’t mention how that 97% figure was created.

    There was a survey of 10,257 earth scientists. They started out by excluding from the survey solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, astronomers, and meteorologists. Of the 10,257 scientists, additional selection criteria eliminated more. Finally there were 3,146 scientists that actually answered the survey. From that lot they excluded still more of those who responded. Finally they ended up with a select 77 scientists out of the 10,257 that they started with. Out of that 77 scientists of unknown qualifications that survived the cuts, 75 agreed that global warming is human induced.

    So, the selected a small subset of 77 scientists that were likely to agree that global warming is human induced and found that there was a consensus among them–75 out of 77 is 97%. If did a poll where they didn’t select only those scientists who would be expected to agree, they wouldn’t have gotten the 97%.

    Now I would like to see another poll with this question. If someone attempts to influence you using a rigged poll, would you be more inclined or less inclined to be skeptical of any claims they are making?

  21. mememine69
    September 15, 2011, 3:50 pm

    Lets not forget the saints of science that gave us pestides and germ warfare?
    Why should we deniers and former believers really believe the scientists are not exaggerating and exploiting climate change science when there are tens of thousands of them that don’t march in the streets and ACT like this is the emergency they say it is? What could possibly be worse than a catastrophic climate crisis, a comet hit maybe? Do any of these tens of thousands of consensus climate change scientists have kids too that will die a miserable death by CO2?
    NOBODY will now vote YES to taxing the air to make the planet like the inside of an indoor shopping mall. Not going to happen.

  22. Bruce
    September 15, 2011, 2:24 pm

    A 2010 Pew Research Center poll found that only 59% of adults in the U.S. believe “there is solid evidence the earth is warming.” It is frauds like the above article, which distorts the truth, that cause people to question the science. Please note the picture of the Mendenhall Glacier in 1939, available at: http://www.real-science.com/uncategorized/national-geographic-conveniently-loses-114 and at http://content.lib.washington.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/alaskawcanada&CISOPTR=458. It appears that most of the melting occurred before 1950.

  23. […] – Above Post Links */ google_ad_slot = "9927257852"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 15; https://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/They somehow forgot to mention that art least half of the ice loss occurred before 1950. Look at the […]

  24. […] AND DISTORTIONSThe Cypress TimesClimate Change: Global Warming May be BeneficialThe New AmericanMendenhall Glacier, Now and ThenNational GeographicNaples Daily News -Spiked -FrontPage Magazineall 32 news […]

  25. VPK
    September 15, 2011, 10:10 am

    The deniers will claim climate change is good, look at all the fresh clear water we have now because of it!

  26. […] and to burnish his credentials with conservatives. Speaking in New Hampshire recently …Mendenhall Glacier, Now and ThenNational GeographicGlobal Warming Beneficial for Human Health: StudyInternational Business […]

  27. […] Mendenhall Glacier, Now and ThenNational GeographicAs part of my long-term climate documentation project World View of Global Warming, I rephotographed a 1894 image in 2008 to show the visible effect of global warming on the glacier near Juneau. This pair of photographs shows how the famous Mendenhall …Global Warming Beneficial for Human Health: StudyInternational Business TimesMoney $marts: The scientific method and global warmingNaples Daily NewsClimate Change: Global Warming May be BeneficialThe New AmericanFrontPage Magazine -NewsWithViews.com -MinnPost.comall 24 news articles » […]