Northern California’s Mount Shasta stands a proud 14,179 feet above sea level. This behemoth is a popular destination for spring skiing that normally runs well into the summer. Unfortunately, the current drought in California stripped Shasta of its snow extremely early this year resulting in damage to the mountain’s glaciers. This is an increasingly common occurrence in recent years.
A dry winter paired with record temperatures this summer caused the snow to melt off very, very early in 2021. According to an article in the Daily Mail, this exposed the glaciers months earlier than normal. Typically, snow holds on the glacier through the summer and well into September. If the surface of the glacier is exposed, it is for a few weeks in the fall before the snow returns. This year, the extremely early melt exposed these glaciers causing serious damage.
According to the article, the Whitney Glacier has lost 15-20% of its volume. According to mountain guides, the 11,000-foot ridgeline used to access Hotlum and Bolam glaciers used to be totally covered in snow year-round. With the drought and heat, the ridgeline is totally bare.
It is a frightening sight to see this traditionally snow-covered mountain becoming more and more devoid of snow. The imagery really drives home the reality of climate change. Our fingers are crossed for big, wet, winters across the west.