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Columbia Glacier, Valdez

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The Columbia Glacier, a glacier in Prince William Sound on the south coast of the U.S. state of Alaska, is one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world, and has been retreating since the early 1980s. It was named after Columbia University, one of several glaciers in the area named for elite U.S. colleges by the Harriman Alaska Expedition in 1899.The Alaska Marine Highway vessel M/V Columbia is named after the Columbia Glacier.SizeThe glacier twists its way through western Alaska's Chugach Mountains. The bald streak at the bottom of the mountains, called the trimline, shows this glacier has lost 1,300ft of thickness. It has also retreated 10.5mi since that measurement was taken.RetreatThe glacier's speed of retreat at the terminus reached a maximum of nearly 30m per day in 2001, when it was discharging icebergs at approximately 7km3 per year; the glacier has subsequently slowed down, resulting in an increase in retreat rate. The terminus has retreated a total of 16km at an average rate of approximately 0.6km per year since 1982. The retreat has been accompanied by nearly 500m of thinning at the present position of the terminus. In the next few decades it is expected to retreat another 15km, to a point where the bed of the glacier rises above sea level. Columbia Glacier's retreat should be completed around 2020. Tidewater glacier advance and retreat is not directly forced by climate (adjacent tidewater glaciers may be simultaneously advancing and retreating), but rapid retreat appears to be triggered by climate-forced long-term thinning.
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191 reviews
TripAdvisor
  • August 5, 2017
    The glacier has decreased since 1983 to 18 km. Now, there are no 9 km down to the shore. So this is in still visit as long as he still in the sea calf. Very impressive, this wall of ice on this broad.
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  • July 28, 2017
    If you visit Valdez is mandatory to take a cruise to the Columbia glacier. Just fabulous move closer to the front of the glacier over 60 metres entering the sea. During the cruise you can see sea lions and if you are lucky even whales.
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  • July 18, 2017
    We took the Stan Stephens Columbia glacier cruise. The boat was comfortable with tables inside and open seating outside. They served a light lunch as we cruised among sea otters, whales, multiple sea ...  more »

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