Alaska Glacier Thaws, Ancient Forest Emerges

By: Erika Watts - September 21, 2013

News that will no doubt spark global warming debates, an ancient forest floor has surfaced thanks to an Alaska glacier thawing. According to Live Science, trees in the forest are at least 1,000 years old.


Stumps and logs coming from the thawing glacier were first noticed 50 years ago, but the forest has begun to emerge only recently. Scientists from University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau noticed more trees popping up while studying the thawing Mendenhall Glacier. Many of the trees on the Alaska glacier, which is a 36.8-square-mile river of ice flowing into a lake near Juneau, are reportedly upright.

“There are a lot of them, and being in a growth position is exciting because we can see the outermost part of the tree and count back to see how old the tree was,” University of Alaska Southeast Geology Professor Cathy Connor said. “Mostly, people find chunks of wood helter-skelter, but to see these intact upright is kind of cool.” Connor says that the trees were encased by four to five feet of gravel, which protected them and kept the glacier from knocking them down.

Connor said that her team has done some radiocarbon testing on the trees to determine the age of the forest. The researcher feels comfortable putting the forest at 1,000 years old, and some trees have tested even older. The oldest tree Connor has found on the Mendenhall Glacier is around 2,350 years old.

As fascinating as it is to hear of a forest emerging from a melting glacier in Alaska, some scientists say the thawing Mendenhall Glacier could be trouble. The melting has caused “glacial-outburst” flooding, which could pose dangers for nearby residents. Fortunately officials in Juneau have a monitoring system in place that can provide a warning of such floods. The thawing glaciers could also pose dangers for ships in the area.

Such potential dangers won’t likely go away anytime soon, as glaciers are now melting faster than ever. The Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy warned of the impact climate change and thawing glaciers could have just last month. “The climate is changing and we need to adapt to that change and make sure communities are prepared,” McCarthy said.

The melting glaciers have sparked a lot of discussion on global warming and just how much effect it really has:

Main image via YouTube; inside picture via Juneau Empire

Erika Watts

About the Author

Erika WattsErika Watts is a former teacher, now stay-at-home-mom and contributing writer for WebProNews. When she isn’t busy navigating parenthood and writing, she enjoys watching college sports and reading. Follow Erika on Twitter @erikawatts83, Pinterest or

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  • mememine69

    The consenting climate scientists only agree it COULD be a crisis while believers and news editors and politicians believe it WILL be a crisis.

  • Nancy

    They didn’t find any empty Pepsi cans?

    • DennisK

      There shouldn’t be hysteria.

      The climate is CONSTANTLY changing, as is geology, and most aspects of our lives.

      Thinking that we can change these cycles is the height of ignorance.

    • Brian

      Don’t be silly, they only drank Coke back then.

      • http://yahoo will-tex

        Everyone knows they had beer and wine in the good OLD days. The ones today that think global warming is here are snorting the coke

  • John Botkin

    That a glacier is melting from around thousand year old trees means that the glacier is younger than the trees. I guess that pretty much corresponds to the medieval warm period when temperatures were warmer than they are now. Before the glacier froze, these trees could grow and thrive. This is evidence of an Alaskan warm climate cycle followed by a long freeze–be glad that a new ice age is not indicated for our immediate future. So much for climate change hysteria.

    • ApplegateRanch

      If the oldest tree dates 2350 years old, then this was up and growing long before the Medieval Warm Period. It shows a long, warm history for the area that ended only about 1,000 years ago. In fact, the warm period lasted much longer than this glacier’s cold period, that is now (hopefully) ending. Given the choice of trees or ice, it is trees, hands down.

  • Shrugged

    Proving once again that warming and cooling cycles had nothing to do with man or CO2. Have you seen to articles in the last week showing the Artic Ice shelf has grown 60% this year alone????

  • Craig
    • Jean

      Does it alarm you to read that Mendenhall Glacier has receded 170 feet per year since 2005 which is a total of 1360 ft totally? In the past (in about 1970)the Forest Service built an observation site at the base of the glacier. Now, a person can not even see the glacier from the observation site because the glacier has receded so far.

      • snafubar

        NO. Climate change is a natural cycle, Henny Penny.

  • http://yahoo will-tex

    Some Ice is melting and some ice is growing. Global warming??? Everyone knows the cows and moose are the culprits that is causing the glacier in Alaska to melt

  • http://yahoo will-tex

    I forgot! Al Gore’s hot air is also most of the problem

  • http://yahoo Stan

    So what about all the money spent on Global Warming, another waste of tax dollars .

  • cristo

    It’s like finding a bag of baseball bats in Manhattan.

  • Charlied

    Definite proof warming is a natural cycle. Whereever you live, it has been the floor of the ocean and under hundreds of feet of ice at other times in Earths history.

  • Mark

    I’m more of a realist. I don’t care much for political ranting. I’m sure we will be able to adapt. When weather changes radically enough to wipe out just a couple years of harvests, billions of mouths will all of a sudden mumble “global warming is real”. It is the rate of change that is going to grab us by the short hairs. I for one would be in favor of staying in the sweet spot. No huge changes and completely doable now…but wait a few decades longer and 14 billion people, many chasing a western lifestyle, could tip the balance.

  • snafubar

    Moby is a douchebag.

  • CapitalG

    So now they can grow new trees like they had 1000 years ago before global cooling started.