St. Lawrence Geology Alumni

2010 R. O. & Vera Bloomer Lecture
7:30pm  October 8, 2010
Hepburn Auditorium
2nd Floor of Hepburn Hall

andrew fountain
Andrew Fountain '75

Glaciers and the near future of global sea level change

The glaciers of the American West, exclusive of Alaska, were unknown to science until the late 1800s when the first of the four geological surveys identified a glacier in California for the first time.  Soon after that 'discoveries' of other glaciers rapidly followed.  The glaciers were a curiosity until the end of the century when scientists, primarily geologists took a more professional interest in their activity and processes.  In the 1920-30s hikes to glaciers became a particularly popular activity and coincided with their rapid recession following the Little Ice Age.  A number of hiking clubs, often in collaboration with scientists, assumed responsibility for monitoring the rate of glacier retreat.  It was not recognized at the time, but these shrinking glaciers contributed to rising sea level.  Indeed, alpine glaciers and ice caps are the dominant source of new water to the ocean and largely account for about one-third of current global sea level rise.  Although the glaciers are small, in comparison to the two great ice sheets, they are losing mass rapidly and will account for the majority of new water added to the oceans through the rest of this century.  Of the two ice sheets, apparently Greenland is starting to make substantial contributions and Antarctica may be under way soon.  Predictions suggest about a one meter sea level rise by 2100.

About Andrew Fountain

Dr. Fountain is a 1975 graduate of St. Lawrence.  The Oregon Academy of Science named him the 2008 Outstanding Oregon Scientist because of his work on glaciers and the implications of their melting.  Presently, he is Chair of the Department of Geology and Geography at Portland State University.  For more than 20 years, Dr. Fountain worked for the US Geological Survey studying glacial hydrology around the world before joining academia in 1997.  He has received numerous honors and awards for his research which is now published in more than 150 scholarly books, journals and articles, and he has appeared on several television documentaries dealing with relationships between climate and glaciers.  Included among his honors are the 1994 Antarctic Service Medal, Outstanding Researcher Award of Sigma Xi, Fellow of the Geological Society of America, named to the National Research Council’s Polar Research Board, and the John Allen Teaching Award, Portland State University,  In  2004, the  USGS named the Fountain Glacier in Antarctica, 77°41'S, 161°38'E, in his honor.

Last Updated: 
September 23, 2010
Sarah McElfresh