50,000 old photos in Golden are helping scientists answer new questions about climate change | VailDaily.com

50,000 old photos in Golden are helping scientists answer new questions about climate change

Joe Purtell
The Colorado Sun
The Arapaho glacier is the largest in Colorado and a key component of Boulder’s water supply. Over the last 100 years, it has receded dramatically, and Davis worries it could disappear completely.
Courtesy American Alpine Club

American Alpine Club Library Director Katie Sauter spends a lot of time in the climate-controlled special collections room, flipping through hundred-year-old photographs, black and white images of climbers posing in front of the world’s mountains and glaciers in the early 1900s.

While the library is primarily maintained for climbers and historians, there is another interested cohort: glacier scientists.

Scientists periodically email the library, or even show up in Golden, looking for rare old photographs. Sauter says that while she has received requests for photos of the remote Ladakh region of India — and, closer to home, the Arapaho Glacier northwest of Nederland — they are largely focused on the same thing.

“Glaciers, mostly,” she says, “to see how much it’s melted.”

Early in the Alpine Club’s history, climbers were interested in photos of glaciers so they could see what obstacles faced them before they traveled to attempt a mountain. They used some of the earliest film cameras to document the valleys filled with ice. In 2019, scientists have a more pressing interest, and new equipment to match.

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