Arapaho Glacier

Where on Earth is Arapaho Glacier?

Arapaho Glacier locator map

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Located above Boulder, CO, USA at a latitude of 40.02° North and a longitude of 105.65° West in the Southern Rocky Mountains, Arapaho glacier is a typical alpine glacier with an elevation of 12,434 feet (3,790 meters). An alpine glacier is often small, on the order of a few kilometers, and is generally short in comparison to its width. Arapahoe is also considered a cirque glacier because of the mountain basin it sits in. Arapaho is the largest glacier in Colorado, but it is tiny by world standards as it is only about a quarter-mile (0.4 kilometers) long, a half-mile (0.8 kilometers) wide, and approximately 15 feet (4.6 meters) thick.

Arapaho Glacier serves as a water source for the city of Boulder. Many glacier around the world are important water sources for communities which adds another level of complexity to the necessity of glaciers.

Monitoring

Arapaho Glacier in 1898, 1910, 1966, 2004

Arapaho Glacier photographed in August 1898 by R. Brackett, September 1910 by J. Henderson, September 1966 by H. Waldrop, and in August 2004 by J. Van de Grift. The black arrows indicate a common reference point in the images. Click for a larger view. —Image Credit: NSIDC Glacier Photo Collection.

"Arapaho Glacier may disappear in as few as 65 years."Haugen et al. (2010)

Because Arapaho Glacier provides water to the city of Boulder, it is very closely monitored. Ted Scambos, an NSIDC scientist, visits the glacier often and was a co-author on a paper published in 2010 called "Twentieth-century Changes in the Thickness and Extent of Arapaho Glacier, Front Range, Colorado" which states the following about the glacier:

"Arapaho Glacier lost 52% of its area during the 20th century, decreasing from 0.34 to 0.16 km2 [...] Its maximum thickness is approximately 15 m. If recent trends in area loss continue, Arapaho Glacier may disappear in as few as 65 years" (Haugen et al, 2010).

Quick Facts

Location: Colorado, USA
Coordinates: 40.02° N, 105.65° W
Average Elevation: 3790 m
Glacier Type: Alpine, Cirque
Current Size: 0.16 sq km
Retreat : 52% in 20th Century

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Explorers

Junius Henderson

Junius Henderson was one of the first to explore Arapaho glacier. He took many photos of the glacier from 1902 to 1922. Read Henderson's A Colorado Glacier


Learn More

Good Days on the Trail - Rare Color Archive Footage from 1938

Twentieth-century Changes in the Thickness and Extent of Arapaho Glacier, Front Range, Colorado

BASIN: Boulder Water Supply Story