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It’s now “inevitable” that the contiguous United States will lose all of its glaciers within a matter of decades, according to scientists who have revealed the precipitous shrinkage of dozens of glaciers in Montana.

Warming temperatures have rapidly reduced the size of 39 named glaciers in Montana since 1966, according to comparisons released by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and Portland State University. Some have lost as much as 85% of their expanse over the past 50 years, with Glacier national park, site of 37 of the surveyed glaciers, set to lose all of its eponymous ice formations within the next few decades. Of the 150 glaciers that existed in the park in the late 19th century, only 26 remain.

The disappearance of glaciers in Montana is part of a broader loss that will see all glaciers, defined as moving bodies of snow and ice larger than 25 acres, largely vanish from the lower 48 states of America by the mid-point of the century, according to Dr Daniel Farge, lead USGS scientist.

“It’s inevitable that we will lose them all over the next few decades,” Farge said. “The Colorado glaciers started melting before Montana’s and while there are larger glaciers in the Pacific north-west that will hold on longer, the number vanishing will steadily grow until none are left.”

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