October 2, 2009

Disregard sign, Mount Rainier not melting

Global warming is not melting away Mount Rainer in Washington state, even if a survey marker at the highest peak suggests it could be, officials say.

The Seattle Times reports the aluminum marker pokes nearly 2 feet above the ice cap at the mountain's highest point, giving the appearance part of the ice has melted away.

Not so, say experts. The marker, it turns out, was never under ice -- and it wasn't even erected at the summit, said surveyor Larry Signani, who has led teams that measured the mountain's height.

He scrutinized photos of the marker.

It looks like the original, he said. But it didn't melt out of the ice.

The U.S. Geological Survey installed the marker in 1956 on rocky solid ground, not ice, on the rim of crater of the mountain, southeast of Seattle in Pierce County. Wind and warm steam from the volcano keep snow off the rim, the Times said.

We're not going to put a survey marker in snow or ice, said cartographer Dale Benson, of the USGS.

Nature probably forced the marker from the ground, Signani said, and somebody took it to the summit.

Climbers and guides had noticed the marker about a month ago, and one spotted it lying on the ground.

Then somebody apparently drove the marker into the ice and, before long, an environmentalist with a blog posted photos and a warning -- that global warming was shrinking Mount Rainier.