Mount Shasta is nearly snowless, a rare event that is helping melt the mountain's glaciers

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Shasta's glaciers have lost more than 50 percent of their volume and area in this 21st century, with 2021 as the largest year of volume loss.
© Rich Pedroncelli/AP Mount Shasta is seen covered in snow on June 19, 2008. This year, Shasta experienced extreme melting and appeared bare by midsummer.

Deep in the northern California wilderness, nestled among rolling hills and magnificent pines, the Mount Shasta volcano towers above the landscape as a lone sentinel beckoning to those around it. Rising to 14,179 feet, Shasta is one of the tallest mountains in the Lower 48.

Given its height, snow cover is common year-round, especially after a snowy season or two. It is home to some of the largest glaciers in California and includes at least seven glaciers, some named after Native Americans in the 1800s. This year is testing the theory that snow and ice will always be found on Shasta.

"Mt. Shasta has snow on the summit year-round. This summer is different," wrote Mt. Shasta Ski Park in late August. "The glaciers that are visible from the north side of the mountain are melting VERY quickly this year."

Perhaps more unusual, the mountain began losing a lot of snow cover by midsummer. In the past when Shasta tends to turn bare, it's usually toward the end of summer or even into fall. This year, the mountain became mainly brown in July and August.

The satellite image below shows the snow cover on Mount Shasta and Shastina, a secondary vent of the volcano, on Aug. 19. The image is compared to summer months of previous years, either in July or August depending on the availability of cloud-free scenes.

© Provided by The Washington Post

The rapid melt occurred during an abnormally hot summer and extreme drought, punctuated by intense heat waves. In June, the Pacific Northwest observed its most severe heat wave on record. Warm temperatures persisted throughout the summer, as many Western states, including California, experienced their warmest summer on record.

In town, about five miles southwest of the mountain, and around 3,500 feet, the Shasta climate location has seen 16 daily record highs this warm season,…
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