With more glaciers than any state in the Lower 48, Washington state has emerged as a bellwether for global warming. The signs are not encouraging.

A national environmental group recently reported that North Cascades and Mount Rainier are among the dozen national parks most susceptible to climate change.

At Mount Rainier, which has more glacial ice than the rest of the Cascades combined and is among the best studied sites in the nation, the area covered by glaciers shrank by more than a fifth from 1913 to 1994, and the volume of the glaciers by almost one-fourth, the National Park Service says.

From 1912 to 2001, the Nisqually Glacier on Mount Rainier retreated nearly a mile. Since the first stirrings of the Industrial Revolution 150 years ago, glaciers in the northern Cascades have shrunk by 40 percent, and the pace is accelerating.

The South Cascades Glacier, one of the most studied in the nation, has lost roughly half its mass since 1928. In the Olympic Mountains, glaciers have lost about one-third of their mass.

"They are the canary in the coal mine," Ed Josberger, the head of the U.S. Geological Survey's ice and climate project in Tacoma, said of the glaciers in Washington state. "They are changing fast, and this is not good."