Open Mind

Glaciers (Al Gore got it right)

May 1, 2007 · 33 Comments

In his film An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore talks about glaciers. He specifically mentions that worldwide, glaciers are melting at an alarming rate. Many delusionists have objected that we don’t have data for all the world’s glaciers, but for those we do have, some are shrinking while others are growing. What’s the real story?

Indeed we don’t have “mass balance” measurements for all the world’s glaciers. But the World Glacier Monitoring Service reports mass balance measurements for a sample of glaciers from around the world. The latest Mass Balance Bulletin lists mass balance measurements for 80 glaciers in 2002 and 85 in 2003. Mass balance is usually measured in “millimeters water equivalent,” which is the change in glacier thickness in terms of the equivalent thickness of water gained or lost. Positive values indicate glacier growth, negative values indicate glacier shrinkage.

Here are their results:


Of the 80 glaciers with measurements in 2002, 62 shrank, 17 grew, and one showed no change. Of the 85 glaciers with measurements in 2003, 80 shrank while only 5 grew.

A sample of 85 isn’t very large, but it’s big enough to show a trend as strong as the one observed. If there were no worldwide pattern, the chance that 62 out of 80 glaciers would show growth while only 17 showed shrinkage is less than one in two million. The chance that 80 out of 85 glaciers would grow while only 5 shrank is about less than one in 4 quadrillion (that’s a 4 followed by 15 zeros). The evidence is overwhelming: Al Gore was right, glaciers world-wide are shrinking.

If we take the mass balance in mm. water equivalent, and multiply it by the area of the glacier in square kilometers, then divide by one million, we can compute the total volume change of the glacier in cubic kilometers. In fact, we can take the average mass balance of glaciers worldwide, multiply it by the total area of glaciers worldwide, divide by one million, and estimate the global volume change of glaciers. We can then take the results for each year for which data are available, and add them to calculate the cumulative glacier volume change over time. Exactly this has been done by the National Snow and Ice Data Center; here are their results:


Al Gore was doubly right: glaciers worldwide are shrinking at an alarming rate.

The next time some delusionist tells you that Gore lied, that some glaciers are growing while others are shrinking, ask him or her whether or not 80 out of 85 qualifies as “most.”

Categories: Global Warming · climate change

33 responses so far ↓

  • Brian Schmidt // May 1, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Mass-balance measurements are necessary for quantitative answers, but the question of whether glaciers are expanding or shrinking is a qualitative issue. For that qualitative question, if the glacier’s terminus is retreating, it is almost certainly losing mass. Comparing photographs over time is all you need to do, and there’s massive amounts of data from hundreds of glaciers to show that they’re generally shrinking.

    (I’ve done some volunteer field work in Montana and Alaska measuring glacier margins with GPS units, which can help with both quantitative and qualitative measurements.)

  • George // May 2, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)
    These denialist types are grasping for straws. It is the ultimate irony that they call Al Gore a liar and then proceed to tell the biggest lie they can come up with to “show” that Gore lied.

    This graph showing sea ice extent for Sept in the arctic shows the same accelerating loss in ice as the glacier mass one. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

    Models Underestimate Loss of Arctic Sea Ice
    Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) found that satellite and other observations show the Arctic ice cover is retreating more rapidly than estimated by any of the eighteen computer models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in preparing its 2007 assessments.

    The melting ice in the arctic won’t affect sea level, of course, but it shows that the IPCC estimates for the rate of ice sheet melting and disintegration for Greenland and Antarctica (which will affect sea level) are almost certainly underestimates — and that graph sure does not look like a linear decline in ice.

  • S. Campbell // May 2, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    What about the research by the the U of Penn recently reported that found 90 percent of the world ice is in the antartic and has been increasing ? Seems that would effect the mass balance records which you admit we don’t have all the records on.

    [Response: Without a more specific reference, it's hard to tell exactly what research you're referring to.

    The most current I'm aware of are data from the GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites (Velicogna & Wahr 2006, Science, Vol. 311, pp. 1754 - 1756) indicating that Antarctica is losing about 150 cubic kilometers of ice per year, mostly from the West Antarctic ice sheet. Perhaps you're referring to the recent research of Curt Davis, that the interior of the East Antarctic ice sheet is gaining mass. But that's not Antarctica, it's the interior of the East Antarctic ice sheet, and as Davis himself says, "The interior of the ice sheet is the only large terrestrial ice body that is likely gaining mass rather than losing it."]

  • George // May 2, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    For anyone who needs more convincing that the ice loss is nonlinear (ie, accelerating), look at the presentation
    by NASA scientist Waleed Abdalatiwhich
    showing sea level rise over the past 14 years, which averaged about 3.4mm/year, well above the average for the preceding half century.

    You can also see a ramping up in the yearly rise from about 2.7mm/year over the years 1993-2000 to about 4.0mm/year over the last 7 years.

    James Hansen thinks that the acceleration in the sea level rise is a sign that the great ice sheets may be starting to disintegrate and that positive feedbacks could lead to a multi-meter “Gorilla” sea level rise.

    This is the primary motivation behind his warning that we may have only a short time to get our act together to start bringing emissions down before the disintegration of the ice sheets becomes a foregone conclusion.

    Some claim Hansen is an alarmist. I hope they are right, but unfortunately, from a glance at the ice loss graphs above, I really have to wonder.

    Besides, who you gonna believe?

    Hansen? — a real climate scientist who has a track record of being dead nuts right on his 20 year mean global temperature projections. (see Figure 1)

    Or the denialists? — most of whom are not even climate scientists, and who have given us a lot of hot air (and outright lies)

  • George // May 2, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    S Campbell asked: “What about the research by the the U of Penn recently reported that found 90 percent of the world ice is in the antartic and has been increasing ?”

    Parts of Antarctica (in the interior) have gained ice, and parts have lost it.

    Recent studies by GRACE indicate overall loss in recent years equivalent to about 1.2mm of global sea level increase (13% of total) over the 3-year time period of the study (2002-2005)

    INASA Mission Detects Significant Antarctic Ice Mass Loss
    March 02, 2006

    “The first-ever gravity survey of the entire Antarctic ice sheet, conducted using data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace), concludes the ice sheet’s mass has decreased significantly from 2002 to 2005. ”

    Some of the mis (or is it dis?)information originates from cheery picking by those trying to make their case.

    For example, some (eg, at Competitive Enterprise Institute) have apparently been “misrepresenting” the conclusions of studies related to ice sheets “through selective referencing” (and also using material in their videos without permission, apparently).

    Statement of Dr. Brooks Hanson,
    Deputy Editor, Physical Sciences, Science

    “The text of the CEI ad misrepresents the conclusions of the two cited Science papers and
    our current state of knowledge by selective referencing.”

  • Gareth // May 3, 2007 at 8:02 am

    Hi Tamino.

    Don’t want to be comment spam, so please check this out then delete.


  • Le Rayon Vert » Around the Climate Blogs // May 3, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    [...] Open Mind, Tamino is looking into what’s really going on with glaciers (and I’m afraid the news [...]

  • Geoffrey Allan Plauche // May 5, 2007 at 5:20 am

    Antarctica and Greenland make up at least 90% of the earth’s glaciers, do they not?

    Isn’t only the Antarctic Peninsula (about 15% ?) of the continent melting while the rest is gaining ice? Is that truly alarming?

    And isn’t Greenland losing only about .4% of its ice per century? Is that Greenland figure truly alarming?

    Might it not also be a good thing for many of the glaciers to retreat? It means more vegetation, more land that is comfortably livable for humans. And warmer winters in mid- to high latitudes means longer growing seasons.

    And didn’t Al Gore exaggerate grossly likely sea level rise? Something on the order of 2,000% (20X) the IPCC’s (i.e., the consensus) mid-range estimates? Which were also revised signficantly downword from the last IPCC report, I might add. Gasp! Is Al Gore an extremist and alarmist? It seems so.

    [Response: Your "facts" are wrong, and you didn't bother to read the other comments, did you? The worldwide glacier balance respresents a loss of 6000 cubic kilometers over the last 43 years -- that's about 150 cubic kilometers per year. In addition, *Antarctica alone* is losing *another* 150 cubic kilometers per year, while Greenland is the most *alarming* case of all -- the most up-to-date research shows its melting is *accelerating* at an *alarming* rate, from 96 cubic kilometers in 1996, to 220 cubic kilometers in 2005.

    The single biggest criticism of the IPCC report from the scientific community is that it underplays the threat of *alarmingly* rapid sea level rise due to the accelerating shrinkage of glaciers *and* ice sheets.

    Al Gore stated clearly that the large rises in sea level he warned of, would be a consequence of the collapse of the Greenland or West Antarctic ice sheet. At the time he made his film, that seemed to be at least 100 years away, maybe even avoidable IF we take action SOON. But now, it seems to be a distinct possibility within the next 100 years.

    Are you a delusionist? Yes. And you typify the group: you make insulting remarks about Al Gore, insinuate that global warming will be good for us, and what you call "facts" are lies.]

  • Geoffrey Allan Plauche // May 5, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Right. Right. And environmental alarmists don’t make insulting remarks about anybody who isn’t an alarmist.

    You play awfully fast and loose with the word facts. Also, I don’t believe I called anything facts, although I did present some. Were they all wrong? Very far off? What percentage of scientists have criticized the IPCC on sea level rise? I know some have, but how many percentage-wise? Do you have some “facts” on that?

    I did indeed insinuate that global warming would be good for us, but to be more nuanced: good for some, bad for others. On balance? That’s not so clear.

    Let’s say for the sake of argument, the alarmists are right: What I do know pretty well (it being more my field than yours) is that no environmentalist measure currently being proposed will even make a measurable dent in global warming. Even these will damage the economy and harm the poor. More stringent measures will do even more damage. All in all, statist environmental policies will be virtually ineffective, even counterproductive, and harm the ability of those least able to adapt to do so.

    [Response: Hmmm... You suggest that only the Antarctic peninsula is melting while the rest of the continent is gaining mass. Likewise that the mass loss from Greenland is unimportantly small. But it's abundantly clear that you haven't even bothered to get the facts; you're just regurgitating propaganda you've been spoon-fed.

    Then you want to hide behind the "I don't believe I called anything facts" sophistry. Some people come here to ask questions because they want to know the truth. Some people come here to make statements in the *guise* of questions, in order to cast aspersions on global warming science. If you think for a moment that we can't all tell the difference, then you're fooling yourself.

    As for the suggestion that taking action to mitigate global warming will actually harm the world's poorest nations, that's the biggest and most pernicious lie of all.]

  • George // May 5, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Here’s the web page postings by Geoffrey Allan Plauche On the Environment, Environmentalism, and Global Warming (I assume it’s the same one who posted above) where he links to pieces by such eminent climate scientists as Michael Chrichton and Bjorn Lomborg.

    Here’s what he says about Michael Chrichton’s book on global warming:

    “Michael Crichton, State of Fear: A Novel (New York: HarperCollins, 2004). Yes, it is a novel but it is a novel with footnotes and MC cites real scientific research from published books and peer-reviewed journal articles.”

    Here’s what NASA’s James Hansen (an actual climate scientist) has to say about Chrichton’s fantasy.

    “Michael Crichton’s latest fictional novel, “State of Fear”, designed to discredit concerns
    about global warming, purports to use the scientific method. The book is sprinkled with
    references to scientific papers, and Crichton intones in the introduction that his “footnotes are
    real”. But does Crichton really use the scientific method? Or is it something closer to scientific

    Under “Relatively Unbiased News Media Reports, Interviews, Articles, Etc”, Geoffrey Allan Plauche lists two pieces by Junk Science’s Steven Milloy.

    Makes we wonder what would qualify as “biased” in Plauche’s book.

  • Fielding Mellish // May 5, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    “Even these will damage the economy and harm the poor. More stringent measures will do even more damage. All in all, statist environmental policies will be virtually ineffective, even counterproductive, and harm the ability of those least able to adapt to do so.”

    So, you appear to be saying that the most dire AGW effects will harm the poor less than would preventative measures. Even sub-dire predictions involve elevated disease and a collapsing or more severely weakened food chain- supporting ecosystem. How do you deduce that an even more persistently disrupted food chain and more widespread disease would not wreak havoc on the poor? If you propose that AGW will enhance food production, then I propose that you’ve never tried to bring in a crop from planting to harvest, let alone under weather conditions inherent in the dire view that you co-opted. Maybe we will harness a new clean power source of a sufficiently enormous magnitude to enable us to reverse the damage, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

    From reading your Vogon poetry, it appears to me that you and most denialists consider AGW to be purely an economic matter. I propose that your economic deity has never had to deal with, and will not deal effectively with, a global ecosystem collapse of the sort that your predicate “alarmist” view embraces. Personally, I have substantial doubts about the apparently pervasive view that the U.S. will surf across AGW relatively unscathed. I’m a little afraid that our polarized economy no longer is robust enough to do that, and is but a shadow of the system that weathered the comparatively mild 20th century events that we champion so much. In AGW’s most dire grab bag there is room for plenty of climate-induced armed conflict, so I suppose the persistently daft always can say ‘it was the wars, not global warming, that did us wrong.’

    “It isn’t happening. If it is happening, I didn’t cause it. If I did cause it, it won’t be very bad. If it is bad, there isn’t anything we can do about it.” Repeat daily or as often as required.

  • Steve Bloom // May 5, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    Hmm, said I, I’ll bet our friend Geoff is an “objectivist.” Sure enough (and thanks for the link, George). Make of it what you will that he nonetheless attends a state-supported institution. He has not the faintest clue about climate science, and based on the material on his site has dedicated hinself to not acquiring one. I suppose I’m violating the “Tobis rule,” but I’m afraid people like Geoff will persist in shoehorning reality into their world view until climate change hammers them over the head. It’s amusing and depressing that “objectivism” as applied to climate science has so much in common with Lysenkoism.

  • George // May 6, 2007 at 3:02 am

    Ironically, some of those who call themselves “objectivists” are in actuality much closer to “subjectivists”, believing as they do that their own uninformed view of “reality” is just as valid as anyone else’s (including that of the scientists).

    It would be nice, of course, if each of us could have our very own personal reality (”live in our own private Idaho”), but all the scientific evidence to date seems to indicate that one reality is more real than all the others.

  • cytochrome_sea // May 6, 2007 at 3:37 am

    Some nitpicking, “The latest Mass Balance Bulletin”
    isn’t quite correct as there’s an MBB 9 (summary at least), I was previously buggin and questioning about data, an acknowledgement was made about this forthcomming post. Although there are data _graphed_ for the mbb_8 posted, it would take a while to digitize the information manually. Also, and weird to me but probably more important, the glaciers used in the bulletin don’t seem to be archived in the NSIDC World Glacier Inventory. (I gave up after trying to check the first 3 in the list however)

    [Response: I didn't use MBB9 because it hasn't been posted -- just a summary, which doesn't include data on any individual glaciers.

    If you want to "digitize" the data from MBB8, use the "column select" tool when viewing the pdf file, and copy/paste into an Excel (or plain text) file.

    As for finding them in the NSIDC inventory, that inventory contains far more glaciers, but the list is nonetheless incomplete. If you look at their "search" page, you'll note that they don't list any glaciers south of latitude 45.94 deg.S -- that's why you didn't find the first two. As for the third, you didn't find it because the names given in MBB are from those crazy Swiss in Zurich, while NSIDC is in the U.S.A., and they tend to have slightly different names. What MBB 8 calls "Hintereisferner," NSIDC refers to simply as "HINTEREIS." Most of the glaciers in the NSIDC list don't have accurate mass balance measurements.]

    MBB8 (or 9) certainly don’t label themselves as being a representative sample of glaciers throughout the world, so I disagree with you extrapolating these bulletins into “worldwide” studies. The sample size is quite small, one can easily do a similar grouping of even 100-200 or so (cherry-picking glaciers with rapid advancement) and come to entirely different conclusions if they were to be extrapolated worldwide.

    [Response: MBB8 certainly is a representative sample of glaciers from around the world. As for cherry-picking a sample of 100-200 glaciers with mass balance measurements that will give an "entirely different conclusion," go ahead -- I dare ya.]

    Granted, personally I would expect a majority of glaciers receding worldwide. I’m nitpicking since this hasn’t been shown here, and the conclusion seems to have been reached without providing the evidence. The readers still await the evidence.

  • george // May 6, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    The context of Tamino’s post is clear.
    Air and water temperatures have been increasing throughout most of the world over the past century, and particularly over the past 30 years. The antarctic is losing mass. The arctic sea ice is losing mass. Greenland is losing ice mass. The rate of ice loss is actually accelerating in many cases.

    So, the data that Tamino provided above fits into a trend. If he had been cherry picking, I’d bet that he would not have included data for White Glacier — or at least chosen a year other than 2003, when it lost so much mass, since just a few years earlier, it underwent a relatively large mass gain.

    Is it a mere coincidence that
    This graph showing sea ice extent for Sept in the arctic shows the same accelerating loss in ice as the glacier mass one given above?

    Or that “the Greenland ice sheet is melting three times faster today than it was five years ago”, primarily through glacier mass loss?

    One really does not have to see every last piece of data to see that there is a trend here.

    As glaciologist Richard Alley has said with regard to ice-melt in Greenland:
    “History and physics and recent observations tie warming to ice shrinkage…So shrinkage seems likely.”

  • george // May 6, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Correction for above. I inadvertently switched lost and gained in my statement about White Glacier.

    Here’s how it should have read:

    “If he had been cherry picking, I’d bet that he would not have included data for White Glacier — or at least chosen a year other than 2003, when it gained so much mass, since just a few years earlier, it underwent a relatively large mass loss.

  • the Grit // May 6, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    Hi tamino,

    Or, considering that there are over 67,000 glaciers in the world, we could conclude that data on 85 is so laughingly small as to be completely irrelevant. Just a thought.

    the Grit

    [Response: Suppose you have 67,000 kids in the local school district. You suspect that a chemical toxin in the school lunch is increasing the obesity rate in your school's kids.

    Ordinarily, half the kids would be above the median weight for their height and age. If your theory is correct, you should find that *more* than half the kids are above median weight. Unfortunately, you can only sample 85 kids.

    If there's no effect from the supposed toxin, about half of them will be over median weight and half not. Your sample is so small, that you'll only be able to be confident of an effect if a *very* large fraction -- over 62% -- of the sampled kids turn out to be overweight. You're despondent, thinking that even if there *is* a strong effect, your sample won't be able to detect it. But when the results are in, it turns out that 94% of kids surveyed are over the median weight; in fact, a large fraction of them are grotesquely obese. Your statistician informs you that the chance this is just an accidental result, due to the small sample size, is only 1 out of 4,000,000,000,000,000.

    The sample of 85 isn't "laughingly small" at all, but it does mean that we can only detect very *large* trends. However, the trend is SO GREAT that even with a sample of only 85, we can be *absolutely certain* that there's a statistically significant result.]

  • George // May 7, 2007 at 12:56 am

    “67,000 glaciers in the world, we could conclude that data on 85 is so laughingly small as to be completely irrelevant. Just a thought.”

    Yes and a sample of 1000 that is the standard size for polls regularly used to gauge American public opinion (ie, to gauge the opinion of some 100 million adults!) is even more laughingly small (smaller as a fraction of the total population by a factor of over 100)

    So why do polling experts regularly rely on such small sample sizes?

    Perhaps they are simply stupid — even laughingly so.

    Then again, perhaps they know a little something about statistical sampling that those who belittle their “laughable” sampling size simply do not appreciate.

    That there has been a large-scale retreat of glaciers worldwide over the past several decades is hardly a matter of debate among scientists.

    Furthermore, anyone who is capable of googling “glacier retreat” can appreciate what scientists have known for some time.

    No graph-reading skill or scientific training or knowledge is required to see this. One can see it with one’s own eyes — in photographs.

  • Michael Jankowski // May 14, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    The issue of # of retreating glaciers is irrelevant and laughable that it’s even been raised. We’ve known a substantial number have been in decline even before man-made GHG emissions became substantial. Most “skeptics” think it’s completely reasonable for most glaciers, if not all, to be receding from the so-called “Little Ice Age.” The issue is how much is tied to GHGs.

    From the IPCC 2001 TAR

    “…work done so far indicates that the response times of glacier lengths shown in Figure 2.18 are in the 10 to 70 year range. Therefore the timing of the onset of glacier retreat implies that a significant global warming is likely to have started not later than the mid-19th century. This conflicts with the Jones et al. (2001) global land instrumental temperature data (Figure 2.1), and the combined hemispheric and global land and marine data (Figure 2.7), where clear warming is not seen until the beginning of the 20th century. This conclusion also conflicts with some (but not all) of the palaeo-temperature reconstructions in Figure 2.21, Section 2.3 , where clear warming, e.g., in the Mann et al. (1999) Northern Hemisphere series, starts at about the same time as in the Jones et al. (2001) data. These discrepancies are currently unexplained…”

    So a widespread glacial retreat pre-dates not only substantial GHG emissions from humans, but even the anticipated onset based on our historical temperature reconstructions and surface readings. Interesting.

    The glaciers in their Fig 2.18 don’t seem to show much/any acceleration in the late 20th century. In fact, many were decelerating or increasing in size. One could argue that is the lag result from the “global cooling” early in the 2nd half of the 20th century, I guess.

    At any rate, the IPCC 2001 TAR had said previously:

    “…Glaciers are generally not in equilibrium with the prevailing climatic conditions and a more refined analysis should deal with the different response times of glaciers which involves modelling (Oerlemans et al., 1998). It will take some time before a large number of glaciers are modelled…”

    So are we still in such early ages of understanding the correlation between global temps and glacier retreat?

    [Response: Two things are abundantly clear. First, that you came here with an agenda to cast aspersions on global warming. Second, that you're really not very well informed.

    You should get up-to-date with IPCC reports; the 4th assessment report on the science in now available. It says,

    Glaciers and ice caps provide among the most visible indications of the effects of climate change. The mass balance at the surface of a glacier (the gain or loss of snow and ice over a hydrological cycle) is determined by the climate.

    It further adds,

    Changes in glacier extent lag behind climate changes by only a few years on the short, steep and shallow glaciers of the tropical mountains with year-round ablation, but by up to several centuries on the largest glaciers and ice caps with small slopes and cold ice.

    And it also states,

    Around 1970, mass balances were close to zero or slightly positive in most regions and close to zero in the global mean, indicating near-equilibration with climate after the strong earlier mass loss. This gives confidence that the glacier wastage in the late 20th century is essentially a response to post-1970 global warming.

    Please stop pestering this site with inaccuracies and misconceptions based on sloppy research and the junk you get from climateaudit. Come back after you've done your homework -- a lot of it.]

  • Michael Jankowski // May 14, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    “You should get up-to-date with IPCC reports; the 4th assessment report on the science in now available.”

    Thanks for the advice, but forgive me for being behind in digesting IPCC reports. This isn’t my life. And I had no idea the 2001 TAR was suddenly so obsolete with all the figures invalidated!

    “It says, Glaciers and ice caps provide among the most visible indications of the effects of climate change. The mass balance at the surface of a glacier (the gain or loss of snow and ice over a hydrological cycle) is determined by the climate.”

    Well DUH. When did I say or suggest anything to the contrary?

    “It further adds, Changes in glacier extent lag behind climate changes by only a few years on the short, steep and shallow glaciers of the tropical mountains with year-round ablation, but by up to several centuries on the largest
    glaciers and ice caps with small slopes and cold ice.”

    So the 10-70 yr lag I quoted from the 2001 TAR is now 2-200+ years. This doesn’t affect anything. The “unexplained discrepancy” with most reconstruction and the land-based temperature record still exists, and is in fact even more inexplicable with the new range. I pulled-up the latest IPCC report just to make you happy, and there I have on p.357, first paragraph: “General retreat of glacier tongues started after 1800, with considerable mean retreat rates in all regions after 1850 lasting throughout the 20th century.” So that didn’t change from the 2001 TAR. New numbers, same discrepancy.

    “And it also states, Around 1970, mass balances were close to zero or slightly positive in most regions and close to zero in the global mean, indicating near-equilibration with climate after the strong earlier mass loss. This gives confidence that the glacier wastage in the late 20th century is essentially a response to post-1970 global warming.”

    Well I guess the IPCC 2001 TAR folks did a poor job of selecting representative glaciers then? Few of the glaciers they presented indicated a near-equilibrium with climate around 1970. And as I said earlier, many of them slowed in loss, or even accumulated, in the late 20th century.

    Looking at the latest report, I see that quote you provided on p.357 (same page as a chart showing the year 2000 as “200″…oops, maybe you should bash the IPCC and chapter authors for their ignorance and lambast their stupidity?). Fig 4.13 (glacier tongues) shows no equilibrium near 1970, and only NW North America shows an acceleration late in the 20th century. Rates over the 20th century are pretty consistent overall. I’ll have to digest Fig 4.14 a little, but Fig 4.15, once again, shows no real equilibrium in 1970 except for Europe.

    Maybe there is an extremely short-lived mass balance of zero around 1970 for most regions, but the rate prior to and shortly thereafter is far from it. I find it amazing that a rough net mass-balance of zero around this period of only a few years is considered “near-equilibrium.” The same can be said of maybe 1991 or 1992. So what? If we had data prior to 1960, who knows how many “near-equilibriums” we could find. Based on the quote I provided about the
    onset of glacier retreat in the 1800s, there was a near-equilibrium followed by widespread glacial retreat prior to an increase in temperatures (particularly without a substantial increase likely to be mostly due to man-made GHG emissions)…what is this evidence of? Surely not man-made climate change.

    “Please stop pestering this site with inaccuracies and misconceptions based on sloppy research and the junk you get from climateaudit.”

    I had no idea referencing the 2001 TAR was “sloppy research.” It’s still got two more years left in that 8-yr “intense scrutiny” window of yours, too. And as I pointed-out, the latest report verifies many of the points I made using the 2001 TAR.

    I was quite familiar with the 2001 TAR well before climateaudit existed, and I don’t remember if climateaudit ever even covered the 2001 TAR section on glacier retreat in the first place. You apparently just “bet” it did and “bet” that I got my info from it.

    For someone who complains about another website being faith-based, you sure make a lot of faith-based claims and assumptions.

    [Response: Aren't you the guy who said (on another thread), "It’s amazing how much an adjustment of the data of just 2% of the globe - and arguably the best-kept and detailed data existing around the globe - affects the warming of the 20th century trend that is so widely reported." You were supporting your idea that the adjustements to U.S. temperature by NASA GISS led to a 0.15 deg.C rise in *global* temperature, quite ignorant of the fact that such a global rise would require 7.5 deg.C of increase in U.S. temperatures.

    When I point this out, and "bet" that the graphs on climateaudit were for U.S. temperature, ONLY THEN do you go and check, and end up having to admit that I was right. And your response to my being right and you wrong, is to make snarky comments about me "betting" rather than checking. For your information, I *did* check.

    Now you want to find any quote you can from IPCC TAR (2001) that you can use to imply that the evidence for global warming from glacier mass loss is unreliable. So I point you to a more current source (IPCC AR4, 2007) and offer quotes to show just how big a fool you are. But you won't accept the truth, because your beliefs are rooted in ideology rather than science. You don't know basic statistics, you can't tell U.S. temperature graphs from global, *you* are the one who doesn't bother to "check" until you folly is called, and your attempts to contradict the evidence from worldwide glacier retreat are really rather infantile. In spite of your woeful ignorance, you're willing to tell us all just how right you are.

    I'm not sure whether or not to discourage you from continued comments. On the one hand, they're a genuine annoyance, and contribute absolute zero to the discussion. On the other hand, you make your case so badly that you're a genuine embarrassment to the "no global warming" camp.]

  • Michael Jankowski // May 14, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    “Aren’t you the guy who said (on another thread)…”

    I admitted this and called it a “brainfart.” Shall I point out stupid errors from scientists who you respect, or do mistakes only from those you dislike matter?

    “When I point this out, and “bet” that the graphs on climateaudit were for U.S. temperature, ONLY THEN do you go and check, and end up having to admit that I was right. And your response to my being right and you wrong, is to make snarky comments about me “betting” rather than checking. For your information, I *did* check.”

    Actually, I said that I knew they were US temp records in the first place and should not have made the error of referring to them as global, regardless of what any graphics had said or not said. I didn’t have to go back and check to know that. Like I said, I was in a hurry, and I had a brainfart. We all do at times. The AG4 on the figure on p. 537, as I pointed-out in my link, has year 200 instead of 2000. MBH98 is fraught with errors, despite 8 yrs of “intense scrutiny.” I’m sure you’ve made plenty of stupid errors in your lifetime, too.

    Anyhow, in my experience, the terminology “I bet” is not used when someone has already been verified something to be true or false. So it appeared to me that you had not checked. And as you’d said otherwise, you had no interest in going to climateaudit in the first place. So I had two pieces of evidence suggesting you hadn’t checked, and zero pieces of evidence suggesting you had. I concluded it was “very likely (>90%) that you hadn’t checked. But thanks for the clarification otherwise.

    “Now you want to find any quote you can from IPCC TAR (2001) that you can use to imply that the evidence for global warming from glacier mass loss is unreliable.”

    WHOA there. I didn’t do any such thing. I pointed-out that the IPCC TAR (2001) said:
    (1) the intiation of widespread glacier loss is in unresolved conflict with many climate reconstructions and the surface record, and I looked at the latest IPCC report and confirmed this timing issue (described in IPCC TAR as “unresolved discrepancy” still exists).
    (2) the IPCC TAR graph shows most glaciers retreats decelerating, or even accumulating, while global warming was supposedly accelerating…and while some were saying glacier retreat was accelerating.

    I happen to find (1) interesting. Maybe you don’t and don’t care to discuss it. The IPCC found it interesting enough to explicitly comment on it in 2001. Maybe it’s explicitly stated again in the latest report, and maybe it’s not. I guess you don’t care to comment on it. Maybe you think widespread glacial retreat prior to global warming makes complete sense. The 2001 TAR and I don’t. If the records are accurate, it seems to suggest a natural component may be hiding. What it is, what the magnitude is, etc, I haven’t any idea. Maybe you can tell me.

    I find (2) to be in conflict with some current claims of accelerating glacial loss at the end of the 20th century. Now if the 2001 IPCC TAR folks did a remarkable job in selecting poor representatives to demonstrate glacier retreat, then fine. Go ahead and call them out on it.

    “So I point you to a more current source (IPCC AR4, 2007) and offer quotes to show just how big a fool you are.”

    Resorting to pathetic name-calling…classy.

    Thanks for the quotes. Who needs data and charts where you have quotes, none of which conflict with anything that I’d previously posted? How does that expose me as a “fool?”

    “You don’t know basic statistics”

    We haven’t discussed any statistics. You don’t know anything about me and my statistical aptitude.

    “…you can’t tell U.S. temperature graphs from global…”

    Back to that one again? Talk about beating a dead horse.

    “*you* are the one who doesn’t bother to “check” until you folly is called”

    “You folly is called?” My 5 yr old cousin knows the difference beetween “you” and “your!” Do I need to direct you to a dictionary?!?! See how silly this game of calling-out stupid mistakes is? Move on already.

    Like I said, I knew better and wouldn’t have to check the graph. I made a mistake while I was in a hurry, something that I knew better of in the first place. How many times do we have to go over this?

    “and your attempts to contradict the evidence from worldwide glacier retreat are really rather infantile.”

    “Infantile?” You mean like your persistent name-calling?

    I haven’t tried to contradict ANY “evidence.” I pointed out that the IPCC TAR explicitly said that the onset of glacial retreat conflicts with the surface record and “many, but not all” reconstructions. The verbage in AR4 about the onset of worldwide glacial retreat says the same thing as the TAR, and since the historical reconstructions mentioned in the TAR have not changed, then this “unresolved discrepancy” remains - well, unresolved to my knowledge. Since you know so much, maybe you tell me which is right and which is wrong (or neither or somehow both) and settle it for me and the IPCC. Or maybe all the reconstructions available at the time of the TAR have been replaced by reconstructions which all agree with the onset of widespread glacial retreat? Enthrall me with your acumen. The 2001 TAR raised this issue of “evidence,” not me. I’m just bringing it to your attention.

    I argue it’s a stretch to refer to a 1-2 year near mass-balance of zero to be “near equlibrium” when surrounded by massive changes in the same direction on either side…I guess you don’t want to discuss that. I refer to the existence of one “near equilibrium” that ended well prior to substantial man-made emissions of GHGs and before historical temp increases supposedly happen…you choose not to care to comment. Apparently this does not interest you. I don’t see anything in there that is an attempt to contradict “evidence.”

    “In spite of your woeful ignorance, you’re willing to tell us all just how right you are.”

    What have I told you “I’m right” about? What exactly are you reading into my posts, and why won’t you address any issues I raise rather than going off on unrelated tangents?

    “I’m not sure whether or not to discourage you from continued comments. On the one hand, they’re a genuine annoyance, and contribute absolute zero to the discussion. On the other hand, you make your case so badly that you’re a genuine embarrassment to the “no global warming” camp.”

    Yeah, this discussion, with no posts since a week ago, was really going somewhere until I showed up!

    If you’d like to discuss something, which is why I posted here, then discuss. If you’re just going to call me names like a common troll and completely avoid any issues I raise, then I’ll be left to assume this site exists solely for your insecure ego and cheerleaders.

    We can start with the “unexplained discrepancy” between the widespread onset of glacial retreat vs recorded onset of global warming. Which do you think is right, and why? If they are both right, then how?

    You can also discuss why the IPCC TAR apparently selected a poor representative of glaciers to graphically show glacier retreat (”poor” in that most of them show loss deceleration, or even accumulation, during the late 20th century period over which they are supposed to be accelerating in loss). Maybe you even know why these particular glaciers apparently act so out-of-line.

    And since you brought up quotes from the AR4, we can discuss what constitutes a “near equilibrium” in global glacier mass-balance terms - why the one around 1970 is of such significance, why the one around 91-92 is apparently not, why the one(s) pre-19th century retreat is not, etc.

    You can also tell me how the change from 2001 TAR lag of 10-70 years to the 2007 AR4 lag of 2-200+ years somehow conflicts with anything I’ve said (when, in fact, the change makes the “unresolved discrepancy” from the TAR even more mysterious).

    I’m all eyes and ears.

    [Response: Let's see ... you actually believed that "It’s amazing how much an adjustment of the data of just 2% of the globe ... affects the warming of the 20th century trend that is so widely reported." That tells me all I need to know about your understanding of statistics ... but you want to claim that "You don't know anything about me and my statistical aptitude."

    You even want to play the "innocent" by claiming that you only came here to "discuss." You're not fooling anybody, except perhaps yourself.

    Now you write a comment that is longer than the post itself but has nothing of value in it. Your ravings are not worth hearing, let alone responding to. Goodbye.]

  • george h. // May 14, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    Newsflash: Glaciers retreat during interglacials. Consult your favorite geology text. It’s natural, periodic and happens everytime. What a silly conversation.

  • Andrew Dodds // May 15, 2007 at 7:29 am

    George h -

    Fair enough. A look at temperatures over the last 10,000 years shows that temperatures (on this timescale) peaked around 6000 years ago:

    So - unless something non-natural is going on right now - we would expect glaciers to be slowly advancing, although too slowly to easily detect on human timescales.

  • george J // May 15, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Actually, when it comes right down to it, a world-wide trend in glacial retreat is not the only thing that matters.

    Glaciers have been retreating in the Himalyas since the 1960’s (almost certainly due to warming, much of which has been human-caused over the past few decades.

    Glacial retreat in the Himalayas — and eventual disappearance, if the warming continues — has the potential to impact about 1 billion people who depend on the yearly melt for drinking and agricultural water.

    Geology news reported on study done by a team of Indian scientists that found extensive retreat of glaciers in the Himalya since 1962.

    “A team of Indian scientists lead by Anil V. Kulkarni of the Indian Space Research Organization, studied surface area coverage for nearly 500 glaciers in the Chenab, Parabati, and Baspa basins using satellite data collected between 1962 and 2001.

    “They documented that most of these glaciers have retreated significantly. In 1962 a total of 2077 square kilometers was covered by glaciers and in 2001 that area was reduced to 1628 square kilometers. This represents a deglaciation of over twenty percent over a forty year period.”

    A recent thing may be happening in China:
    “Warming triggers `alarming’ retreat of Himalayan glaciers”
    According to Yao Tandong, one of China’s premier glacier scientists and director of the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research:

    “Yao said that from 1960 to 2000, China’s 46,298 glaciers retreated by 7 percent, not a hugely significant loss. But the pace of retreat is picking up.

    “It’s accelerating. The retreat is more rapid now. We see it from satellite photos and in situ observation,” Yao said. “All scientists agree now that it is from warming.”

    “Glacial runoff in the Himalayas is the largest source of freshwater for northern India, and provides more than half the water to its most important river, the Ganges.

    “Glacial runoff also is the source of the headwaters for the Indus River in Pakistan, the Brahmaputra that flows through Bangladesh, the Mekong that descends through Southeast Asia, the Irrawaddy in Burma, and the Yellow and Yangtze rivers of China.”

  • John Mashey // May 16, 2007 at 5:56 am

    George h:

    Glaciers, combined with other evidence, tell us more than just “the temperature changes up and down for mysterious reasons we can’t understand.”

    Many Swiss can *see* glaciers, and they keep good records of them [2], and even present them in a very nice website, with nice graphs, differt sorts, and the raw data. Grosser Aletsch is the longest one, and it’s well studied, as in “Glacier and lake-level variations in west-central Europe over the last 3500 years” [1]. Figure 5 is particularly useful.

    From [9] and [10], it’s clearly retreating faster than it was ~1900], as are most Swiss glaciers - many gyrate around, but in general, in any given year, most have been retreating lately.

    Although glacier mass balance is certainly not a perfect direct proxy for temperature (since precipitation matters, and time lags vary), it is still very enlightening. As mentioned in [1], glaciers offer helpful time-filtering effects, i.e., longer glaciers don’t notice quick transients, like volcanic eruptions. They say Aletsch has a reaction time of about 24 years, and a response time of 50-100 years: I think if you suddenly raised the temperature and kept it there, it would take Aletsch a while to even notice, and then much longer before it shrank enough to get back into equilibrium.

    They say “The present-day position of the glacier front is therefore a reflection of the climactic conditions of past decades.” I.e., Aletsch is probably only now showing effects from the mid-1980s.

    There is very strong known data, plus Ruddiman’s hypotheses [3, 4], that offer plausible explanations for most of these glacier gyrations, some of which are natural, and some of which are virtually certain to be anthropogenic.

    In some ways, Swiss glacier gyrations are among the strongest data we have for supporting anthropogenic influences *before* the current AGW, and of course, the last 100 years of data show AGW’s fingerprints.
    A good discussion by a Swiss author can be found in [5].

    Typical summer solar insolation (which drives glacier retreat if above some threshold) peaked about 10,000 years ago, and is still going down (Milankovitch cycles), i.e., why we’ve had cyclic ice ages for a while. There are of course 11-year (small) jiggles from sunspot cycles, and occasionally sunspots go away (Maunder Minimum), but the *natural* long-term temperature trend should be downward, for a while, with jiggles. Typical Summer solar insolation is lower than it was 3,500 years ago [putting together [3], Fig 1 and [1], Figure 5.].

    There are anthropogenic reasons for other jiggles, such as the plague part of Ruddiman’s hypotheses to help cause coolings pre- and post- Medieval Warming Period. Right now, the large anthropogenic CO2 effect is strong enough to overpower the natural downard trend and some other jiggles, and that effect is clearly seen in Aletsch, especially with the effect since 1950. [Some of the earlier rise is thought to be due to increase in solar irradiance, which then leveled off a while back.]

    In [1], they describe “periods when glacier size was similar or smaller than it is today.” Aletsch:
    1350BC-1250BC: ~1000m shorter than today
    200BC-40AD: about same as today, or maybe somewhat shorter (Roman optimum)
    750AD-1000AD (or so): about same as today (MWP)

    If you see Figure 13.1 in [4], those periods line up pretty well with periods of good health & growing populations.

    On the other hand, three of the big advances in Aletsch, peaking at 600AD, 1369AD, 1666AD, 1859AD) mostly follow major pandemics ([4], p. 132). It’s worth checking column “” of [8], for periods when populations drop or are flat.

    Correlation is not causation, and I certainly wouldn’t ascribe all of these effects to humans, but they are certainly suggestive of spikey effects that happen on the necessary timescales. Read [4, 12] for the detailed discussion of mechanisms to connect pandemics with colder temperatures, possibly explaining the some of the otherwise puzzling ice-core CO2 gyrations [3] Figures 7 & 10.

    Roughly, one might summarize Ruddiman’s second hypothesis as: “Growing populations cleared forests, burned wood, and when large enough, more or less canceled or slowed the natural cooling trend. Major pandemics caused subsistence farms to return to forest, absorbing CO2 and lowering the temperature.”

    Hence, even knowing that [8] has some wild guesses, one compares with Aletsch:
    500BC-1AD: large population growth [retreat]
    1AD-200AD: drop [stable]
    200AD-700AD: drop/flat [slow advance, then faster]
    700AD-1200AD: big rise [fast retreat, then stable]
    [then, LIA, fast jiggles in population, fast jiggles in glaciers, with confounding factors of various solar Minima. I don't know if these population estimates include the effects of the massive die-off of Native Americans [11] … but it is somewhat ironic if the diseases caught from early European settlers (a) caused a Native American (b) die-off that helped drop the temperature during the Little Ice Age, which caused grief in Europe, including migration from Switzerland (c) to the US.

    Figure 5 of [1] shows that after earlier steep retreats, Aletsch decelerated, and then they think it stayed in a small size range for hundreds of years [i.e., Roman warming period & MWP]. If understand [1] Fig 5 right, the last data was 2002, and it’s gone down ~250m since then … which is quite interesting, given:

    a) The lag times described by the authors, so that Aletsch is not yet responding to the last decades’ strong temperature rises, i.e., it’s still working on mid-1980s.

    b) As noted earlier, typical summer solar insolation should be lower than it was 3,500 years ago, so that it should be colder. One would expect Aletsch to be longer than it was 3,500 years ago [which it seems to be], and slowly advancing….

    c) BUT INSTEAD IT IS PLUNGING RAPIDLY. I think the last data in [1] was 2002, in which case the glacier has already retreated another 250m. With another 750m retreat, Aletsch will hit the bottom of the 3,500-year chart in [5], probably sometime between 2020 and 2025, assuming no acceleration. Then it will keep retreating … for a long time.

    Barring another Maunder Minimum, a nuclear war, or a really major pandemic…based on straightforward GHG physics, and assuming even conservative temperature rises, I’d say the Aletsch is headed into completely off-the-chart retreat over this century, with the main human-controlled variable being how far off the chart it goes.

    Finally, of far less importance to most people, but relevant:
    SwissInfo says:
    Climate change threatens ski resorts in Europe
    and in more detail:,2340,en_2649_34361_3781

    Swiss resorts ponder snow decline

    Global warming melting magic of Swiss Alps …
    The first URL says: “Banks in Switzerland are refusing to lend money to ski outfits below an altitude of 1,500 metres.

    [1] Holzhauser, Magny, Zumbuhl


    [3] William Ruddiman, “The Anthropogenic Era Began Thousands of Years Ago.” 2003
    (maybe start with the Wikipedia entry:,_Plagues_and_Petroleum
    but it is well worth getting the main article, as it has information not in the book.]

    [4] William Ruddiman, “Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum” [2005, book, well worth having].

    [5] Wallace Broecker, Thams Stocker, “The Holocene CO2 Rise: Anthropogenic or Natural”., Part of an ongoing debate with Ruddiman, others are mentioned in Wikipedia.

    [6] Fritz Gassmann. Seven Clues to the Reality of Global Warming,

    [7] T Crowley, “Causes of Climate Change Over the Past 1000 Years” [2000], used in [3].

    [8] World Population Estimates




    [12] Forest re-growth on medieval farmland after the Black Death pandemic - Implications for atmospheric CO2 levels (2006)

    [Edited version of several posts I did over in Grist, but probably more relevant here.]

  • george h. // May 16, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    John M.,

    Thank you for taking your time to respond in such detail to my comments. I will do my best to read and digest the info provided. You might find this review of Arctic data interesting which suggests that recent warming is more in keeping with a rebound from the LIA:

  • John Mashey // May 17, 2007 at 5:03 am

    George h:

    1) Thanks, I’ve seen this before, but maybe this worth going through as though I’d never seen it, as an illustration of skeptical analysis.

    2) The International Arctic Research Center ( is a real scientific institution. (+) which gets funding from NSF, JAMSTEC, JAXA, i.e., real places (+).

    Syun -Ichi Akasofu is of course the Founding Director, and the building has been named after him.

    They have NSF-funded studies that worry about the effects of global warming, for example:
    which says:
    “A recent finding from the evaluation of extreme events is that high temperature records have been set with much greater frequency than low temperature records in Alaska during the past few decades. This asymmetry in temperature extremes is consistent with the general warming. Model projections indicate that the frequencies of hot summer days and the occurrences of wintertime thaw events are likely to increase substantially during the present century.”

    3) Google Scholar: look up SI Akasofu (easier than Smith!), and find a large number of citations across 30-40 years in credible journals (+, he is a serious scientist). However, I see that most of these are in studies of aurora and magnetospeheric studies, not particularly climatology (-), but then I didn’t look at every reference.

    4) So, Google: Syun Akasofu climatologist,
    which quickly leads me to:
    “Since I am not a climatologist, all the data presented in my Notes on Climate Change can be found in papers and books published in the past; that is why I do not want to publish Notes on Climate Change as a paper in a professional journal.”

    Uh-oh. now I’m a little nervous. A well-published author writes a serious-looking 14-page article, but doesn’t want to publish in professional journal (-), and the tech report is just that, *not* a published paper. That he is not a climatologist is not a reason to ignore him, but it says “be careful.” There are famous cases (Shockley, Pauling, among others) of distinguished scientists going off into some different domain towards the end of their careers, and … not doing well.

    “I also find:
    which is … embarrassing, although I always reserve judgement about the filtration of the popular press.

    “Akasofu said there is no data that “most” of the present warming is due to the manmade greenhouse effect, as the members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrote in February. He pointed out that the atmosphere cooled from 1940 to 1975 despite a rapid increase in carbon dioxide emissions during the same period.”

    CO2 forcing is well-understood, there is a lot of data about it, and SO2 dimming is widely understood to have caused the (localized) 1940s dip/flat period, neutralizing the CO2 effects for a while, consistent with ice-core data (Google: sulfate climate cooling). The effect is in page 2 of the 2001 IPCC TAR’s SPM, so it’s not exactly new news.

    To see someone of Akasofu’s experience (he’s 76) not know this is … sad. I note that while many others have co-authored papers with Dr. Akasofu, no one else is on this one.

    “I think the initial motivation by the IPCC (established in 1988) was good; it was an attempt to promote this particular scientific field,” he said. “But so many (scientists) jumped in, and the media is looking for a disaster story, and the whole thing got out of control.”

    One gets the idea that he is irritated with the more alarmist press, and elsewhere expressed irritation with the “Day After Tomorrow.” While I sympathize, that has nothing to do with science, although it is a common reason for many people to take positions against AGW.

    All of this warns me to be very careful, and the pattern is (–), although again, I’m always careful about what I read from an interview.

    5) Now, on to the original article:

    p.2: citing 1940-1975, and obviously not knowing about SO2 dimming: this can’t be press-interview problem, this is TOTAL LOSS OF CREDIBILITY, and it makes it impossible to take the rest of the paper seriously. In particular, given that it improperly ascribes the 1940-1975 period to natural changes, it is very difficult to reach any useful conclusions about 120-year time-series that include that period.

    Hence: Figs 1, 2, and 3 are useless.

    Fig 4 is weird: it covers a period when:
    a) There were various solar gyrations (Minima).
    b) There were plagues.
    c) There was a solar irradiance increase from the Maunder Minimum, but this is well-bounded to have *not* accounted for much of the rise from 1850. (see later)
    d) But worse, here’s a Hadley’s chart for central Uk, which goes to 2007, rather than stopping around 1990:
    and background on this extremely important dataset:

    In the Summary:
    “It is suggested that the linear change may be due to the fact that the Earth is slowly recovering from the Little Ice Age, although the cause of the Little Ice Age is unknown at the present time.”

    As I noted in my earlier post:
    1) Summer insolation has been slowly going down for thousands of years (Milankovitch). [lower]
    2) We had various solar Minima (Maunder) as gyrations on top of 1) [lower].
    3) We had plagues (Ruddiman).

    We’ve bounced back from one natural effect (2), but as they say in:
    “The speculated decrease of overall levels of solar radiation in 1650 from present levels comprises a climate forcing of 0.6 Wm-2 (but with large uncertainties such that the range is from 0.2 to 1.2 Wm-2). For comparison, the change in greenhouse gases since 1650 corresponds to a climate forcing of about 2.5 Wm-2, 95% of which has occurred since 1850.” That’s a little old, we may have better numbers now.

    Anyway, I think people know a *lot* about the LIA, but the real bottom line is:

    Overall, the temperature should be slowly going down (with the usual jiggles) or at least flat, in this stage of an interglacial, whereas it’s going up strongly, with jiggles, and going up at a rate pretty well in accord with our understanding of GHG forcings & aerosols & solar irradiance.

    If you want to wish for something, wish for anotehr Maunder Minimum real soon … to slow the warming for a a while. But I wouldn’t count on it.

    Anyway, this is a very sad article. (—-)

    I took some time to do a typical analysis as an example … but in this case, I already knew the paper, and heard of the author (who was on the UK Channel 4 GGWS), for whom a April 2007 interview is enlightening … if sad:

    “What I told you, that I wrote something on that, people have to be careful, you could be assassinated.”

    “in the past, we’ve had about three or four ice ages.”
    [3 or 4? I think he's missing a few].

    Polar bears: all is well
    ” We have a report that they’re living on land, they’re eating grasses.” [Well, of course they eat grass if there's nothing else, but given that a female eats up to 20,000 calories/day in preparation for denning, it's tough to do that on grass :-)]. (IUCN/Polar Bear Specialist Group) has more concern, and although IUCN is a conservation outfit, the attendees look like relevant people. If you go to “Population Status” and rummage a bit, you find a big table that shows the status of bears, of which groups:
    6 are unknown
    2 are increasing
    5 are stable
    5 are decreasing
    But these are not equal-sized groups, and polar bears are not the easiest species to track, and they say their data on many groups is old, there are changes in harvest quotas, etc …so it’s hard for me to tell what’s going on. However, the Western Hudson Bay group is one of the best-studied, and it is declining, and it of course is one of the more Southern groups (along with SH and DS). Anyway, from a cusory look, I can’t draw really strong conclusions … except that laughing it off as “let them eat grass” doesn’t feel so good.

    This paper is not remotely credible, and it’s sad to see a respected scientist fall into this.

  • Andrew Dodds // May 17, 2007 at 9:27 am

    George h -

    At the risk of souning ageist, when a 77 year old writes a (non-peer reviewed) paper devoid of serious analysis on a topic which has not been his lifetime research interest, I tend to be extremely skeptical. His writing shows that he certainly has not read the IPCC AR4 report that he puports is wrong.


  • george J // May 22, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    The SF Chronicle reports of new data from QuikSCAT spacecraft indicating that areas of Antarctica at relatively high elevations (6,600 feet) and far inland (only 310 miles from the South Pole) are now experiencing melting.

    These are areas that had previously not shown the effects of global warming over the past few decades.

    I’d say that no matter how small the effect may be at this point, melting in an area which previously saw no melting is of concern because of what it might portend.

  • Serena // May 25, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Where did the meterial in the mass of a glaicer come from????

  • Steve Bloom // July 12, 2007 at 9:09 am

    Tanino, just to note this interesting Oerlemans paper for the next glacier discussion.

  • Marion Delgado // July 17, 2007 at 9:15 am

    John Mashey:

    You could not be more right about Akasofu. He was part of the Great Global Warming Swindle, and it’s a damn good thing he’s going out the door. UAF is my alma mater, and if you want the straight dope you should contact Glenn Juday - when I was at UAF he used to drive me nuts, struck me as a very conservative guy, very much in the eco-skeptic camp. But like most Alaskans, he had to face direct evidence severe global warming consequences, and now (a forest ecologist) he’s often a contact for the media on global warming effects in Alaska.

    Like most of the physics guys at West Ridge (UAF’s research complex) Akasofu did aurora studies, as you said. File him away as just another crank past his prime.

  • Alan Woods // July 18, 2007 at 5:47 am

    Tamino, I’d like to second Steve Bloom’s request of the Oerlemans paper for the next discussion. That looks like a good ‘un.

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