A Few Things Ill Considered

A layman's take on the science of Global Warming featuring a guide on How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

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But The Glaciers Are Not Melting

(Part of the How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic guide)

This article has moved to ScienceBlogs

It has also been updated and this page is still here only to preserve the original comment thread. Please visit A Few Things Ill Considered there. You may also like to view Painting With Water, Coby Beck's original fine art photography.



  • At April 16, 2006 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think this image is very useful to this discussion.

  • At April 17, 2006 9:19 AM, Blogger Dano said…

    IME, most of the people who parrot this argument merely point out one or two glaciers that are advancing and hand-wave away the rest, or ignore them entirely.



  • At April 21, 2006 4:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Coby

    I was interested in this read as I swapped some increasingly abusive posts with some mush who tagged himself as La Diaris on the BBC weather blogs. He pushed the idea that glaciers are generally thickening and any contrary argument was just cherry picking.

    Here in the UK our highest mountains (1300 m) have no remaining appreciable ice cover. Alpine glaciers have retreated. I've seen glaciers in Iceland, New Zealand, Glacier NP in Merkia and those on the Icefields parkway (last autumn, splendid place, Canada!).

    Everywhere the NP services have extensive photos of 'before' and 'after' and the 'after' is always a shrunken glacier. I cannot believe arguments that this is cherry picking - retreat is surely real.

    And arguments about antarctica thickening are also red herrings - at -50oC and 3000m altitude, no AGW will cause melt.

  • At April 21, 2006 9:30 AM, Blogger coby said…

    Hi John

    Yes, the glacier skeptics definitely have to keep their blinders on not to see the global and pervasive trend. Ironically even a thickening glacier can be due to warming as I'm sure you know, because warming can cause increased percipitation and if it remains cold enough that means snow accumulation.

    I talk about the antarctic in this post and make the points you make:
    Antarctic ice is growing

    There and the interior of Greenland are examples of precisely that "warming causes growth" phenomemon. Of course Greenland is melting faster at the edges than it is growing in the interior, and new studies are finding that the Antarctic is a net loss of ice as well, though there is very low certainty about that and no long term data.

  • At May 22, 2006 5:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There is nothing shown to worry at as 'global warming'...
    Consider again those Glaciers (recently mentioned) within China at a median 13,000 feet (~3900 meters). In comparison Mount Kosciusko in Australia is, at 2228 meters actually 300 meters BELOW the level needed to have permanent snow (as of 'NOW') and has within "its" 50 square kilometer region 9 other peaks above 2100 meters. This region was subjected to glaciation 20,000 to 30,000 years before present and thus at some point of time within the past 20000 to 30000 years these glaciers ALSO melted.

    The ONLY relevant situation regarding the glaciers within China is that they are melting NOW, and that is ALL that is unique. At some point within the recent past the 'Ice-point Altitude' was around 2000 meters, perhaps even 1500 meters. Now it is rising above 2500 meters, but then CLIMATE is 'rising' from a Glaciation event and has been doing so for ~20,000 years. At that time of around 20,000 years a go the 'Polar adapted' fauna would have had a larger 'habitat range', but 'NOW" as CLIMATE 'rises away' from that Glaciation event, the reversion of 'Polar preferred' habitat will increase in MORE regions also so there WILL be attrition of overly adapted fauna populations.

    This IS a natural AND ongoing process.

    The only blinkers are on those attempting to ignore Nature and impose 'greenhouse opinion' in its place. This platforming of 'greenhouse opinion' is creating the situation for Uranium fuel to become widely used in the backbone Base Load electrical power utility.

    Peter K. Anderson a.k.a. Hartlod(tm)
    From the PC of Peter K Anderson
    E-Mail: Hartlod@bigpond.com

  • At May 22, 2006 8:02 AM, Blogger coby said…

    Please see here for a little reality about the "global warming has been going on for 20-20Kyrs" silliness.

    Peter, you have written precisely this same line of argument elsewhere on this blog. I am not deleting it because at least it is on topic here. The reason I delete many of your comments is because they are excessively long, repetitive of other comments you have made and mostly off topic where you put them.

    I will continue this policy and I will have no patience with you in particular because I have told you this several times already. I frankly find the vast majority of your writings to be info-pollution to begin with, so stop pushing it.

  • At May 29, 2006 3:39 AM, Blogger Peter K. Anderson said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At October 02, 2006 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've attached a bit that might help with this subject:

    From American Institute of Physics
    New research shows mountain glaciers shrinking worldwide

    Boston, MA (May 30, 2001) -- Mountain glaciers around the world are receding, said geophysicists today at the annual spring meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). In a finding he calls "dramatic," Dr. Rick Wessels from the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) presented research that compared new satellite data to historical records and photographs of glaciers on mountains worldwide, showing that the majority of glaciers studied have decreased in size.

    Wessels is part of the Global Land Ice Measurement from Space (GLIMS) project at USGS, which is using NASA's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) to monitor mountain glaciers around the world. ASTER is one of the instruments on the TERRA satellite, which launched in December 1999.

    Using ASTER data from the last year, and comparing it to historical glacier data, Wessels says his team was able to get preliminary results that show some significant reduction in glacier size over the past decade. For example, Wessels showed images of glaciers in the Andes Mountains in South America, which have decreased by almost a kilometer in the past 13 years, and a glacier in Columbia, which the team is watching closely because it is losing meters of ice each week. Wessels says the team has also seen glaciers shrinking in the Pyrenees Mountains in France and Spain, as well as in the Swiss Alps.

    Wessels says they cannot tell why the glaciers are receding, but does say that mountain glaciers respond much more quickly than polar glaciers to changes in temperature and climate. Wessels also added that a few glaciers studied did actually increase in size, although he said these were primarily limited to mountains in Scandinavia.

    In addition to glacier size, Wessels and his colleagues are also using the high resolution images from ASTER to look at crevasses and even small bodies of water on the surface of glaciers - giving scientists a better picture of the overall "health" of a particular glacial region.

    One of the areas where the GLIMS team is focusing research on the size and temperature of glacial lakes in the Tibetan Himalayas, including the Khumbu glacier on Mt. Everest - which makes up part of the most popular route that climbers use when attempting to reach the world's highest peak.

    Wessels says that eventually they will be able to monitor the status of every glacier in the world, and will be able to create a long-term assessment of glacier hazards.

    Seems pretty clear that info on this is showing glacial retreat worldwide. In addition, I found the strange post of Mr. Anderson difficult to follow, especially with the capitalizations (for emphasis to those of us with slow minds I guess); how familiar is he with interglacial periods, the co2 numbers therein, and the comparison with said numbers now? Just curious.


  • At October 29, 2006 5:15 AM, Blogger pieso said…

    Hi Folks

    Just thought I would say that there are a reported 67000 glaciers on the planet and lng term data is not available for many of them so we dont know whether they have been retreating for centuries or not. if the data on all glacierswas over a thousand years and this showed a huge increase in the speed of glacial elting then that would be something to worry about. Ta ta.

  • At October 29, 2006 10:01 AM, Blogger coby said…

    Hi pieso,

    The wonders of statistical analysis combined with knowledge of the regional configurations of glacial areas mean that it is not necessary to measure 67000 glaciers to draw very confident conclusions about the average behaviour of 67000 glaciers. Your comment about the length of the record might be more concerning if there were not a dozen other global indicators. The observations of glacier mass balance this century are simply more corroborating evidence. Taken in total isolation I agree it would not mean very much, but it is not taken in total isolation.

    Please see here:
    Thanks for the comment!

  • At January 31, 2007 7:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    According to the "National Snow and Ice Data Center" and their "State of the Cryosphere division"......

    lol. "The National Snow and Ice Data Center". Do they have an "Iglo" division? Talk about a made up organization. You cannot possibly expect me to take this seriously. lol

  • At January 31, 2007 12:02 PM, Blogger coby said…

    You should try familiarizing yourself with something we call "science". You might be surprised at how much there is to investigate out there.

    You should at least try to acquaint yourself with how your tax dollars are spent. You find a "National Snow and Ice Data Center" hard to believe!?

  • At March 12, 2007 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You may enjoy reading this post from experts who live in the Himalayas. They aren't seeing any melting and they are upset that people keep insisting that there is.


    I believe it is too soon to cry doom and gloom over this. More data is needed.

  • At March 20, 2007 5:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't think that anyone can take seriously a blogger who censors the other side of the argument. Let the guy speak, if he really is off topic or otherwise irrelevant, he can be ignored by the readers.
    You keep saying that this stuff is just one peice of the puzzle. It still has to stand on its own. If you take ten things that don't stand up and put them together, you still don't have a solid argument. You have a house of cards.

  • At March 31, 2007 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I believe I have read that 75% of the world's glaciers are growing. Find the list here:


    Go ahead and call it a "red herring" if you want. But the fact remains, the number of glaciers growing worldwide FAR outnumber the ones shrinking.

  • At April 01, 2007 8:31 PM, Blogger coby said…

    I'm sure you have a good reason for trusting this person (is the author of that webpage even identified?) over all the scientific institutions listed above. Perhaps you will share it?

  • At April 02, 2007 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Anyone can click on the original links. Looks like the one for the Norway glaciers is old and not working any longer.

    Here's one: http://www.stuff.co.nz/3945761a7693.html

    I love the headline: "Some Glaciers Growing Due to Climate Change, Study Suggests"

    Utterly BRILLIANT!! Glacers are melting, blame global warming. Glaciers are growing, blame global warming.

    Another example: http://www.stuff.co.nz/3945761a7693.html

    "In New Zealand, some mountain glaciers have been shrinking but not the two big tourist drawcards on the West Coast.

    Franz Josef Glacier Guides base manager Tom Arnold estimated the Franz Josef and the Fox had advanced hundreds of metres in the past year.

    The daily rate of movement was between 30cm and 80cm."

    That's, like, alot of movement....

    The Whitney glacier on Mt Shasta is growing. Global warming is blamed for that too. http://www.yosemite.org/newsroom/clips2003/october/1012a03.htm

    "But the growth of the Shasta glaciers was an unexpected development, given that the majority of the world's glaciers are in retreat. (Riiiiiight...) All seven of the moutain's glaciers, including three-mile long Whitney, the state's largest, have grown in recent decades. Three of the mountain's glaciers have doubled in size since 1950, said Slawek Tulaczyk, a glaciologist at UC Santa Cruz who began the Mount Shasta Glacial Survey in 2002.

    "We totally expected them to have shrunk, and they've grown dramatically," he said. "

    Then there is Mt Ranier and the Nisqually Glacier. Global warming proponents are very very quick to point to the 1 km recession of that glacier in the 20th century, but surprisingly never mention that it has THICKENED considerably.


    “The greatest thickening during the period of measurement occurred between 1931 and 1945, when the glacier thickened by about 50% near 2,800 meters of altitude. This and subsequent thickenings during the mid-1970s to mid-1980s produced waves that advanced its terminus. Glacier thinning occured during intervening periods. Between 1994 and 1997, the glacier thickened by 17 meters at 2,800-m altitude, indicating probable glacier advance during the first decade of the 21st century.”

    There's more, but I have a day job...

  • At April 02, 2007 4:52 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Ok, so you trust that site over the scientific studies because it tells you what you want to hear. Fine, it is your choice.

    As for climate change causing some ice features to grow, the simple fact is that glacier and icesheet dynamics are controled both by air temperature and percipitation. In very cold regions warmer air often means more snow but no change to melting, hence growth overall. This is the case in much of the antarctic. If that is so complicated it makes you suspicious, then feel free to stick to your assumptions.

  • At April 03, 2007 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Screw iceagenow.com. I provided original links that have nothing to do with that website. One of them was the official webpage of Yosimite.

    I am well aware of how warmer air holds more moisture leading to more precipitation. I got it. You know what happens when more snow falls in the winter than can ever possibly melt in the summer? That's how ice ages begin.

    What I'm sick of is the media wackos claiming "ALL THE WORLD'S GLACIERS ARE MELTING AT RECORD PACE!!!"

    That's sensasonalistic B#LLSH!T. They aren't all melting. Some are most certainly advancing. Rapildy. Some have clearly shown significant thickening.

  • At April 03, 2007 9:05 PM, Blogger coby said…

    From the article under which we are arguing:

    "[The National Snow and Ice Data Center] report an overall accelerating rate of glacial mass loss. The World Glacier Monitoring Service has similar findings, the most recent data coming from 2004. While there surely are some growing glaciers, studies like these above are designed to determine a global trend by ensuring glaciers from all regions of the globe are assessed."

    While there surely are some growing glaciers, studies like these above are designed to determine a global trend

    What you are providing are red herrings, the fact that you can find a few glaciers that are growing simply is not contradictory evidence of a global and increasing glacial mass loss trend.

    I believe you have also thrown in a strawman with your ficticious quote from "media wackos". While I absolutely do not condone over-sensationalized media reports of any kind, I challenge you to provide an actual and reasonalbly well established source claiming that all the world's glaciers are melting. I won't even insist on the "record pace" qualifier.

  • At April 16, 2007 11:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "I challenge you to provide an actual and reasonalbly well established source claiming that all the world's glaciers are melting. "

    That's easy:


    "There is widespread evidence that glaciers are retreating in many mountain areas of the world."


    "With few exceptions, glaciers around the world have retreated at unprecedented rates over the last century. Some ice caps, glaciers, and even an ice shelf have disappeared altogether. Many more are retreating so rapidly that they may vanish within decades."


    “The glaciers are going to melt and melt until they are all gone. There are not any glaciers getting bigger any more,” said glaciologist Georg Kaser who led the research.

    Shall I continue?

    So, yeah. Not all glaciers are melting.

    Are they "well established" enough for you?

  • At April 16, 2007 11:36 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Hi Anon,

    I you are straffing me in a bit of a "friendly fire" incident. Your sources are great, I use them in the orignial post way up there --^

    My challenge was to the other fellow who said: 'What I'm sick of is the media wackos claiming "ALL THE WORLD'S GLACIERS ARE MELTING AT RECORD PACE!!!"' and provided reasonable evidence that there are a few glaciers growing. A few glaciers growing does not disprove the pervasive and dramatic trend and I don't think anyone actual says what he is complaining about.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • At July 05, 2007 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If global warming is confirmed why are we still spending billions to prove it? There is more of a correlation between solar activity and temperature. In all cases co2 buildup lags rising temps by 800 to 1200 yrs. As the oceans warm they release co2, as they cool capacity rises and levels drop. It seems amazing to me that the same people that predicted a global ice age coming in the 70's are now hypeing global warming.
    I thought global warming was supposed to increase hurricane activity tremendously. The new microwave satelite to measure atmosphere temps from space have detected falling temps..due to the fact that the super cool stratosphere is messing up the readings.
    So which is it cooling or warming and how did this change in 30years. I guess not taking into account the solar activity is like standing next to a forest fire and complaining that your farts are making you too hot.
    Please read more, forget the media. check the antarctic cores and the arctic cores. It may very well be that if it is solar there is nothing we can do about it anyway and we as a race are to arrogant to accept it. To think that our puny existence here could shape a world, co2 levels were higher before the start of any industries.
    Sorry for rambling I just think that if your going to throw money around to prove something that you are so sure is happening anyway why not do somethiong with it that helps us change how we use fuels, I see how cooperative the gas companies are being. Until they find something they can control and make billions off of, gas it will be and that is that. Believe it! Try and buy a solar panel for a project, if they are short you can forget about getting one as government and municipal projects suck the invetories dry. And who are the producers of solar panels? Shell, Panasonic to name a couple. These things are a big dollar item and most of us will never afford a house free of ties to some utility.

  • At December 17, 2007 11:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I wonder why it is that Mar's ice is melting as well. The Global Warming movement is better served by understanding that good deal of the skeptics are not from the "not warming" camp, but rather from the "not enough data exists for the doomsday scenarios" camp.

    Obviously man is not influencing Mars or Europa, et al. so it is possible that part of the warming is natural, and is expected when coming out of a glaciel period... it is the extent to which this time around is "abnormal", and the extent to which anthropogenic CO2 is a contributor that is in question.

    ANd maybe instead of teaching people how to argue with skeptics you should accept that skepticism, however misguided you think it may be, is a part of a healthy scientific process. This field could use a bit more skepticism and a lot less Al Gore.

  • At March 06, 2008 6:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In all these arguments about global warming/climate change I never hear the fact that the sun has gotten hotter from the supporters. How can that be ignored? If the sun is hotter, then wouldn't it stand to reason that it would have an effect on precipitation, glaciers, etc? Also ever hear of the Coal Age? The period of time when the fossil fuels we use today were created due to an increased CO2 level that caused plant life to grow faster than it was consumed.

  • At July 11, 2008 12:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    its not if the earth is warming, its if humans caused it in 300 yrs...a little narsacistic!!!!of course humans are NOT responsible..its a cycle u robots!!! cools then warms....warms then cools...and so on and so on...sure american people will pay a UN tax for pollution(UN biggest joke!) and china and india and russia will do anything, right??

  • At July 24, 2008 9:12 AM, Blogger zenden said…

    Correction on number of worldwide glaciers; the correct number is ~100,000+ Source NSIDC, World Glacier Inventory...
    This site is clear regarding much of the prior Glacial data being in error from China & Russia. Also clear in that thorough data is sparse due to extreme difficulty gathering complete data on targeted glaciers...
    Continuing to gather data to have enough info to develop an opinion let alone a conclusion...


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