The Global Warming
Alpine Glaciers

These graphs are from the Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network. This is a tremendous free resource. For the graphs below, I have cherry picked the glaciers to demonstrate a few points. (So please, don't complain about it.) However, I suggest that you visit the site and examine all the data for yourselves.

Overall Trend | Shrinking Glaciers | Stationary Glaciers | Growing Glaciers | Comments

Overall Trend

This image clearly demonstrates that more alpine glaciers are shrinking than growing. However, it also shows, quite clearly, that the shrinking started back in the 1800's (at the end of the Little Ice Age), that there is an obvious cycle, and that the advance and retreat has nothing to do with CO2 in the atmosphere.

Glacier length variation

It shows an unmistakable 30 year cycle followed by a 60 year cycle. Even a novice should be able to see that we are currently in the trough of another 60 year cycle.

Also note that the number of "stationary" glaciers (green bars) remains about the same.

Shrinking Glaciers

Without a doubt, these images support the theory that Global Warming is happening and that the end is near .. until you take a closer look.

Griesgletscher, Ulrichen (VS) - 5.70 km (1973)
Blüemlisalpgletscher, Kandersteg (BE) - 2.70 km (1973)

The primary claim of AGW is that the world is warming because we are adding CO2 to the atmosphere. To support that, the warmists claim that glaciers are melting faster now (meaning since 1950) that at any time in the past. From these images, it should be obvious that the melting started before 1850 (regular data collection began in 1880) and that the rate of change is about the same now as it was then. The warmist "solve" this problem by moving their starting point to about 1900, when the rate of melting slowed for a few years. This allows them to claim unprecedented increased melting since 1950. However, when the entire record is considered, it is obvious that the warmist claims are unfounded and that the pause in glacial retreat appears to be part of a natural cycle.

The Cheillon Glacier shows 3 sections - all with about the same slope - which indicates to me that the rate of melting has not changed as the CO2 concentration increased. The 2 step discontinuities are interesting. In the Gries Glacier, the step discontinuity is around 1965, while the Cheillon Glacier has a discontinuity in 1973. (The links provide access to the actual data.) If "Global Warming" was responsible for these, then I would expect both discontinuities to be in the same year. Unfortunately, I do not have enough data to suggest why these occurred.

Glacier de Cheillon, Hérémence (VS) - 3.70 km (1973)

To be fair, there are a few glaciers that support the AGW claim that glaciers are melting faster now than before. However, sudden changes in slope, like the one below, usually have an explanation not related to external forcing .. otherwise, that feature would be seen in all the glaciers.

Fieschergletscher, Fieschertal (VS) - 15.35 km (1973)

Stationary Glaciers

Without a doubt, this image supports the theory that Global Warming is NOT happening.

Oberer Grindelwaldgletscher, Grindelwald (BE) - 6.65 km (1973)
To be clear, this is the only image that I found that looks like this. There are several others that show strong oscillations, but they also show strong overall decreases.

Glacier de Saleina, Orsières (VS) - 6.45 km (1973)
Glacier du Trient, Trient (VS) - 4.90 km (1973)

Growing Glaciers

Well, I did not find any examples of Alpine glaciers that are growing. Granted, I did not examine all the plots, but the overall trend is clear.


As I've said, these images are cherry picked to make some points. In general, I have tried not to include any glacier less than 2 km long - they simply are not large enough to draw any conclusions. I have also omitted plots which cover periods of less than 100 years .. with one exception that was simply too interesting to omit. However, I think my comments are reasonable and supported by using all the available data.

Several of the larger glaciers have become 1 to 3 km shorter over 150 years. On the one hand, that sounds like a lot. However, compare that to the pixel resolution of the infrared satellites that monitor the planet. For some of the CERES (Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System) instruments, a single pixel is about 40 km square.

Remember, the length of a glacier is determined by the amount of winter snow, the temperature of the air, the amount of rain (if any), the type and shape of the rocks beneath it, and perhaps a few other things. Also, length is not the only important measurement - thickness and width are also a part of the story. As a result, many papers focus on total mass balance. Others focus on "ablation" - the amount of material loss from the upper surface. Glaciology is a complicated field of study. It is fortunate that these scientists publish their data so that everyone can see what is actually happening (unlike some fields where only the "results" are publicly available).

Author: Robert Clemenzi
URL: http:// / Global_Warming / Alpine_Glaciers.html