Global Warming and Glaciers

Almost every "news" report uses glacier retreats to prove that Global Warming is real.

As a result, there are now numerous web sites that explain that this is just bunk.

Most Global Warming reports claim that the worlds glaciers are shrinking - but 90% of the total ice mass actually growing.

Glaciers are moving rivers of ice - and many (not all) of these are shrinking.

However, over 90% of the Earth's ice is located in non-moving ice caps - and these are increasing mass.

In fact, the reason that glaciers grow or shrink is not well understood and facts related to this should NOT be used to argue either side of Global Warming.

Also, if all the alpine glaciers that are used in these reports completely disappeared, there would be little or no sea level change - there really is not that much ice involved.

Retreating glaciers do not directly indicate global warming ... they actually indicate expanding deserts.

Glaciers shrink because the rate of water addition is less than the rate of water loss. This can be caused

I used the word "directly" above because it is not the fact that glaciers get warmer that makes them retreat. Instead, it is the change in weather patterns - specifically, the change to the amount of snow added to the glacier. Now this could be caused by either Global Warming OR Global Cooling - both will affect where snow (and rain) fall.

Thus, if the amount of snow added to the top of a glacier is reduced, then the glacier will move slower. However, since the leading edge of the glacier continues to melt at the same rate as before, the leading edge will retreat.

Dr. R. J. Braithwaite, (School of Geography, University of Manchester, England) published "Glacier mass balance: the first 50 years of international monitoring" - abstract.
There is no sign of any recent global trend towards increased glacier melting

Alpine glaciers are generally shrinking, Scandinavian glaciers are growing, and glaciers in the Caucasus are close to equilibrium for 1980-95.

I have not read this article (because it costs $38), but it is referenced on several other pages - so I will quote those.

Reference is a well written, anti-global warming, site with lots of good data. Glaciers and Global Warming quotes Dr. R. J. Braithwaite - but it isn't clear if all the facts come from that source.

Basically, trying to predict 100,000 years of climate change using only 10 years of data collected from 42 glaciers that are conveniently close to where people live seems a little ridiculous. It is kind of like trying to predict the Dow for the next year based on observing 4 random, non-Dow, stocks for about 10 minutes.

Glaciers that are Growing

As far as we know, only 10% to 20% of the world's glaciers are growing ... the rest are retreating. But what they don't bother to tell you is that around the end of the Little Ice Age, all the glaciers began retreating. The fact that so many are actually advancing should be a greater concern.

The glaciers of Mount Rainier National Park retreat when there is less precipitation (snow fall) and advance when there is more. The last change in glacier positions was reported in 1992 - more than 10 years ago. Some sites claim that these glaciers are currently expanding, but I can not find current data on the USGS site (it also stops at 1992).

This graphic shows how the Mount Rainier glaciers have changed extent over the last 20,000 years.
(As of 09-23-2011, the link is broken and the web archive only has only the first page.)


Advancing Glacier Coming Close to Blocking Fiord Near Yakutat, Alaska
Released: 6/18/2002 

Monitoring Glacier Changes from Space

Note that *20 m a-1* means *20 meters per year*. This pdf article shows it as both *m a-1* and *m a-1*. This article uses both *m/a* and *m/yr*. This is the only conversion I could find

By dimensional analysis
Several New Zeland glacieres are advancing very fast.
I need to relocate and add details on the Glacier that disappeared in the early 1900's, but is now growing
To find additional references, just search for

USGS - Sea Level and Climate

Sea Level and Climate

photo - Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park, Montana
Shows continuous reduction since 1850

Table 1 shows that all significant sea level changes would be caused by melting the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets ... the rest of the world glaciers would account for only 0.45 meters. The max rise if all the ice melted would be 80.32 meters (263 feet).

Global sea level was about 125 meters below today's sea level at the last glacial maximum about 20,000 years ago (Fairbanks, 1989). [that's about 410 feet]

Sea levels during several previous interglacials were about 3 to as much as 20 meters higher than current sea level. (I interpret this to mean - global warming is normal)

Ice Free Zones

In Antarctica, some valleys that never get above freezing are actually free of ice.

This is absolute proof that temperature and the amount of ice are not always related. This piece of data combined with the loss of the Mt Kilimanjaro glaciers indicates to me that the advance and retreat of glaciers should not be used at all in articles related to Global Warming.

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