July 26, 2011

"...getting back to normal.”

Not being a scientist, or truth be told not even a great intellect, much of my education and knowledge is based upon common sense observation and instruction. When it comes to the topic of global warming aka "climate change" my skepticism has been a product of simple common sense rather than any great intellectual mastery of the subject. Early on in my study of the narrative of global warming one of the best lessons in common sense skepticism was hammered home to me when I read this article and interview of the late Reid Bryson.

In the article he recounts this simple tale:
Bryson mentions the retreat of Alpine glaciers, common grist for current headlines. “What do they find when the ice sheets retreat, in the Alps?”

We recall the two-year-old report saying a mature forest and agricultural water-management structures had been discovered emerging from the ice, seeing sunlight for the first time in thousands of years. Bryson interrupts excitedly.

“A silver mine! The guys had stacked up their tools because they were going to be back the next spring to mine more silver, only the snow never went,” he says. “There used to be less ice than now. It’s just getting back to normal.”
The implications of this observation on the entire theory of man made global warming are immense if only common sense had anything to do with the discussion at all, but alas it does not. Everyone wants to be an intellectual but it is common sense which is discrediting the narrative more than scientific papers.

So it was with some interest and another "whoa Betsy" moment that I read this post over at the Inconvenient Skeptic site earlier. The entire post is well worth the read, the main focus being on a recent trip to Glacier National Park by the author and some pictures of glaciers he took comparing them to earlier pictures from the recent past. The pictures seem to indicate that the glaciers may be making a comeback despite the doomsday projections of warmist. But what really caught my attention was this comment:
One question I wanted to ask the rangers there was “How old are the glaciers there?” There is a very common misconception that the glaciers there exist from the last ice age. That of course is wrong, but I was curious what they would say. The answer I got from the ranger was 3,000 years old. That is a reasonable answer, but one I find unlikely. Glaciers farther north and higher than Glacier National Park are typically much younger than that. I have never been able to find an ice core from glacier national park that would answer this question. Certainly it is possible that some of the glaciers are 3,000 years old, but I suspect that 900-1,000 is more accurate. I have yet to find enough accurate information to answer this though.

This comment blew me away, I admit that it had never occurred to me to question how old these or any other glaciers might be. As the author notes if I had ever thought about it I would have assumed that these and most glaciers date back to the last ice age. However even taking the rangers answer at face value this would put the glaciers well within a human historic time frame rather than some prehistoric event explained away by planetary orbits or primordial volcanic eruptions. To put it simply during the rise of the Roman Empire (Roman Warming Period) there were no glaciers in Glacier National Park.

Being enthralled by this I did a quick search to see if there was any scientific literature about the age of the glaciers in Glacier National Park. It took me all of two clicks of my handy mouse to find this paper from the U.S. Geological Survey titled

Glaciers of North America—


There is a very detailed account of previous studies of the glaciers in the park and the retreat of the glaciers over the past 150 years.
All named glaciers within the park are mountain glaciers that have retreated dramatically since the middle 19th-century end of the Little Ice Age in the Western United States.
Since the end of the Little Ice Age, small glaciers that were insulated or protected by the surrounding topography tended to lose proportionately less area to recession. Commonly, they changed rapidly to a stagnant condition. The larger glaciers generally experienced proportionately greater and more rapid reduction in area than the smaller glaciers, but they still continue to be active (fig. 25A). During the last 150 years, the larger glaciers,which had descended below cirque margins into subalpine terrain, would have had the greatest exposure to solar radiation and warmer temperatures for longer periods of time. As these large glaciers retreated and shrank in area, they regularly separated into discrete ice masses.
As you can plainly see the glacier melt in the park is not a recent development and easily preceding the advent of the internal combustion engine.

On the subject of time lines I found this comment to be quite interesting:
In all cases, it must be noted that, although initially the distance of retreat was small, substantial thinning—and therefore appreciable volume loss—likely took place. This
preceded the eventual retreat of termini. From 1910 onward, recession rates increased (Dyson, 1948; Johnson, 1980). This corresponded to a period of increased scientific interest in Glacier National Park glaciers, and many of the early investigators bore witness to dramatic instances of glacier recession. Following the middle 1940’s, recession rates decreased, and glaciers became increasingly confined within cirque margins
So it a pretty well established fact that the Glaciers in Glacier National Park have been receding for over 150 years and not some cataclysmic current event except in the minds of the ALGORES of the world. Also note the timeline of this recession "Following the middle 1940’s, recession rates decreased. " If increased global temperatures as the result of AGW is the reason for the recession, why then has recession decresased at the point in time when man's contribution to increased atmospheric CO2 most dramatically increased?

We will ignore this and get back to the original question,how old are the glaciers in Glacier National Park? (My emphasis)
Because of the apparently long and relatively stable climatic interval preceding the Little Ice Age, it is believed that most of the glacier ice remaining in Glacier National Park was formed during the Little Ice Age and is not a relic from the Pleistocene Epoch...
Interesting isn't it that they refer to the time prior to the formation of glaciers in the park as "relatively stable climatic interval " or as Reid Bryson might have said "back when it was normal."

Further we learn
The Little Ice Age comprised a several-hundred-year-long cool period (about 1400 to about 1850 in North America), during which Glacier National Park glaciers formed and expanded
So it seems that perhaps our ranger may be off a bit in his information. According to this paper the glaciers in the park are a product of the Little Ice Age. If this is indeed  true and I have little reason to question the authors, they being scientist and all, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 the glaciers in Glacier National Park were just babies if they were there at all.

So for all the hysteria over melting glaciers in Glacier National Park, the facts seems to be that they are a product of an unstable and hostile period of "climate change" which disrupted the normal optimum which we ought to enjoy while we have it.

So as I have previously observed:
If for example as was proven before the AGW nonsense took hold of science, the Medieval Warming Period was warmer than today, as was accepted until these guys got their hands and agenda on the data and the process, why did we not have runaway warming? Where was the enhanced greenhouse effect while they were making wine in England?
Or when there were no glaciers in Glacier National Park.

1 comment:

  1. first!
    Just kidding!
    I want to compliment you on an interesting article about the glaciers. I can only imagine that many visitors to the park want to hear the narrative of global warming's impact on one of our national treasures. That way, they can be glad to see what's left before they disappear forever. Plus, the anecdotal experience of the vanishing glaciers will come in handy when they bemoan how mankind is destroying the planet that spawned it.
    We visited the Monterrey Aquarium last year and attended a fascinating lecture/talk about the newly discovered species right in the bay. Thanks to new technology that captures video at extreme depths, they are able to explore previously inaccessible regions that are just a few meters from the shore.
    Then the speaker/researcher concluded with a Q&A. Mind you, there was no possible way to know if anything is changing in this location, since we are only seeing for the first time. But that didn't stop some climate concerned visitor from asking how climate change was affecting the deep ocean. I have give credit to the speaker for giving a generic answer "we know our oceans are changing, but we need to do more research..." Yeah, I'm sure they are changing and always were.
    Any way, great article!