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Glacier Bay National Park. Two and a half centuries ago, the entire area was covered by thick sheets of ice.
High snowfall and cold weather to blame.

A bitterly cold Alaskan summer has had surprising results. For the first time in the area's recorded history, area glaciers have begun to expand, rather than shrink. Summer temperatures, which were some 3 degrees below average, allowed record levels of winter snow to remain much longer, leading to the increase in glacial mass.

"In mid-June, I was surprised to see snow still at sea level in Prince William Sound", said glaciologist Bruce Molnia. "In general, the weather this summer was the worst I have seen in at least 20 years".

"On the Juneau Icefield, there was still 20 feet of new snow on the surface [in] late July. At Bering Glacier, a landslide I am studying [did] not become snow free until early August."

Molnia, who works for the US Geological Survey, said it's been a "long time" since area glaciers have seen a positive mass balance -- an increase in the total amount of ice they contain.

Since 1946, the USGS has maintained a research project measuring the state of Alaskan glaciers. This year saw records broken for most snow buildup. It was also the first time since any records began being that the glaciers did not shrink during the summer months.

Those records date from the mid 1700s, when the region was first visited by Russian explorers.  Molnia estimates that Alaskan glaciers have lost about 15% of their total area since that time -- an area the size of Connecticut.

One of the largest areas of shrinkage has been at the national park of Glacier Bay. When Alexei Ilich Chirikof first arrived in 1741, the bay didn't exist at all -- only a solid wall of ice. From that time until the early 1900s, the ice retreated some 50 miles, to form the bay and surrounding area.

Accordingly to Molnia, a difference of just 3 or 4 degrees is enough to shift the mass balance of glaciers from rapid shrinkage to rapid growth. From the 1600s to the 1900s, that’s just the amount of warming that was seen, as the planet exited the Little Ice Age.

Molnia says one cold summer doesn't mean the start of a new climatic trend. At least years like this, however, might mark the beginning of another Little Ice Age.

As DailyTech reported earlier, Arctic sea ice this year has also increased substantially from its low in 2007.

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By DtTall on 10/16/2008 10:00:10 AM , Rating: 2
And gas prices have fallen since peak levels.

The way I see it, anything that forces us into the future in terms of technology is a good thing.

I don't care if Al Gore is right or if oil will go back up. The part I care about is that because of those 2 things great strides have been made where none - or very little - would have been made otherwise. As sad as it is, we need some level of over-reaction to get people to invest in the future.

RE: And...
By wookie1 on 10/16/2008 2:39:57 PM , Rating: 2
Good for you. Now go tell that to the poorer folks here and in other countries that suffer and starve from the higher costs. This is a very elitist stance to have. Glad that you have plenty of excess money though.

RE: And...
By onelittleindian on 10/16/2008 2:59:21 PM , Rating: 2
That's the part that really gets me. The US can afford higher energy costs. But when you tell the poor in Asia and Africa they can't have electricity because its too "dirty", you condemn them to a life of misery.

RE: And...
By mdogs444 on 10/16/2008 4:04:04 PM , Rating: 2
The US can afford higher energy costs.

You assume that people in the United States agree with your analysis that we can afford higher energy costs. However, factual data, such as demand destruction, counters your thoughts. The people of the United States, whether they can or cannot physically afford it from their pockets, will NOT pay for that willingly - so there is no reason to assume that they can afford it.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
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