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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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RE: Son of a...
By Rodney McNaggerton on 10/16/2008 4:51:04 PM , Rating: 4
We're not fighting anything. The problem I have with global warming is the way it is presented. Currently it is presented like this: WE know that we're killing the earth and we need to stop it now or else the planet is going to get warmer and millions of people are going to die. (notice the use of guilt) They way it should be presented, in my opinion, is this: If you look at lots of data on average temperatures, glacier shrinkage, rainfall, etc. you will notice that there seems to be a trend occurring. Now, we cannot prove that people are responsible for this trend, but if so why not burn a bit less gas? Why not use more energy efficient light bulbs? Why not pursue alternative, and renewable, sources of energy? What bad could possibly come from using a bit less energy and releasing a bit less CO2?


RE: Son of a...
By thepalinator on 10/16/2008 4:59:07 PM , Rating: 2
You make it all sound so nice and sweet. But then along comes the reality: things like Kyoto and Lieberman Warner cap-and-trade laws. Things that will cost trillions and trillions of dollars and make energy much more expensive and scarce for everyone in the world.

There is a lot of harm that comes from that.


RE: Son of a...
By AnnihilatorX on 10/17/2008 4:04:02 AM , Rating: 2
Trillions and trillions of dollars is an overstatement.

Scientifically, even the most optimistic scenario of climate change would mean economic loss of multiple magnitude of trillion of dollars, the cost of solving that is indeed trillion of dollars. However, New Scientist has noted that the bail out package for the financial turmoil for US alone, is enough to pay for recovery package of environmental policy for 15 years out of 50 years total.


RE: Son of a...
By wookie1 on 10/17/2008 2:25:23 PM , Rating: 2
It may be an under-estimate, I've seen estimates in the tens of trillions, and the benefit might be to avoid 0.2C of warming over a century. People are starving and dying of disease now. If we want to spend this kind of money, why don't we help those in definite need now, rather than those that may or may not be in need 100 years from now? Read some of Bjorn Lomborg's work.


RE: Son of a...
By FITCamaro on 10/16/2008 5:11:58 PM , Rating: 1
If we look at global warming like that then the theory of mankind causing it falls on its face. Hence why they have to use the fear tactic.

I've no problem with efficiency and clean, CHEAP energy(an area that solar and wind do not currently fall into). But government mandates to further a cause that is a lie I have no tolerance for. If the market demands more fuel efficient vehicles, then the manufacturers will supply them. People didn't rush out and buy more fuel efficient vehicles to stop global warming. Nor did fuel prices rise because of it. However, now manufacturers are forced to provide more fuel efficient cars by 2020 which will cost billions all because of the idea of man-made global warming. And it will remove manufacturers ability to sell larger vehicles that some people want and/or need.

Reducing our dependence on foreign oil is an economics decision, not an environmental one.


RE: Son of a...
By AnnihilatorX on 10/17/2008 4:16:00 AM , Rating: 2
I suggest you read the New Scientist article on environment and economics. http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/mg2002...

What you or economist doesn't understand is, you cannot grow economy every year at this pace indefinitely. Resource and well-being of the planet can only sustain so much population and resources ouput, and no technological advances can increase that further. You either brake at our generation, or some of the later generations will suffer more because of the harm done at this stage.

If you are always to put economics first, environment second, This system will fail at some point in time definitely and proven. If every person in time in future think in your way, mankind is doomed.


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