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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: I knew!!
By foolsgambit11 on 10/16/2008 8:26:53 PM , Rating: 1
Always root for the underdog. It's the American way. The problem is that both sides are the underdog in this one, in different ways. Most scientists believe in GW, but nothing is being done - so your either the underdog by 'disproving' GW, or by fighting to implement change because of it. But either way, they are both agendas. One agenda is trying to push through change, the other agenda is trying to block that change. Your statement that bucking scientifically accepted theories (in order to prevent a policy shift with respect to 'green tech') isn't an agenda is simply misguided rhetoric. It may be an agenda you support, but it's an agenda.

And it's not true that for every bit of evidence that supports GW there's evidence against it. The evidence is impartial, really. The most-accepted interpretations of that evidence seem to support GW. There is a difference between healthy skepticism and bias. A healthy skeptic examines the evidence critically. A biased judge cherry-picks the evidence they want to hear. For instance, the final results for this year's polar ice melt are available, but masher still hasn't put out a new article reporting those numbers. While still a better year than last, the final numbers were significantly below those reported in the article he linked to in this article - the numbers he declared were those for the end of the melting season. The total difference was over 30% less than he reported. (See how statistics can be cleverly manipulated? 30% is a big percentage. It's the difference between the 13% greater coverage he reported in August and the 9% greater coverage that was the final number for September. So his numbers were 4% too high, a 30% difference.)

Of course, what we really need is somebody acting impartially - you know, like, um, scientists, who would look at the evidence, and balance the conflicting interpretations to come to some conclusion about the effect of human activity on global climate. Unfortunately, whenever we try to structure a group like that, one side of the debate engages in ad hominem attacks against the members of that group. Additionally, once the report is issued (by say, some kind of theoretical intergovernmental panel on climate change. Hmm. That's a good name. They should call themselves that.) the decision of what are acceptable sacrifices that would result in real tangible improvements is left open to further debate.

There is an especially tricky concern in balancing liberty and safety. The (generally) accepted rule has been that as long as you don't hurt others, you're within your rights of freedom. But when the causality of one's actions are once or twice removed, it is difficult to see where the line should be drawn. My coffee or clothing choices may hurt others indirectly, but am I really responsible for the indirect consequences of my actions? The issue is even more clouded when we are talking about the combined choices of a billion, nay, 6 billion people. What I'm saying is that, even accepting anthropogenic global warming, the path forward is not clear.

Your argument that the length of recorded history is too small to make judgments about climate trends clashes with your acceptance of this single data point (a much smaller time period) as evidence of global cooling. I'll just throw that out there, without supporting that we have enough evidence to make decisions about global warming, because I leave that decision to scientists. (Ad verecundiam, I know. But c'mon, it's the basis of representational democracy. Put competent people in a position of trust. It's seems to be the best we mere mortals can do.)

And I'll finish by saying that Asher is not 'just saying for every bit of evidence that says there's global warming, there's evidence to say there's global cooling' in this article. Unless you count anecdotal evidence. In this article, and the linked article he used as a source for it, there are no real figures. It's "the worst summer" one guy has seen "in 20 years". In one location in Alaska, there was still snow on top of the ice field - in July. What about now? In another location (the landslide he mentions) there is no snow now, but there was snow longer than usual (obviously not a glacier, since it's usually snow-free part of the year). Let's see some numbers. How much bigger are the Alaskan glaciers this year than last? What is the normal annual change in glacier coverage? These questions would help us understand exactly what is going on better than isolated data points (points are meaningless in isolation when you're trying to determine a trend).

Answer those questions, and that would be a data point that was lower than the upward trend in temperatures (along with the sea ice data point). But even so, it takes more than one winter-summer combo to be evidence of global cooling. Like the original article says, talk to me when we've had ten summers like this (hey, I'll take four or five), and we'll start talking about evidence for global cooling.


"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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