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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 JediJeb on 10/17/2008 1:38:30 PM , Rating: 2
Apparently you think that "global warming" means "every single place in the globe is getting warmer". It doesn't. I means the average global temperature increases. If 25% of the globe gets warmer by 4 degrees and 75% of the globe gets colder by 1 degree, the average global temperature has increased. And the average global temperature has been increasing.

Wasn't there a story here not long ago that showed from an official record that the average global temperature actually fell about 0.7C last year?

RE: Son of a...
By Justin Case on 10/17/2008 7:58:00 PM , Rating: 2
If you mean "here" inside the climatic reality distortion field, anything is possible. If you mean "here" on planet Earth, then no.

If the average global temperature over an entire year fell by 0.7 C, we'd probably be heading into an ice age. It rose about 1 C in the last 150 years. If it rises another two degrees, several major cities will be underwater.

Note that, within each year (or even within a single month), temperature can vary a lot. To analyze global temperature trends you need to "smooth" it out over 5 or 10 years (that also eliminates solar cycles as a factor - see below). Weather and climate are different things.

The average global temperature is likely to go down slightly (meaning about 0.07 C) over the next two or three years (there's a "peak" every 60 years or so, and the last one was in 2005 - hottest year ever), but the trend shows a clear increase.

Comparing just the peaks, the last one (~2000) was 0.45 C higher than the one before (~1940), which in turn was 0.05 higher than the previous one (~1880). Between 1910 and 2005 global temperature rose by 0.9 C. And not only is the temperature increasing, it's also increasing faster each decade.

This has nothing to do with "solar radiation cycles", which are of ~10.5 years.

I'd post links to climate journals, science magazines, etc., but most of those require subscriptions. Basically everyone with a clue and / or a science degree agrees that this is going on. It's unlikely to have a single cause, but ultimately that's irrelevant. We can't reduce solar radiation, so the only way to stabilize things is to play with the stuff we can control (greenhouse gases and amount of energy released into the atmosphere).

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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