7 glaciers melting

A post by Chris RowanOn the 7th day of Christmas my true love sent to me: 7 Glaciers melting…

All over the world, where there are glaciers, those glaciers are not as large as they once were a century, or even a few decades, ago:

Boulder Glacier, Glacier National Park, USA


Source: USGS Repeat Photography Project

Athabasca Glacier, Canadian Rockies

Photo by Idle Moor, downloaded from Panoramio.

Tschierva glacier, Swiss Alps


Source: swisseduc.ch

(other retreating Alpine glaciers)

Helheim Glacier, Greenland


Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Upsala Glacier, Patagonia

Source: JAXA Earth Observation Research Center

Gangotri Glacier, Himalayas

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Tasman Glacier, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Source: NASA

Glaciers are dynamic systems, but although there are some complexities in interpreting the behaviour of any individual one, when you see the same rapid shrinking trend in all of these different parts of the world, you stop looking for local causes.
As it is the New Year, and with the failure to reach any concrete agreement to cut our greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen still smarting, we should perhaps use this time to consider our own culpability in the mess. For until our leaders believe that they will gain more votes for making the hard choices than they will lose for damaging economic growth – until, in other words, we in the developed world start thinking that rather than becoming a little materially richer next year, it would be better if we made our planet a little less worse – the stalemate will continue. And whilst we rail against the failure of those we elect to curb our excesses, we buy more things, and use more energy, and worry if our economy does not grow at more than 3% a year. Somehow, no matter how much we have, there never seems to be a time when we will say, ‘we have enough’.
Perhaps the fault, dear readers, lies not within our politicians, but within ourselves.

6 fields a-flipping,

5 focal mechanisms,

4 index fossils,

3 Helmholtz coils,

2 concordant zircons,

and an APWP.

Categories: climate science, environment

Comments (7)

  1. SciWo says:

    Beautiful images. Important message. If this is you being preachy, I think we need to hear more of your sermons.

  2. Lab Lemming says:

    The color palatte for the image at the bottom is clear evidence that that FALSE colors have been used, and the entire theory that ice melts when warmed up is a hoax perpetrated by liberal New York Jewish sedimentologists.

  3. Amused says:

    I think you need to find a better true love if yours is sending you global warming as a Christmas gift.

  4. Chris Rowan says:

    Think of it as the very valuable gift of perspective.

  5. Graham King says:

    This is great, and a point well worth making. As you say, it is silly to look for local causes when there is a general trend in one direction.
    Are there any exceptions – any glaciers growing despite the majority trend? Local causes might well be sought in such cases.
    I am on the board of a local project, Greener Kirkcaldy, (initiated by Friends of the Earth local (Fife) group members), by which we aim to help reduce the carbon-footprint of the town of Kirkcaldy in Fife, Scotland. We have been awarded ¬£219,000 from the Government’s Climate Challenge Fund to fund this project till March 2011. I think a series of pictures of glaciers over time, such as you show here, could form a useful display in our new drop-in centre. Some people who drop in may need convincing, or may appreciate additional evidence they can point out to others.

  6. pft says:

    The glaciers most recently started melting/retreating around 1850 at the end of the LIA, before mans impact on global CO2 levels. Glaciers retreat and advance due to natural causes, and have done so long before mans arrival, and will continue doing so.
    Climate history over the last 600,000 years or more suggests another ice age is coming. When, nobody knows for sure, but good times are ahead for these glaciers, even if some shrinking/melting is still looming in the short term. The average interglacial length has been about 12,000 years, and thats about where we are now. The previous interglacial was much warmer than today, so perhaps we have more warming to go.

  7. Chris Rowan says:

    Graham King – I know some of the glaciers in the Southern Alps of New Zealand (Fox, Franz Josef) were advancing a few years ago, due to heavier snowfall in the areas feeding them changing the mass balance. I don’t know if that’s still the case. No doubt you can find similar examples elsewhere.
    pft – please explain to me how past natural variations preclude our ability to force the climate system with greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not an either/or proposition: what we are doing is overlain on top of variations forced by other external and internal causes (none of which can account for the current warming trends, whilst adding the effect of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere does). And the warmth of the last interglacial has no bearing on our civilisation’s vulnerability to further warming from current temperatures.

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