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Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?


Muir Glacier, photographed in 1941 and again in 2004. USGS photos.

Back in 1925 Glacier Bay National Monument was established, in part, to protect "a number of tidewater glaciers ... in a magnificent setting of lofty peaks ..."

Well, as these photos of Muir Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve show, some of those glaciers are slip-sliding away.

Such photographic evidence makes it hard to argue against climate change. About the only thing that can be argued is the role, if any, that humans are playing in altering the world's climate.

That said, glaciers have been coming and going in this Alaskan landscape for a long, long, long time:

Ice has been a major force in the Glacier Bay region for at least the last seven million years. The glaciers seen here today are remnants of a general ice advance – the Little Ice Age – that began about 4,000 years ago. True to its name, this advance in no way approached the extent of continental glaciation during Pleistocene times known as the Wisconsin Ice Age. The Little Ice Age reached its maximum extent here about 1750, when general melting began. The advance or retreat of a glacier snout reflects many factors: snowfall rate, topography, and climate trends. Today, glacial retreat continues on the bay's east and southwest sides, but on the west side several glaciers are advancing.


Yes, Alaska's glaciers have been shrinking for the last two centuries. This year, the bad weather was good for Alaska glaciers.

The difference in temperature between the Little Ice Age and these heady days of American expansion?

About three or four degrees, Molnia said.

The difference in temperature between this summer in Anchorage -- the third coldest on record -- and the norm?

About three degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Does it mean anything?

Nobody knows. Climate is constantly shifting. And even if the past year was a signal of a changing future, Molnia said, it would still take decades to make itself noticeable in Alaska's glaciers.

Clinate change is constant on this planet. The idea that man is responsible seems to me to be hubris. I believes the sun has a lot more to do with that. Besides greater increase is usable land is generally a good thing.

The last two years have had more sever winters so maybe warming needs to be rethought?


There are more than a few scientists who think otherwise, and who have compiled reams and reams of data to support that contention.

While the last two years might have produced severe winters in some parts of the world, others have not seen what might be described as normal. Still, those who study climate change point out that we shouldn't expect to see a steady pattern of warming, but rather herky-jerky weather patterns. In other words, just because climate change is occurring, that doesn't mean we're not going to experience blizzards or Canadian Clippers.

The following found its way to my in-box this morning. It lends credence to the concept that while individual years might not follow cleanly in the definition some associate with climate change, things having been getting warmer.

WARMEST DECEMBERS, Northern Hemisphere
2003 +0.62 C
2006 +0.54 C
1987 +0.52 C
1998 +0.42 C
2008 +0.41 C
2005 +0.40 C

Since November 1978, the Northern Hemisphere atmosphere has warmed more than three times as fast as the Southern Hemisphere atmosphere (+0.19 C to +0.06 C per decade).

With a global average temperature that was 0.05 C warmer than seasonal norms, 2008 goes into the books as the coolest year since 2000. Global temperatures during 2008 were influenced by a La Nina Pacific Ocean cooling event.

Another La Nina appears to be forming in the Pacific, which could chill temperatures through 2009.

As for more usable land, well, that depends upon where you live. Certainly, climate change models predict that northern latitudes will see longer growing seasons. But in places like the Southwest and southern Rockies, a lack of snowfall could be devastating to agriculture and communities that rely on lakes and reservoirs for their drinking water.

Remember that a glacier is a constantly changing system. Advance and retreat is inherent to their nature. A glacier that isn't moving is called an "ice field."

Glaciers advance when snowfall at their heads exceeds melt at their tails. Depending on the glacier, this can take years to manifest. It is perfectly possible for a general warming trend to result in advancing glaciers if the trend increases wintertime snow greater than it increases summertime snow melt. There is not a 1:1 correlation between glacier retreat and global warming. Glaciers that have eroded away can return, when climate trends change. For example, Mt. St. Helens has grown a small one inside its blast crater since 1980.

So sure, receding glaciers are a sign of long-term climate fluctuation. Any geologist could have told you that the climate has always fluctuated. I think it's most important that we not fetishize glaciers. We cannot expect a glacier to forever match its earliest photographs, like those attached to this post. It is geologically and meteorologically impossible for the Muir Glacier to have remained unchanged for 63 years. It is perfectly possible that it will return to its previous extent and more.

To think that the mass amount of man made carbon carbon input does nothing to the planet is hubris.

Those pictures are dramatic. Aside from the ice to water aspect, note the added vegetation along the mountainside.

Pictures like this alone indicate that the climate has been changing for several decades. Sure climate has always gone through cyclic variations, but it’s the rate of recent changes which have experts worried. I can remember as a kid hearing scientists warn about the earth warming as far back as 1984 - - when they called it the "Greenhouse Effect". The spin-doctors have come up with the term "climate change" as not to assign blame. In my opinion, "Greenhouse Effect" is probably more accurate.

Some people like to suggest that it is somehow arrogant to think that humans can affect climate. However, we all know that we can easily affect climate regionally and the environment globally. Acid rain, urban heat islands, light pollution, DDT contamination, etc. are all examples of how humans can have a huge impact on the environment. Take into consideration modern warfare and the potential of a "nuclear winter", it is obvious that we have the ability to make changes our environment and climate on a world-wide level.

That being said, at this time no one can prove or disprove human involvement unless climate change reverses or gets dramatically worse. In the case of the latter, if it does get worse and somehow proven it is due to human activity, it will be too late to do anything about it. Therefore have no choice but to act now.

Could we, at the very least, use some photographic evidence that compares apples to apples? The pics used have obvious differences. Jumping the gun based on what's been provided doesn't do much to demonstrate the intelligence of the reactionaries.

Climate change? What direction? Could begin to cool next hour, tomorrow, next it has for millenia. We have very little to do with it. Many factors involved here. Our global climate is extremely complex.
Why is it an issue? Follow the money...lots of people's income depends on perpetuating the myth...not the least of which, Al Gore. We'll all save tons of money if this hysteria dies and is given a good funeral.

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