Hydroclimatology and Solar Explorations

Climate & Weather Representations

Last Pacific Glacier to Melt?

Why not note an article of occasional eye-brow raising status even if limited to the title of an otherwise partially thought provoking piece?  In this case the authors really meant only a small fraction of the Pacific – rimming  glacier population.  Otherwise they would be wrong. Last remaining glaciers in the Pacific will soon melt away  by Laura Arenschield, 

My featured image covering active glaciers in Northern California and Alaska is a suitable example of how wrong.  Many others can be found from northeastern Asia to Alaska down through Chile, touching Antarctica and returning up through New Zealand.  Whatever else you walk away with from the Arenschield article is another thing, and I only encourage more reading.  

Many readers might know that even for climate science, glacial headline overreaching happens quite a bit.  I recently briefly communicated with a scientist who was alarmingly misquoted when discussing ice masses across Antarctica.  She was referring to an ice sheet and the article inflated that to the entire continent.  I haven’t yet learned if the journal retracted but she had asked them to.

In this case, the author who I would expect to reach out and correct Laura Arenshchield is not me, but Lonnie Thompson of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at the Ohio State University.  Maybe this is one of many press releases that start with a narrow funded focus and end with a major earth consequence.  If so, then the Byrd researchers appear to have taken that approach almost literally.  Because of that focus rather than on actual results, any casual reader of the article accordingly cannot even identify the location or movements of the glacier, nor the percentage contribution of the melted and/or sublimated ice to the best sea level fluctuation maps.

I’d be interested to know more without paying the paper fee myself, if only to see if the expansion and/or contractions of the glaciers there have any other interesting and more likely correlations.

This is Only a Blog

I am concerned by the lack of alignment between glacially stationary reality and the scientific conclusions.  There is additional wobbling through the secondary media market.  One is possibly left with a conclusion that a non-stationarity has impacted our Pacific Glaciers.  That’s another way to message that a climate change inflection has been identified in our glacier population.  And that’s another way to steer all of us docile readers into the greenhouse gas emission narrative.

It sometimes seems that there is no other way to advance than within the flow of that soothing narrative.  Yet a hydroclimatologist must take some time to explore the time-series and the geospatial patterns in order to begin to recognize the natural expansions and contractions of water, including ice throughout the synoptic scales of interest.  This is not rocket science but like any field, extensive study must be applied.

What should I make of a climate media title which messages something that is not supported by the very story it leads?   This practice is common regardless of the actual value of the underlying work.   Consider this NASA video [2] about allegedly shrinking Alaskan glaciers via a recording by Mark Fahnestock of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.  I enjoy his insights and obvious passion, but to the best of my hydro-sense, it looks as if many of those glaciers are GROWING.

For example, here are two years I’ve screen-captured.  They don’t do the video justice but in any case, I’m not seeing any overt shrinkage.

This glacier, the Malaspina is not far from the growing Hubbard.  I’m at a loss to explain how this video and / or the glacier site which links to it, concludes that the Hubbard glacier is shrinking.

With each glacial detour, I think posts at this site happen to advance further a non-unique null hypothesis – notion that Alaskan glaciers, in spite of title-promotions, are fluctuating naturally.

[1] Donaldi S. Permana el al., “Disappearance of the last tropical glaciers in the Western Pacific Warm Pool (Papua, Indonesia) appears imminent,” PNAS (2019).


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