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Himalayan glaciers

by Andre
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Andre
#19
Nov13-09, 06:32 AM
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Do note that there is no new theory here. Again the report concludes:

It is premature to make a statement that glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating abnormally because of the global warming.
So it is merely putting question marks by another unproven theory of global warming and hence the whole elaboration on independent research is irrevelevant.
sylas
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Nov13-09, 08:00 AM
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Quote Quote by Andre View Post
Do note that there is no new theory here. Again the report concludes:

It is premature to make a statement that glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating abnormally because of the global warming.
But that conclusion is a controversial claim! It's plainly intended to be controversial, as befits a discussion paper. It is obviously a criticism of conclusions reached by other scientists.

References I have given do say that the anomalous retreat of Himalayan and other glaciers is primarily driven by global warming; ergo, the counter claim that they are premature in this is controversial.

Of course, in science any statement is technically provisional on new information; nothing is ever absolutely final and proven beyond question. Be that as it may, scientists do get to a point of making statements, when they have a good level of support.

In msg #15, I have given references that DO make the statement that "glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating abnormally because of global warming", or else something more or less equivalent.
  • From Kulkarni et. al. (2007): "Global warming has remitted in large-scale retreat of glaciers throughout the world11. This has led to most glaciers in the mountainous regions such as the Himalayas to recede substantially during the last century12–14 and influence stream run-off of Himalayan rivers15."
  • From Thomas & Rai (2005): "Research shows that the glacier cover of mountain regions worldwide has decreased significantly in recent years as a result of warming trends.", and "As global warming continues to increase the atmosphere temperature, it will lead to a continuous shift of zero temperature line (snow line) toward higher altitude. Thus glaciers will receive more liquid precipitation and less monsoonal solid precipitation. Shift in snowline will result in lesser input to glacier mass balance during summer periods. Therefore, higher atmosphere temperature and more liquid precipitation at higher altitude in the Himalayas will lead to rapid retreat of glaciers and downstream flooding in the coming future."
It would be easy to give a much longer list of many such statements, from many papers in major journals. This seems to be a very well supported conclusion indeed, and not premature at all.

I absolutely understand that science depends upon debate and discussion and scope for disagreement with statements made by other scientists. I have no problem with that. I am just saying that, in line with PF's stated goal of education, that I would prefer to see the debate and discussion as it is proceeding within the working scientific community.

My understanding is that it is not premature to identify Himalayan glacial retreat as exceptional, and directly linked with global warming. I base that not on my own independent research, but on my reading of the literature -- and I have given the references in support of that.

Raina, apparently, disagrees. He has a right to his opinion, of course, and I am aware that he has good credentials as a scientist in his own right. But I am still not persuaded that his disagreement is well founded; it seems to fly against what I see in frankly more credible publications; and his reasoning seems flawed even to my own reading.

The link from global warming to glacial retreat is controversial in the public sphere -- many people are skeptical of anything being linked to global warming. It is controversial in the political sphere; governments and politicians often have strong feelings about any statement that might have policy implications. Unfortunately, there are individuals -- on all sides -- who let policy distort their perspective on the credibility of various scientific hypotheses or statements.

I honestly do not know about Raina himself. I've looked over his discussion paper and it seems rather flawed to me. I've refrained from pointing specifically at what looks dubious, for the time being. But -- for one example that struck me at the time -- it makes some quite startling claims without any adequate referencing. See the unattributed quote to unnamed scientists in the conclusion, page 54, for the notion that "a small mountain glacier would take 100 to 1,000 years to respond" to warming today. The same quote proposes that an explanation for observed retreat in the present is "they are responding to natural warming that occurred either during the Medieval Warm Period in the 11th century or to an even warmer period that occurred 6,000 years ago". There's no reference, no source, no name; it's just some unidentified scientists allegedly saying this; and it seems to be intended as a conclusion of the paper that this possibility makes it premature to identify current warming as driving the retreat -- in line with the statement you quoted.

This is the kind of thing which I meant as "absurd", in my initial post of the thread. I can go into the reasons for this (specifically, the observed acceleration of retreat in the present) but that kind of thing really raises a red flag for me.

My understanding of the Earth science guideline is that we should be primarily focused on learning about the prevailing practice of working science. Disagreements and alternatives included, of course! I suspect that the claims of this discussion paper, including the extract you quote above, are not actually well aligned with the disagreements and disputes that are carried on within the mainstream of active working science. I could be wrong about that, of course; and I could be shown incorrect with a more credible reference making the same assertions.

Cheers -- sylas
Andre
#21
Nov13-09, 05:06 PM
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Quote Quote by sylas View Post
It is premature to make a statement that glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating abnormally because of the global warming.
But that conclusion is a controversial claim!
Is it? Unfortunately my mother tongue is not English so miss the finesses. However it seems that a claim is associated with some positive statement, either true or false; an assertion of something as a fact

The conclusion does not rule out anything, hence it is not about firm facts. It just cautions that it sees too many caveats to make a firm claim yet. It would have been a claim, I think, if the word 'premature' was replaced by any synonym of 'wrong'.
billiards
#22
Nov13-09, 05:11 PM
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I think the onlty thing that is controversial in this thread is how to spell controvertial.
Evo
#23
Nov13-09, 05:33 PM
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I will try to find this.

In another study, accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of Annals of Glaciology, a team of scientists led by John Shroder of the University of Nebraska-Omaha reports 230 glaciers in the Western Himalayas are growing. Glaciers at such famous sites as Mt. Everest and neighboring K2 and Nanga Parbat are among those growing.

“These are the biggest mid-latitude glaciers in the world,” said Shroder. “And all of them are either holding still or advancing.”

Snowfall increases in the region are contributing to surging river flows in addition to increasing glacier mass. Providing water for much of India and Pakistan, the Indus River has experienced larger water volume in recent years, Shroder reports.
This is a 2009 report that would supercede the older ones that you cited sylas. I'm not sure if it has been published yet, I found a news article on it. Just FYI, without access to the report itself, there is nothing to discuss yet.
sylas
#24
Nov13-09, 06:58 PM
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Quote Quote by Evo View Post
I will try to find this.

This is a 2009 report that would supercede the older ones that you cited sylas. I'm not sure if it has been published yet, I found a news article on it. Just FYI, without access to the report itself, there is nothing to discuss yet.
I think this research is in fact now available. I nearly included this paper (if I have the right one) in my earlier post, along with the ones I cited; but I went for the papers which seemed to have the best overview.

The news of this new research came out back in May. See, for example, Some Himalayan Glaciers Growing at Discovery News on May 5. The paper itself is most likely
I don't understand why the news reports mentions Everest. It may be a mistake. Everest is over a thousand kilometers from K2 and Nanga Parbat. The other two are way over the western Himalaya, which is described as the location of the research; Everest is not in the same region at all, and the glaciers there are actually in retreat.

This all is building on the work cited previously, and drawing similar conclusions and revealing more detail. The Western Himalaya stands out as an exception to the usual global trend, and glaciers there are growing. This has been known for some time, and it appears for example in the IPCC reports. The paper I cited previously in msg #15 by Fowler et. at. (2006) is specifically on this point. Here's the older paper:
Professor Shroder is very active in investigations of the Western Himalaya. Unfortunately, I think that a number of blogs and dubious sources like the Heartland institute are still passing around the old news reports from earlier in the year, or derivatives thereof, and missing the point. This is why I always try to go back to the original source; as I appreciate you have tried to do as well.

As a matter of chasing up a case of confusion in reporting, I am particularly interested in that mention of Everest. It does show up in the Discovery News report, which is the earliest I can find, and I suspect this may be where the confusion was introduced. It has been passed on in some cases as saying that the glaciers in Everest are advancing, which is incorrect and not actually a statement in the Discovery News report or the paper.

I will email Professor Shroder and ask.

Cheers -- sylas
sylas
#25
Nov13-09, 07:35 PM
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Breaking news! This discussion has now appeared in Science magazine, which is certainly a credible resource, and the report quotes a number of working scientists -- including Professor Shroder -- who express a range of views. The report is not itself a journal article, but rather a news coverage of some of the reactions, which are by no means uniform.

See:
I have sent the email to Professor Shroder, and I will let you all know of any reply.

Cheers -- sylas
Evo
#26
Nov13-09, 07:40 PM
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Quote Quote by sylas View Post
I think this research is in fact now available. I nearly included this paper (if I have the right one) in my earlier post, along with the ones I cited; but I went for the papers which seemed to have the best overview.

The news of this new research came out back in May. See, for example, Some Himalayan Glaciers Growing at Discovery News on May 5. The paper itself is most likely
I saw that and from a more recent article, this is not the one.

This is from April 2009,
Glacier velocities across the central Karakoram
Glacier velocities across the central Karakoram Annals of Glaciology Copland, L., Pope, S., Bishop, M.P., Shroder, J.F. Jr., Clendon, P., Bush, A.B.G., Kamp, U., Seong, Y.B. and Owen, L.A. Journal 50 (April 2009): 1-9 2009
sylas
#27
Nov13-09, 08:29 PM
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Quote Quote by Evo View Post
I saw that and from a more recent article, this is not the one.

This is from April 2009,
No, it is from October. I had a bad link in my previous post; you can try again now and see the entry at Ingenta connect. You can also check out the table of contents for the 2009 issues of Annals at these links.
The paper is in the 50(52) issue, and Jack Shroder has no other paper listed in the 2009 issues of this journal. The full reference given for the paper is:

Glacier velocities across the central Karakoram
Authors: Copland, Luke; Pope, Sierra; Bishop, Michael P.; Shroder, John F.; Clendon, Penelope; Bush, Andrew; Kamp, Ulrich; Seong, Yeong Bae; Owen, Lewis A.
Source: Annals of Glaciology, Volume 50, Number 52, October 2009 , pp. 41-49(9)
Publisher: International Glaciological Society

Cheers -- sylas

PS. For the record, the email I sent to Professor Shroder is as follows:
Dear Professor Shroder,

I am a participant in the educational physics web discussion forum physicsforums.org. Your research came up in a discussion at that forum, prompted by the recent release of a discussion paper by Vijay Kumar Raina, released by India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh. For reference, you may read the thread of discussion, at "Ηimalayan glaciers": http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=353784

Your research came up in msg #23 on page 2: http://www.physicsforums.com/showthr...5&postcount=23

Your research on glaciers in the western Himalaya has been described in Discovery News on May 9, 2009, in this report: http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/0...-glaciers.html

It describes the research as due to be published in a forthcoming issue of Annals of Glaciology, but gives no reference. I have located the paper by Copeland et. al. "Glacier velocities across the central Karakoram", in Annals of Glaciology 50(52) October 2009.

We would particularly like to know if this the appropriate reference we should be reading?

Also, I was surprised to see Mt Everest mentioned in the Discovery News report, since that is not western Himalaya. Some subsequent second hand reports apparently based on the Discovery News story have said that the glaciers of Mt Everest are among those that are advancing, which is not my understanding, and does not appear to be a necessary implication of the Discovery News report.

Can you confirm the relationship of Mt Everest to this research?

Thanks for any help you can provide.

Sincerely, Dr Christopher Ho-Stuart

PS. I write at the forum using the name "sylas"
sylas
#28
Nov14-09, 04:12 AM
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Quote Quote by sylas View Post
PS. For the record, the email I sent to Professor Shroder is as follows:
I have a reply already. That was quick! I am taking the liberty of quoting the response entire:

No relationship to Mt. Everest; that is the typical media hyperbole. The research findings were reported at AGU last year but few took notice. Further detailed publications are forthcoming as they pass through the review and publications process. The Copland et al. paper is an early part of the publication stream from our group.
Dr. John (Jack) Shroder
Assistant Dean, International Studies
and
Professor of Geography and Geology
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Omaha, NE 68182
So it seems that the reference to a forthcoming paper in the Discovery News article is most likely a reference to Copland et al, which came out 5 months later; and that there will be more to come.

Cheers -- sylas
Xnn
#29
Nov14-09, 07:19 AM
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By some estimates there are 15,000 glaciers in the Himalayans. These glaciers exists at different elevations and locations and receive varying amounts of precipitation. Some of the glaciers are colder and dryer while others are warmer and wetter.

Global warming involves not only warming temperatures, but generally rising precipitation levels. If a glacier exist because it is in a particularly cold and dry location of the Himalayans, then it could easily grow while it warmed if it also received greater precipitation.

So, there is no physical reason why all glaciers must retreat due to global warming.

The Himalayans are extremely high elevation. There are hundreds of mountains over 8,000 meters high; elevations that are very cold.
sylas
#30
Nov14-09, 07:41 AM
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Quote Quote by Xnn View Post
Global warming involves not only warming temperatures, but generally rising precipitation levels. If a glacier exist because it is in a particularly cold and dry location of the Himalayans, then it could easily grow while it warmed if it also received greater precipitation.
Yes; and also changes are not uniform. The phrase "global warming" is accurate in the sense that mean temperatures are increasing; but it is misleading to think that everywhere must be warming. Weather patterns change as well -- and hence the term "climate change" is sometimes preferred. It can be very difficult to project just how weather patterns are likely to shift as mean global temperatures rise.

The paper cited previously, by Fowler et al (2006), indicates that in the western Himalaya, summer maximum temperatures are actually falling slightly, and that winter precipitation is increasing. This is proposed as a major reason for the difference in the response in the western Himalaya to the rest of the region.

Cheers -- sylas
Evo
#31
Nov14-09, 09:24 AM
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Quote Quote by sylas View Post
I have a reply already. That was quick! I am taking the liberty of quoting the response entire:

No relationship to Mt. Everest; that is the typical media hyperbole. The research findings were reported at AGU last year but few took notice. Further detailed publications are forthcoming as they pass through the review and publications process. The Copland et al. paper is an early part of the publication stream from our group.
Dr. John (Jack) Shroder
Assistant Dean, International Studies
and
Professor of Geography and Geology
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Omaha, NE 68182
So it seems that the reference to a forthcoming paper in the Discovery News article is most likely a reference to Copland et al, which came out 5 months later; and that there will be more to come.

Cheers -- sylas
Super!! I am eagerly awaiting his papers showing the growth of Himalayan glaciers then. Thanks Sylas, that confirms what I had found, that paper is not yet published.
Evo
#32
Nov14-09, 09:33 AM
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Quote Quote by Xnn View Post
By some estimates there are 15,000 glaciers in the Himalayans. These glaciers exists at different elevations and locations and receive varying amounts of precipitation. Some of the glaciers are colder and dryer while others are warmer and wetter.

Global warming involves not only warming temperatures, but generally rising precipitation levels. If a glacier exist because it is in a particularly cold and dry location of the Himalayans, then it could easily grow while it warmed if it also received greater precipitation.

So, there is no physical reason why all glaciers must retreat due to global warming.

The Himalayans are extremely high elevation. There are hundreds of mountains over 8,000 meters high; elevations that are very cold.
Exactly. One would expect variations depending on location and localized weather, which is why I don't get the the connection people are trying to make for or against the behaviour of the glaciers and "climate change". I think there is a lot of fuss over nothing. I find it to be an interesting report on the behaviour of these particular glaciers..the end, no need to make any claims. I did not know glaciers had "snouts".
Andre
#33
Nov14-09, 09:54 AM
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Well there is little doubt that somebody is going to claim that glacier growth is caused by global warming as it happened some 9000 years ago.

abstract here
sylas
#34
Nov14-09, 05:57 PM
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Quote Quote by Andre View Post
Well there is little doubt that somebody is going to claim that glacier growth is caused by global warming as it happened some 9000 years ago.

abstract here
It's more than merely a claim. It's a well supported conclusion backed up with multiple lines of research and many research papers.

Is anyone seriously doubting that there can be major regional differences in response to globally changing temperatures? Either now or in the past? And given this, is there anyone actually disputing that some glaciers may be advancing in the present due to changes arising in the present global warming episode?

NONE of the sources cited in this thread -- including the discussion paper, or the papers on the western Himalaya by Fowler and Archer, and by Shroder's group -- is disputing the observation that there is a significant worldwide trend of retreat in glaciers. They are looking at exceptions to the trend. Inferences and hypothesis about dynamics will also differ between scientists. Research on these anomalous glaciers that are advancing is critically useful for understanding better the complexities of glacier dynamics and their interaction with climate.

The links Andre is giving are to a recent publication and to an associated news report which is relevant to this whole discussion.
Glaciers are in a continuous state of change, and respond to changes in climate in sometimes quite complicated ways. There can be time delays in response; there are responses to temperature and to precipitation, and sudden surges or moves as melt water lubricates the base of a glacier and changes how much friction there is for movement. The paper is mostly on changes 6000 years ago, with some comparison also to 9000 years ago. The reference of the newspaper story title is about a few anomalous glaciers in central Asia which did advance in the early Holocene when global temperatures were increasing and most glaciers were retreating.
.. Although there is evidence for large pre-LGM and LGM advances in the southern Himalayas and Tibet (eastern zone), evidence for a large early Holocene (∼9 ka) advance distinguishes it from the rest of Central Asia...
-- Rupper et al (2009) p338
In the modern era, there are all kinds of quite drastic changes going on. Scientists investigating changes in glaciers can benefit from studying also the changes that have occurred in the past. An extract from the news report explains this plainly:
The story of these seemingly anomalous glaciers underscores the important distinction between the terms “climate change” and “global warming.”

“Even when average temperatures are clearly rising regionally or globally, what happens in any given location depends on the exact dynamics of that place,” Rupper said.

The findings come from a framework Rupper developed as an alternative to the notion that glaciers form and melt in direct proportion to temperature.
-- Thaindian news Aug 28, 2009.
Global change and regional change

This paper is particularly relevant to the point which is being made in the previous references: that there are strong regional differences in a time of globally changing climate. The previous papers in this thread have explained and measured such differences. For example, from the abstract of Fowler and Archer (2006) (see msg #15):
The observed downward trend in summer temperature and runoff is consistent with the observed thickening and expansion of Karakoram glaciers, in contrast to widespread decay and retreat in the eastern Himalayas. This suggests that the western Himalayas are showing a different response to global warming than other parts of the globe.
-- Fowler et al (2006), abstract
The Earth periodically experiences times of strong global change, such as the start of the Holocene some 9000 years ago, or the current global warming trend. This research is helping to explore the changes at such times in more detail, and particularly to consider differences in different regions. To help it read more easily as a summary, I have removed the references. Here are the opening paragraphs of Rupper et al (2009):
In modern climate dynamics a central concept is that climate variability tends to be expressed in spatial patterns on a regional scale. Well-known examples of this are the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and the Arctic Oscillation. In past climates too, there are strong indications that climate changes occur in patterns, and no reason to suspect that they do not. Proper characterization and interpretation of past climate variability therefore requires a dense network of paleoclimate proxy records.

Glaciers are a particularly attractive paleoclimate proxy record for two reasons. First, geomorphic evidence of glacier advances is widespread across much of the Northern Hemisphere land masses. Second, glaciers are excellent recorders of properties of the atmosphere, retreating and advancing directly in response to changes in accumulation and ablation. Reconstructions of past glacier variability are some of the most useful records of paleoclimate. In fact, in many parts of the world, the glacier history is the primary descriptor of the climate history beyond the instrumental record, particularly where glacier deposits are widespread and confidently dated. This is true, for example, in the Pacific coast of the United States, South America, New Zealand, the European Alps, and Asia. Therefore, reconciling the glacier histories with the climatic variations that caused them is essential.

The glacier history of Central Asia provides a promising opportunity to distinguish between global and regional climate change. ...
-- Rupper et al (2009) p337
And from the conclusion:
The consistency between all GCMs reinforces confidence that the model results are a robust response of the climate to the changes in insolation forcing. In the case for Central Asia, spatial patterns in climate occur in response to a relatively uniform increase in solar insolation at the top of the atmosphere. The patterns in glacier advances across Central Asia are a result of the spatial variability in the climate response. This suggests that spatial patterns in climate and glaciers should be expected even in cases where there is a uniform change in forcing (e.g., increasing CO2).
-- Rupper et al (2009) p345
Summer Rupper has also been in the news recently, for a letter to Utah legislators on policy responses to climate change issues.
"We have no specific political agenda to support but agree that whatever action is taken, it should be informed by the best available scientific evidence," the scientists said. "We encourage our legislators not to manipulate the scientific evidence to suit any political agenda."
[...]
Summer Rupper, a BYU climate scientist, led the letter-writing effort. ...
-- extract from BYU scientists take lawmakers to task on climate change issues, The Salt Lake Tribune, 7 July 2009
The letter that was sent is here: Open letter to the Utah Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee, Governor, U.S. Senators and Congressmen.

Cheers -- sylas
mheslep
#35
Nov15-09, 09:10 PM
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On the subject of what is/is not controversial:
Quote Quote by sylas View Post
I suspect part of the problem lies in the geographic hand waving in using the terms 'eastern', 'western', or 'Indian' Himalayas. I would say that it is not controversial that eastern Himalayan glaciers are retreating, nor is it controversial that western Himalayan glaciers are advancing. Yet here we have V.K. Raina’s report which after a quick scan proposes to report on 'Indian' glaciers , which I expect from glancing at the map includes some of both.
Andre
#36
Dec6-09, 07:19 AM
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An interesting devellopment

The UN panel on climate change warning that Himalayan glaciers could melt to a fifth of current levels by 2035 is wildly inaccurate, an academic says.

J Graham Cogley, a professor at Ontario Trent University, says he believes the UN authors got the date from an earlier report wrong by more than 300 years.

He is astonished they "misread 2350 as 2035". The authors deny the claims. ... cont'd


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