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Himalayan glaciers

  1. Nov 11, 2009 #1
    The government of India did some extensive research on studies about the Himalayan glaciers and published a discussion paper http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/MoEF Discussion Paper _him.pdf.

    From the executive summary:

    Before hitting the complaint button, maybe note that the statements in the discussion paper are based on either published data, and/or peer reviewed material and moreover on the cover:

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2009 #2

    sylas

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    Then THAT should be your reference for this forum; not the discussion paper. The discussion paper is obviously not a valid reference for the forum. With good reason!

    This "discussion paper", is written by one individual. The paper has a few references of its own; but none of them make the same claims, as far as I can tell. The claims in the discussion paper are idiosyncratic and absurd, and in sharp conflict with genuine scientific literature, which is what you are required to be citing.

    I WILL be reporting this, unless a mentor input arrives in the meantime. It's obviously inappropriate for the forum. I don't mean that as an attack on you personally, though, Andre! You have become frustrated at the requirements given in this subforum, but they are here with good reason. I'm posting this in the interim in an effort to try and help show why such a requirement has been given. This is a contentious topic and there is a lot of complete nonsense written about it. To try and maintain the intended focus of physicsforums, it has become necessary to insist people do stick to claims that are given directly in peer reviewed scientific literature. The discussion paper is no such thing.

    Cheers -- sylas
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2009
  4. Nov 11, 2009 #3
    That's okay I have started reporting as well.

    Maybe it would help if some examples could be discussed to substantiate:

    Moreover the discussion paper is a review:

    At what point does the reviewing of the reviewers who review stop? Why not review and discuss it here?

    And the news is not that uncommon

    there are some conflicts, also mentioned here.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2009
  5. Nov 11, 2009 #4

    sylas

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    I take it back about reporting this thread. I think it may devolve into a useful discussion about the nature and reason for the guideline, which may be a discussion we have to have. Sigh.

    I think that is a good idea. A report can help avoid stuff spilling over into the thread and give mentors a chance, if necessary, to help clarify to individuals the nature of guidelines; whether it be to the person making the report or the author of a reported post.

    For my own part, I try to keep reports limited to stuff that I think is pretty obvious, as I don't want to overload mentors or make the guideline application oppressive.

    There is a guideline that has been worked out, and the reasons for it are pretty clear, and I think we should all try to stick by it.

    I'm just making this comment here briefly; I'll speak some more to the point shortly.

    Cheers -- sylas
     
  6. Nov 11, 2009 #5

    Evo

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    We don't have any hard, set in stone rules in this forum.

    The guidelines are
    If someone thinks something is controversial, then they would have to substantiate that article, paper, etc... has itself been deemed controversial. Then they can ask the poster to provide supporting evidence from a reliable or peer reviewed source.
     
  7. Nov 11, 2009 #6

    sylas

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    Scope for a bit of common sense here is good. Here's what I think... and this is just my own thought; comment from others is welcome.

    There was evidently a particular need to make a special guideline statement for the Earth science forum. It appears at present as a locked and sticky thread by the forum owner, made about this time last year, as follows:
    I am not privy to the discussions leading up to this special subforum guideline, but I suspect it came about mainly because this forum is where climate discussions take place, and these discussions are particularly notorious. The guideline is, in my opinion, intended to help keep the discussions here in line with the overall physicsforum global guideline:
    The restriction in Earth science is expressed just a little bit more strongly. It means that you are actually not allowed to make controvertial claims without appropriate backing. It's not just a case of asking for support; the support should be there from the start.

    You can ask for support in a following post, of course; but the guideline does actually say that the support must be there from the start. A bit of common sense about what is "controvertial" should apply here as well. The idea that this has to be "substantiated", I think, should not usually be necessary.

    I don't think we want to encourage a situation where threads get into a long exchange of "lawyering", a thread being started, then one poster adding an objection, then another demanding evidence that something really is controvertial, and then the first demanding evidence that something actually has evidence, and then the evidence being posted, and so on and on and on. I think Evo's understanding of the guideline posted above does potentially have a problem in this regard.

    The way the guideline as expressed by Greg is worded, all this seems to be avoided very nicely. Unsupported claims are not allowed from the start! The support has to be credibly from the peer reviewed scientific literature or a reasonable equivalent; not newspapers, or blogs, or wikipedia, or private essays, or someone's website, or whatever.

    Am I wrong about this?

    Cheers -- sylas
     
  8. Nov 11, 2009 #7
    Now let's try to see it from a different point of view. This is an official white paper issued by the India government, containing basically the presentation of a set of data which can be verified from the sources. Then this data is used to generate a point of view.

    Now the first thing a government would do is making perfectly sure that the data are right, especially when the subject is controversial, because anyone can check it and many most certainly will scrutinze it. The last thing that a major country is aiming for is being accused of spreading misinformation together with clear evidence of such a misconduct.

    The second part, interpretation of and speculation about the data is something that can be discussed, can be endorsed or rejected, distanciated or accepted.

    But this goes not the for the data, glaciers advance, stagnate or retreat in time. That can be verified like it can be verified that water boils at 100C or 373K or 212F.

    So maybe it's better to demonstrate where the government of India is spreading misinformation.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2009
  9. Nov 11, 2009 #8

    Evo

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    Yes, if they are known to be already documented "unsupported" claims. Assuming the information is "unsupported" is wrong.

    Yes, this is what we prefer. Rather than point to a peer reviewed article in someone's blog, we would prefer that you find and link to the original paper.

    However, in this instance, it's not a newspaper article, or personal blog, or a wikipedia entry.

    I have to question why you would have considered reporting this particular posting, and apparently without having read it.

    It's not our intent to prohibit reasonable discussions.

    I, for one, think a paper on Himalayan Glaciers put forth by the Indian government for discussion would be an intersting topic to discuss. If it turns out to be crackpotttery, then it can be deleted. So far, it's an interesting read.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2009
  10. Nov 11, 2009 #9

    sylas

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    Because I had read it, or at least downloaded and skimmed it; and also I was aware of some of the other discussions going on about this already even before this thread appeared. I did honestly consider, in good faith, that the original post was a problem in line with the guidelines and worth passing on to mentors for their consideration. As I said, I don't want to overload you guys, so I do try to be sensible about this; but my thoughts were in good faith and were certainly not made in total ignorance of the matter.

    I am inclined to object to your remark, frankly. I don't see any basis for saying I "apparently" hadn't read it! In fact, I couldn't possibly have written what I did in msg #2 had I not already obtained the paper and looked over it.

    I'll comment more on this specific issue itself shortly, with specific reference to the merits of the case in question.

    The rest of this post is not about this specific case, but continues to be generally about guidelines.

    -----

    My understanding of the guideline is that we should avoid having a thread that starts right off the bat by basing discussion on something from a blog, a newspaper, wikipedia, a website, or an essay. But I appreciate that this is potentially disputable. I think we may have a potential problem with people getting around the clear intent of the guideline by not making an explicit claim in their post, and saying that they are only posting issues or questions or discussion.

    The alternative is that I am wrong about the clear intent of the guideline, of course! I do think Andre is working here in good faith and I don't mean this as an attack on him personally. But I do think it would be useful to clarify this matter of applying the guideline.

    Without commenting as yet on this particular issue, I note that there is a general problem of lots of material which is very poor quality. The guideline is not intended simply to remove crackpottery, as I understand it. It is rather intended to keep the discussion about ideas in the mainstream of science, as described in the extracts I have shown from the global forum guidelines. It is not only crackpottery which conflicts with the guideline, so let's not raise the bar too far, or imply that any criticism corresponds to labelling something as crackpottery. I have not used that word here, and it is not a word I would have chosen.

    I think when starting a new thread, particularly on a matter which is controversial, there should right from the start be a clear basis explicitly from peer reviewed literature or appropriate equivalent; just to show that the discussion is indeed going to be on matters within "the current status of physics as practiced by the scientific community".

    Cheers -- sylas

    PS. (added in edit) I also disagree strongly with this remark from Evo:
    There should be no assumption about it. The guideline as worded puts the onus in completely the other direction. It is NOT an onus of others to demonstrate that information is "unsupported". The onus is clearly on the person making the claim, right from the start, to give it along with appropriate support from the mainstream of scientific discourse.

    I would very much like to hear from other mentors on this one! I do know that there are disagreements between mentors, and that is normal. It seems to me that the interpretation by Evo given above is completely backwards, and reverses the intended meaning of the guideline as expressed by Greg. I understand the guideline to put the onus on someone making controvertial claims, to give explicit mainstream scientific support at the same time.

    I don't mean this as an attack on Evo, of course. It's an honest disagreement. But I think she's wrong here.

    Cheers -- sylas
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2009
  11. Nov 11, 2009 #10

    Evo

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    No, peer reviewed material is not a requirement and not a restriction, it is not a restriction or requirement in any other forum.

    This isn't physics, this is a very new field of climate science where models are created, predictions made, the models found to be wrong, the predictions found to be wrong, back to the drawing board, new models, new predictions. There is no comparison.

    You apprently feel very strongly about your beliefs, that's great, just do not sit in judgement of information that you disagree with. If you can show the information you disagree with is wrong, good. I will be waiting to read the errors you found with the site Andre posted.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2009
  12. Nov 12, 2009 #11
    sylas: "I don't mean this as an attack on Evo, of course. It's an honest disagreement. But I think she's wrong here.

    Cheers -- sylas "

    Evo is reasonable; you aren't.

    Science needs free discussion to resolve the many unresolved issues, and you are clearly a threat to open discussion. From your point of view, it has to be the World According to Sylas. Your control freak behavior resounds in this forum. Stop trying to choke the discussion, and don't say Cheers when you don't mean it. It's an offense to any geologist.
     
  13. Nov 12, 2009 #12

    sylas

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    I think it is unfortunate that the debate has taken this personal direction. The fact is, I DO mean what I have said. I have no problem with discussing different views and I do it frequently.

    I am, however, in strong agreement with the Earth science forum guidelines. The guidelines have been quoted, and they clearly DO put some constraints on discussion. The idea is not simply to stifle disagreements, but to keep discussion directed on the various competing ideas which are all a part of conventional mainstream science.

    I do mean cheers. Really. Disagreement over our understanding of the meaning of the guidelines is not animosity at all. Neither is there any reason to take offense -- just as I don't take offense at those who disagree with me.

    I think what really damages free and open discussion is animosity, and taking offense those who hold different views to what you do. That applies equally to discussion of the substantive issues around climate, and also to the discussion of the guidelines under which we are all expected to operate.

    Cheers -- and yes, I DO mean it, honestly -- sylas
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2009
  14. Nov 12, 2009 #13
    Maybe we should have another look

    Apparantly the good reasons are following:

    So were the GR and SR papers. What is the problem here?

    How far is that? there are 19 references, many of them are to the complete proceedings of workshops and symposiums. It is obvious that claims are less transparant that way but proceedings are retraceable and it is possible to check the claims.

    So I did that in my second post (maybe click the links this time):
    Demonstrating that a fair deal of the Himalayan glaciers is either not retreating or it's retreating has slowed down, which is also contended in the Indian white paper. Hence the statement....

    ..... could easily be interpreted as misinformation, if not worse.

    Now the guidelines.

    First of all, my previous own quote demonstrates that advancing glaciers in the Himalayas has been observed by scientific, peer-reviewed journals. Hence it is not a controversial claim and the policy is not violated if it was regardless who, who claimed it.

    But even if it was a controversial claim, what gives any PF member the authority to judge if a official government white paper, is not a 'similarly reliable source'. Remember I said in another post:

    Edit: In addition to that, in the Dutch Governement the worst political crime is misinformation, if in paper like that it turns out that parliament and population has been deliberately misinformed, that would cost the political life of the responsible authority. Is there any reason to expect differently from another democracy?

    So concluding, the claims of the white paper are not controversial and dismissing it as a reliable source without any substantiated reason is obviously backfiring. So, there was a very good reason why I said:

    And Evo was perfectly right.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2009
  15. Nov 12, 2009 #14

    Xnn

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    The above impresses me as just an lazy excuse.
    A 100 years of observations isn't enough?
    Only in an ideal world do we all have an
    infinite set of high precision data. However,
    that doesn't mean we can't draw conclusions.
    Considers the following drawn in the same paper:

    A continuous secular trend!
    Only 1 exception out of roughly 10,000.


    OK, some glaciers are known to surge.
    Must be some interesting reason for it, but none is suggested.


    Some years a few glaciers exhibit a positive balance,
    but over longer periods of time, all observed glaciers
    are losing mass. I guess the 00 decade isn't over yet,
    but there isn't much in the report to suggest it will
    be different.


    It's precipitation (as opposed to temperature) that is the
    deciding factor. However, please note that global warming
    does not necessarily mean less precipitation. So, it's
    somewhat surprising that there has been a continuous
    secular retreat of glaciers all the while.

    Anyhow, the IPCC regional projections show a decrease
    in DJF precipitation in central India with an increase
    in the portion of China just to the north. The model
    are fairly course and do not show the Himalayans precisely.
    So, it would seem that the extreme northern Himalayans
    might expect an increase in precipitation (and temperature).
    The projections are different during JJA. Chapter 11, page 883.


    The snout is just the tip and it's movement is not a direct
    reflection of mass balance. So, an advancing Himalayan
    may be losing mass at the same time. Big mistake to draw
    conclusions based solely on movement of the snout,
    especially over the short term or in the case of surging glaciers.

    The only problem with Himalayans is that they do not have
    the several hundreds of years of observation that are typical of the Alps.
    Of course almost everything is retreating as might be expected.
    But, they (form some odd reason) can't be too sure about what normal is.
    Of course, this won't stop a denialist from drawing silly conclusions.
     
  16. Nov 12, 2009 #15

    sylas

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    Andre, thanks for returning to the focus on the substance. I think it is good to have this aired, and I appreciate that you are engaging in good faith. A couple of brief points.

    White paper or discussion paper?

    First, this isn't a "white paper" at all. It is a "discussion paper". There is a major difference. A discussion paper is produced by an individual, for the purposes of discussion. A "white paper" is a more authoritative statement of policy from the government. This particular discussion paper was written by Vijay Kumar Raina. Raina has good scientific credentials, but this particular paper is not a scientific paper and has not had formal review either as a government report, or as a peer-reviewed scientific article.

    The second page of the paper states very prominently:
    The views expressed in this Discussion Paper are not necessarily endorsed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. This series is meant to serve as a basis for informed debate and discussion on critical issues related to the environment.​

    My understanding of the guidelines has been informed in particular by input from Monique, who is one of the mentors charged with particular oversight of this subforum. For example,
    Now I appreciate the point by Evo that the guidelines are just that: guidelines, and not set in stone. The above is a decision made on a different case, and it doesn't automatically apply here. What the guideline actually says is:
    scientific, peer-reviewed journal or a similarly reliable source
    In my own opinion, a discussion paper, such as this one, is not in this category; and it would be better to have some other reference given explicitly.

    Himalayan glaciers

    It's well established that glaciers are affected by a range of factors, and that some glaciers are advancing while others are retreating. In the Himalayas in particular, although most glaciers are currently in anomalously rapid retreat, some glaciers are actually advancing.

    References:
    • Kulkarni, A.V. et. al. (2007) Glacial retreat in Himalaya using Indian Remote Sensing satellite data, in Current Science, Vol 92, No 1, 10 Jan 2007. From the final page of the article, giving conclusions:
      The investigation has shown overall 21% reduction in glacial area from the middle of the last century. [...] Numerous investigations in the past have suggested that glaciers are retreating as a response to global warming. As the glaciers are retreating, it was expected that tributary glaciers will detach from the main glacial body and glaciologically they will form independent glaciers. Systematic and meticulous glacial inventory of 1962 and 2001 have now clearly demonstrated that extent of fragmentation is much higher than realized earlier. This is likely to have a profound influence on sustainability of Himalayan glaciers.

      [...]The observations made in this investigation suggest that small glaciers and ice fields are significantly affected due to global warming from the middle of the last century. In addition, larger glaciers are being fragmented into smaller glaciers. In future, if additional global warming takes place, the processes of glacial fragmentation and retreat will increase, which will have a profound effect on availability of water resources in the Himalayan region.​
    • Fowler, H. J. and Archer, D.R. (2006) Conflicting Signals of Climatic Change in the Upper Indus Basin, in Journal of Climate, Vol 19, Iss 17, Sept 2006, pp 4276-4293, doi:10.1175/JCLI3860.1. This paper documents some of the exceptions to the overall trend of retreat. Here's an extract from the abstract:
      The impact of observed seasonal temperature trend on runoff is explored using derived regression relationships. Decreases of ∼20% in summer runoff in the rivers Hunza and Shyok are estimated to have resulted from the observed 1°C fall in mean summer temperature since 1961, with even greater reductions in spring months. 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.​
    • Thomas, K. and S.C. Rai (2005). An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China, Kathmandu, World Wildlife Fund Nepal Programme. This is a fairly comprehensive reference which stands as an example of something that is not in a peer reviewed journal, but which IMO reasonably stands as a credible equivalent. It is a compilation of three official country reports, and has considerable editorial oversight. It is cited by other papers that are in regular scientific journals.

    There's nothing particularly controversial about noting individual cases of advance or retreat, or noting that there is more involved than temperature.

    The conventional view, however, is that global warming of the twentieth century has had a strong impact on glaciers in the Himalayas, driving a strong trend of net retreat and loss of ice, well above what is normal.

    There's nothing wrong with giving alternatives to conventional view. That's critical to how science works, and I have no problem with discussing alternative views, or views I think are in error. However:
    • We are not actually doing the science research here ourselves, but discussing what is done by working scientists.
    • A study of an individual glacier is not a refutation of the conventional view. For example, some glaciers in the Karakoram (western Himalaya) are increasing. They stand out as an exception to the overall trend, and Fowler and Archer (2007) above suggest that the increase in this case is a consequence of local changes in the Indian monsoon.
    • It would be better, in my view, if we could use a "scientific, peer-reviewed journal or a similarly reliable source" (per the guideline) explicit in the thread as the basis for discussion of alternative views. In my own opinion, the cited discussion paper is not in that category.

    Cheers -- sylas
     
  17. Nov 12, 2009 #16

    Xnn

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    PS: Skyok Valley is in the extreme North of India!

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Shyok+valley&sll=33.100745,84.375&sspn=18.978069,28.256836&ie=UTF8&hq=Shyok+valley&hnear=&ll=34.862834,77.565536&spn=18.598234,28.256836&z=5 [Broken]

    Looked it up after making comment about precipitation patterns.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  18. Nov 13, 2009 #17
    That is not the point. As said there are two elements in the paper, data and assessment of the data. Data is about indisputable facts, like which glaciers are advancing, stagnating or retreating. You simply cannot endorse or reject that. You can't say that you endorse or reject the claim that the boiling point of water is 100 degrees C You can just check the data on accuracy of representing the data of the references.

    Now what you do with the data is assessing it and formulate a conclusion:

    Now that is something you can either endorse or reject. However this conclusion is based on an assessment and it would be required to find flaws in that assessment to substantiate rejection.

    Furthermore it is my observation that the policy does not read:

    Hence why the persistence to rejection of discussion any credible source of information that would not fit in such a imaginary modified rule?
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2009
  19. Nov 13, 2009 #18

    sylas

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    I agree. I have never suggested that all claims require explicit support. Of course there's no problem with uncontroversial claims. But you have apparently acknowledged that the claims of this specific discussion paper ARE controversial. I certainly think they are controversial!

    This discussion paper cannot reasonably be considered an equivalent to peer-reviewed scientific literature, IMO. It is explicitly a discussion paper.

    Furthermore, previous application of the guideline has explicitly noted that this forum is not a place to develop new ideas. "The goal of PF is to help students learn the current status of the different fields of science, as practiced by the scientific community." That is my understanding, per this ruling from Monique:
    I don't consider this to be "mindguard", but it is a limit on what occurs in this forum. There IS a guideline, which DOES impose restrictions. The guidelines do actually (as described above by Monique, in any case) suggest that it is not appropriate to take credible published data, and then argue for your own independent conclusions from that data. Some people might call this mindguard; I call it maintaining focus.

    The problem (as I see it) in Earth science is that there is a lot of stuff bandied around which is distinctly fringe, and not actually part of what is practiced or considered by the working scientific community -- particularly relating to climate. At the same time, there are a lot of active dispute and open research questions which ARE part of the normal ongoing working scientific community.

    If you read the web, you can get everything from extreme crackpottery, to simple minded misunderstandings or errors, to isolated maverick ideas, to fringe notions by competent amateurs which have not yet had any impact, to minority views that are being pursued within the working scientific community, to wide open research questions.

    The idea of PF, as I understand it, is to avoid the stuff that is not actually within the scientific community, and focus on the questions, discoveries, and hypotheses that ARE being pursued within the scientific community. This is because the primary goal here is education, not synthesis or research.

    Since there is such an enormous volume of available material which purports to be credible scientific discussion, but for which a significant fraction is not actually well grounded in anything being done within the working scientific community, it helps to have a guideline like this. If an idea is controversial, let's be sure that it really is within the intended scope of the forum -- discussion of the ideas that are being pursued within the working scientific community.

    (However, we do have the Independent Research subforum, where we CAN consider novel proposals beyond what is already being pursued in the scientific community.)

    Given that the discussion paper is controversial; my understanding of the guidelines is that it would be better to use as a source something that is from the scientific literature. That is, a peer reviewed journal or equivalent.

    If I have misunderstood the guideline, it is not deliberate. The guideline IS actually phrased as a restriction, however you want to understand it, so charging that I want to restrict debate is true enough. But I am not deliberately trying to distort the guideline to just to avoid ideas I don't share. I am in good faith wanting to work with the guideline as intended by Greg and the physicsforum staff. I think it is a good idea to have a forum like this with a goal of education and a focus on conventional working science. This gives ample scope to consider a very wide range of ideas; the scientific literature is full of open questions and disagreements and alternative ideas. New ideas are cropping up all the time.

    Felicitations -- sylas

    PS. I'd really like Monique in particular to comment here, as I have used her rulings in the forum to get an idea for what is intended and what is not. But any other authoritative PF voice would be very welcome.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2009
  20. Nov 13, 2009 #19
    Do note that there is no new theory here. Again the report concludes:

    So it is merely putting question marks by another unproven theory of global warming and hence the whole elaboration on independent research is irrevelevant.
     
  21. Nov 13, 2009 #20

    sylas

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    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 [post=2439173]msg #15[/post], 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
     
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