Mount Shasta's glaciers not heeding climate change

From my friends at KOVR-TV in Sacramento, here’s this interesting tidbit: Mount Shasta’s glaciers are advancing rather than receding.

Mount Shasta, at 14,162 feet seems to have a mind of its own these days. Shasta has seven glaciers. The biggest is the one on the middle, Whitney Glacier. What has surprised scientists about the glacier is that if the theories about global warming are true, the glacier ought to be shrinking, but it’s not.

“Unlike most areas around the world, these glaciers are advancing, they are growing. Thirty percent in the last fifty years,” says scientist Erik White.

Read the complete article here

By itself this proves nothing about climate changebut it does illustrate one thing that the media likes to toss around. Worsening localized weather. Too often a local or regional effect is incorrectly attributed to “global warming” when its just not the case at all. In the case of Shasta’s glaciers. it is more likely linked to El Nino and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

But you can bet that if Mt. Shasta’s glaciers were shrinking, it would be front page “proof” that “global warming” is occurring.

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September 5, 2007 9:10 am

“Unlike most areas around the world, these glaciers are advancing, they are growing. Thirty percent in the last fifty years,” says scientist Erik White.
That’s a pretty iffy statement about the ROW. Dude sounds like a seriously disappointed true believer to me.

Pete DeSanto
September 5, 2007 9:58 am

Ummm, maybe this doesn’t get more attention in the context of climate change because of the explanation for the glacier dynamics provided in the article. I also fail to see how scientists who study this glacier would be surprised that it is growing wrt a century ago based on the explanation they have given. Also, the statement “if the theories about global warming are true, the glacier ought to be shrinking, but it’s not.” seems to imply that because the glacier is not shrinking, then the theories about global warming aren’t “true.” This is simply wrong. Finally, I find it odd that you would give such credibility to a study relying on a few photos from 100 years ago, some satellite data, and computer modeling (given your position on the surface station temperature record).
[Moderator Note: I found the article curious, and I think you are reading way to much into it – what part of my statement “By itself this proves nothing about climate change…” did you not understand?]

September 5, 2007 10:22 am

I’ve often argued a line that glaciers are a precip proxy. I would however concede that there may be a temperature element. In any case, what is being experienced in far northern California (and has been experienced over about the past 10 years) seems to generally fly in the face of expectations of both general warming as well as drying.

September 5, 2007 10:37 am

This got me thinking about what’s happening with other California glaciers.
Here is a good write up.
At less than 600 years old, the Sierra Nevada’s glaciers are relative youngsters. They vanished completely at the end of the last ice age, at a time when the Vikings were farming Greenland and Iceland.
Would that be the Maunder minimum?
A graduate student at Portland State University, Hassan Basagic has measured changes in the surface area of seven of the larger glaciers in the Sierra, Dana, Lyell, Kneiss, Maclure, Mendel, Darwin, and Goddard glaciers.
He first collected historic maps, glacier reports, and photos dating as far back as the 1890s. He then made the pilgrimage to the mountains to retake the photos from the same vantage point, and to map the extent of the glaciers with GPS for greater accuracy. Once again, the position of the moraines gave him a sense of the glaciers’ furthest extent in the 1880s.

This is a key point, sometime during the Grover Cleveland administration, California’s glaciers reached their furthest extent – furthest extent ever.
Basagic found that all seven of the Sierra glaciers have retreated 30 to 70 percent over the past 100 years. But this fact is misleading because it was a short 120 or so years ago when they reached their biggest size.
After comparing photos he found that this “drastic” glacier retreat all took place during the drought years of the 30’s and 40’s.
In other words that insignificant localized North American warming that Hansen said didn’t affect the world whatsoever, but the rest of us remember as the Dust Bowl.
During current times all of the rest of our California glaciers have remained static.

September 5, 2007 11:08 am

Yet… NOAA will make a major headline out of July being the hottest month on record in the northwest.

David Walton
September 5, 2007 12:16 pm

Without a doubt — to the main stream media and the alarmists — all glacial recession is the result of global warming, even though recession may be localized or tied to a precipitation cycle or some other pattern.
I have read about a fair amount of what climate scientists have to say about global warming and have not yet encountered a climate scientist who asserts that we are not in a warming period.
The predominate criticisms (from my admittedly incomplete survey) of global warming science are —
1) The warming trend is likely overstated and the predictive modeling is, at best, questionable.
2) Atmospheric CO2 coupled to the greenhouse effect may well not be a primary driving agent and to assert so is premature because the science is incomplete and other likely drivers have not been completely discounted or accounted for.
3) The relentless hype, hysteria, and doom prediction whipped up by main stream media and GW alarmists is over the top. GW could be a good thing and humans (along with the rest of the planet) will adapt as life has done for millions of years. Some species may go extinct and some new species may flourish. Some areas will produce more crops, some less, and so on.
4) From all quarters of the scientific debate — Al Gore is an embarrassment, we wish he would shut his silly yap.
Is this a pretty fair assessment? Criticisms and comments are welcome.

September 5, 2007 12:55 pm

And probably the coolest August.

Larry Sheldon
September 5, 2007 1:30 pm

[I am not any kind of ologist.]
So, the evidence is in.
The shrinking of glaciers world-wide is proof positive of man-made global warming.
The growth of glaciers anywhere, on the other hand, is proof positive of man-made global warming.
I’m not sure I follow that, but that may be because, as a result of not doing my homework in high school I have wasted my life programming for UNIVAC 1100’s, H-PUX 9000’s and driving big trucks.

September 5, 2007 5:17 pm

For those of you who were unaware, the Northwest Passage is open, like it was in 1904 and 1942 when it was crossed the first two times. That must mean the globe was as warm in 1904 and 1942 as it is today.

September 5, 2007 6:19 pm
September 5, 2007 7:18 pm

Correction, the NWP was barely open for a while last month. It is now a definite no go. Even during the “opening” last month, the channels that one would have had to navigate in order to thread the labyrinth would have been harrowing. Lots of places to run aground very badly, etc.

September 5, 2007 8:09 pm

What was I thinking “Maunder Minimum”?
Six hundred years ago would be the medieval warm period.
According to Mann it was a regional affair that at any rate never approached the global temperatures of today.
And yet in California, the Medieval Warm Period erased all of California’s glaciers.
No wonder the AGW believers don’t talk about Cal glaciers.

September 5, 2007 10:40 pm

Sounds good to me, then it was as warm in 1904 and 1942 as it was for a while last month. 😉

September 6, 2007 12:09 pm

Yet now that the warming seems very strongly link to europe the problem is mondial. As confirm by climate audit series of posting on Hansen.

steven mosher
September 6, 2007 1:03 pm

Thinking about a forum for the microclimate stuff…..
Fun stuff:
“[man made heats] magnitude varies greatly between
cities, according to per capita energy use and
population density, and depends on the climate (due
to the demand for space heating or cooling), the
degree and type of industrial activity and the type of
urban transport system. Average annual values of
anthropogenic heat have been assessed at anywhere
between 6 W/m2 for Fairbanks, Alaska to 159 W/m2
for Manhattan, New York (Oke, 1988). However, the
mean annual values mask great temporal and spatial
variability: For instance, the anthropogenic heat flux
in central Sydney was estimated to have a daytime
maximum of approximately 60 W/m2 in January but
nearly 80 W/m2 in July, with similar nighttime
minimums of about 30 W/m2 (Kalma and Newcombe,
1976), but it also varied from about 1 W/m2 in the
outlying suburbs of the city to over 25 W/m2 in the
CBD at 7-9am on an average July (Kalma, 1974).
The contribution of anthropogenic heat to the urban
canopy is also affected by how the energy is
consumed. For instance, air conditioning systems in
large office blocks typically eject the heat absorbed
by the building by means of heat exchangers on the
roof, so in effect, they transport energy from the
canopy layer near street level to the urban boundary
layer above the roof, where it is quickly dissipated.
However, wall or window mounted air conditioners
dump the excess heat directly onto the street, where it
contributes to the urban canopy layer heat island.”

September 7, 2007 8:49 am

I have to wonder how high, in reality, the urban canopy really extends, over places like NYC. What if those cooling towers up on the tops of the buildings are simply dumping the heat into the upper part of the canopy? One thing about NYC – tops of buildings range from 30 to over 1000 feet above the pavement. With the typical humid, often poorly mixed air that they get between the Spring and Fall equini, there have got to be many days when that old canopy is massive.

September 7, 2007 10:09 am

Any chance you will be posting your UCAR presentation soon?

September 7, 2007 10:22 am

I’m waiting for the final list of recommendations that were put forth from the meeting to be finalized. Since this represents a the input from about 50 climate science professionals, I wanted to have it ready to go with my presentation.
I’m waiting on Pielke.

steven mosher
September 8, 2007 10:21 am

Wind tunnels and 3d models
and feild studies.
The observational data set will be exploited to address the following main re questions: (1) Sigma Characterization of turbulence statistics within the roughness sublayer. Of particular interest are the turbulent fluxes of momentum and sensible heat and the associated mean flow profile. Evaluation or generalisation of existing (momentum) and new (sensible heat) parameterizations. Assessment of the local scaling hypothesis for other turbulence statistics. (2) Sigma Parameterization of the wind profile in the urban boundary layer with special attention to the surface characteristics, the spatial inhomogeneity and synoptic conditions. Characterization of the urban boundary layer height (including evaluation of physical models) and – in combination with the surface data – investigation of important scaling parameters such as the convective velocity scale specifically over urban regions.
Such a data set will allow us to investigate the key parameters for urban dispersion modeling, namely, the ‘surface‘ momentum flux (profile), the ‘surface‘ heat flux (profile), the mixing height and associated scaling velocities, the profiles of mean wind speed and velocity variances throughout the urban boundary layer. For some of the mentioned variables, some data already exists and the project will contribute to extend the range of surfaces (roughness characteristics and density) studied so far. For others, nothing is presently available (e.g., the profile of sensible and latent heat flux within the urban RS) and the data will help to establish first attempts for parameterizations.
The project will further give us the opportunity to show the feasibility of using the wind profiler technique for urban wind climatology, in combination with LIDAR data for determining the boundary layer height, and as a tool for the meteorological surveillance of installations with high hazard potential such as chemical and nuclear plants.

September 10, 2007 12:33 pm

Steven Mosher – that is an area of study that ought to be fruitful.

Evan Jones
September 10, 2007 2:00 pm

>>Is this a pretty fair assessment?
Seems reasonable enough to me.
>>According to Mann it was a regional affair that at any rate never approached the global temperatures of today.
And yet in California, the Medieval Warm Period erased all of California’s glaciers.
No wonder the AGW believers don’t talk about Cal glaciers.
They don’t talk about archeaological digs in Greenland, either. The Harvard-Smithsonian report had Viking agricultural settlements at the 70th parallel. SFAIK, that’s one big block ‘o ice these days.
A far greater percentage of world population lived in Greeenland back then (c. 5-to-6000), than do today (c. 55,000).
I would dearly love to know what the Greenland glacier line was in Y1K!

September 10, 2007 4:26 pm

Lookie here what I found.
from the pages of the World Climate Report
Ian Howat of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz and four of his colleagues report on their study of the 110-year history of the glaciers of a northern California (USA) mountain in “A precipitation-dominated, mid-latitude glacier system: Mount Shasta California.” Part of the Cascade Mountain chain, Mount Shasta holds the largest volume of glacial ice in the state of California, including the glacier of greatest spatial extent. The glaciers of Mount Shasta did not retreat during the 20th century despite a warming of several degrees Celsius over the last half of the century. In fact, two of the mountain’s glaciers, including the largest, expanded over the second half of the century. The expansion came on the heels of a rapid decline in the glaciers, when over one-half of the ice volume was lost between 1920 and 1940, which was well before the global temperature increase of the latter portion of the century. As Howat et al. state, “the continued growth and stability of Mount Shasta’s glaciers suggests that temperature may not always be the dominant control on changes in the size of glaciers in temperate regions, as often assumed in assessing the potential response of glaciers to future climate change.” The researchers parenthetically refer to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) when raising the issue of this poor assumption. They further note the far-reaching implications of the poor assumption: “This would have implications for paleoclimate studies that use ice volume changes to infer regional climate conditions. Also, due to the currently poor simulation of precipitation in mountainous regions, it may suggest that climate model predictions of the impact of warming on snow and ice may be inaccurate.”
Might I suggest an alternative?
Is it not remotely possible that the warming of the 30’s and 40’s was of the real variety, while the warming of the second half of the century was fiction created with help from UHI encroachments and scientists with an environmental movement held in higher regard then the truth?

Evan Jones
September 10, 2007 8:13 pm

I can tell you this much about NYC climate: It averages several degrees warmer than the barrier beaches off Long Island.
Can’t say whether NYC is a typical UHI or if the beaches have a strong cooling bias, but the difference in summer temperature is quite stark, especially at night.
I was just out there (alas, no stations to photo), and I had to wear a sweater at night. Now, I’m back in the city and sweating bullets.
Unfortunately, I have no car and cannot drive, or else I, too, would jump at the chance to be part of the headless hunt . . .

September 11, 2007 2:32 am

Did you ever bring up the retreat of glaciers in conversation with Roger Pielke?
Look at this Between the years 1929 AD and 1958 AD [Siachen] glacier front retreated by about 400 m.
The Siachen glacier is the second largest glacier known outside the polar and sub-polar regions. It is a valley glacier and is situated within the coordinate (35°12′ and 35°41′ N: 76°47′ E and 77°11′ )…”
Strange that a Himalayan glacier would advance and retreat in perfect correlation with Californian glaciers thoughout the 20th century, and yet NASA GISS would still maintain that American heating between 1920’s-1950’s is a local event.

September 11, 2007 5:34 pm

The careful approach – good.
Because you wouldn’t want to slap up some pictures of ice melting from one location, call it climate change, then start mass marketing the poster, without relating the phenomena to outside stimuli such as rainfall totals, temperature change, local land uses, understanding the historical behavior and extent of the glacier.
You know like the USGS does.
They don’t have many doubts at all, do they?
It would be nice to give them some.
It would be nice to point out that many glaciers underwent a severe melt during the dust bowl years (in fact all of the glaciers I have looked at), and have recovered or remained stable during the years of GORE/MANN/HANSEN induced climate change regardless of rainfall totals and caviates.
I realize not having an agenda or feeling the need to use propaganda is a strength.
I’m a rare bird though.

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