Alaska glaciers on the rebound

Bad weather was good for Alaska glaciers

MASS BALANCE: For decades, summer snow loss has exceeded winter snowfall.


(10/13/08 23:08:04) Two hundred years of glacial shrinkage in Alaska, and then came the winter and summer of 2007-2008.Unusually large amounts of winter snow were followed by unusually chill temperatures in June, July and August.

“In mid-June, I was surprised to see snow still at sea level in Prince William Sound,” said U.S. Geological Survey glaciologist Bruce Molnia. “On the Juneau Icefield, there was still 20 feet of new snow on the surface of the Taku Glacier in late July. At Bering Glacier, a landslide I am studying, located at about 1,500 feet elevation, did not become snow free until early August.

“In general, the weather this summer was the worst I have seen in at least 20 years.”

Never before in the history of a research project dating back to 1946 had the Juneau Icefield witnessed the kind of snow buildup that came this year. It was similar on a lot of other glaciers too.

“It’s been a long time on most glaciers where they’ve actually had positive mass balance,” Molnia said.

That’s the way a scientist says the glaciers got thicker in the middle.

Mass balance is the difference between how much snow falls every winter and how much snow fades away each summer. For most Alaska glaciers, the summer snow loss has for decades exceeded the winter snowfall.

The result has put the state’s glaciers on a long-term diet. Every year they lose the snow of the previous winter plus some of the snow from years before. And so they steadily shrink.

Since Alaska’s glacial maximum back in the 1700s, Molnia said, “I figure that we’ve lost about 15 percent of the total area.”

What might be the most notable long-term shrinkage has occurred at Glacier Bay, now the site of a national park in Southeast Alaska. When the first Russian explorers arrived in Alaska in the 1740s, there was no Glacier Bay. There was simply a wall of ice across the north side of Icy Strait.

That ice retreated to form a bay and what is now known as the Muir Glacier. And from the 1800s until now, the Muir Glacier just kept retreating and retreating and retreating. It is now back 57 miles from the entrance to the bay, said Tom Vandenberg, chief interpretative ranger at Glacier Bay.

That’s farther than the distance from glacier-free Anchorage to Girdwood, where seven glaciers overhang the valley surrounding the state’s largest ski area. The glaciers there, like the Muir and hundreds of other Alaska glaciers, have been part of the long retreat.

Overall, Molnia figures Alaska has lost 10,000 to 12,000 square kilometers of ice in the past two centuries, enough to cover an area nearly the size of Connecticut.

Molnia has just completed a major study of Alaska glaciers using satellite images and aerial photographs to catalog shrinkage. The 550-page “Glaciers of Alaska” will provide a benchmark for tracking what happens to the state’s glaciers in the future.

Climate change has led to speculation they might all disappear. Molnia isn’t sure what to expect. As far as glaciers go, he said, Alaska’s glaciers are volatile. They live life on the edge.

“What we’re talking about to (change) most of Alaska’s glaciers is a small temperature change; just a small fraction-of-a-degree change makes a big difference. It’s the mean annual temperature that’s the big thing.

“All it takes is a warm summer to have a really dramatic effect on the melting.”

Or a cool summer to shift that mass balance the other way.

One cool summer that leaves 20 feet of new snow still sitting atop glaciers come the start of the next winter is no big deal, Molnia said.

Ten summers like that?

Well, that might mark the start of something like the Little Ice Age.

During the Little Ice Age — roughly the 16th century to the 19th — Muir Glacier filled Glacier Bay and the people of Europe struggled to survive because of difficult conditions for agriculture. Some of them fled for America in the first wave of white immigration.

The Pilgrims established the Plymouth Colony in December 1620. By spring, a bitterly cold winter had played a key role in helping kill half of them. Hindered by a chilly climate, the white colonization of North America through the 1600s and 1700s was slow.

As the climate warmed from 1800 to 1900, the United States tripled in size. The windy and cold city of Chicago grew from an outpost of fewer than 4,000 in 1800 to a thriving city of more than 1.5 million at the end of that century.

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.

Rivers of ice flow slowly. Hundreds of feet of snow would have to accumulate at higher elevations to create enough pressure to stall the current glacial retreat and start a new advance. Even if the glaciers started growing today, Molnia said, it might take up to 100 years for them to start steadily rolling back down into the valleys they’ve abandoned.

“It’s different time scales,” he said. “We’re just starting to understand.”

As strange it might seem, Alaska’s glaciers could appear to be shrinking for some time while secretly growing. Molnia said there are a few glaciers in the state now where constant snow accumulations at higher elevations are causing them to thicken even as their lower reaches follow the pattern of retreat fueled by the global warming of recent decades.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Leon Brozyna
October 14, 2008 2:20 pm

Well then, let us hope the glaciers don’t start advancing. That could mean a much colder and hostile climate than that which we’ve been accustomed to for the past couple hundred years.

October 14, 2008 2:32 pm

“In general, the weather this summer was the worst I have seen in at least 20 years.”
Wait. I thought AGW was “bad.” If AGW is bad then this last summer was the BEST in the last 20 years.

Terry Ward
October 14, 2008 2:38 pm

“It’s different time scales,” he said. “We’re just starting to understand.”
Bit of a coincidence though – 200 years since the invention of the AC unit.
2 centuries after the discovery of pepperoni. 20 decades of gas fired power stations. The 2400 month anniversary of the first nucular submarine sorties to the North Pole.
Seriously though, that’s 6.66666* times a permissible trend so we only have to wait another 29 years.

Mark Fuggle
October 14, 2008 2:45 pm

Seems very un-hysterical does mr Molnia in the article on glaciers.

Edward Morgan
October 14, 2008 2:54 pm

Why are the Elite Global Warmers making this up? Any ideas from those who agree!

October 14, 2008 2:56 pm

The article clearly acknowledges the warming and retreat of glaciers has occurred over the last 200 years. Finally some recognition in what appears to be a mainstream press article, that the warming started long before humans started burning serious amounts of fossil fuel. It begs the obvious question – could it be a part of a natural cycle?
The other major acknowledgement is that the warm period since the LIA helped in the growth and development of the US. Maybe, just maybe, warmth is a good thing.

October 14, 2008 3:05 pm

I just re-read the Anchorage story. Ya know these poor people need to come south more often. They have no concept of how to use words like “climate change” and “global warming”. In this context, they are (incorrectly) using climate change to signify a – get this – change in climate. They use the discarded term “global warming” to indicate the earth has warmed in the recent past. Obviously not with the in crowd. And not one word on CO2 – how could they have forgotten that!
Seriously, one of the most balanced stories seen to date. Kudos to the reporter who actually attempted to pass along some of the science and theory behind what’s going on. If all reporters were as sharp as this one, maybe one could actually believe what appears in the mainstream media.

October 14, 2008 3:06 pm

hi,but the “albedo” effect?

October 14, 2008 3:18 pm

hi,but the “albedo” effect?
Neva Niagra?

George E. Smith
October 14, 2008 4:40 pm

Well according to the folks in New Zealand (as of Christmas 2006) both the fox, and the Franz Joseph glaciers are advancing; although over the long range (200 years) they have been receding as a result of emergence from the last ice age.
And as for the singinficance or desirability of it getting colder; nobody seems to get the big picture; that the emerging science is establishing that the Arhennius 150 year old explanation of “Global warming” via the CO2 mechanism; is quite wrong; which does not mean that CO2 doesn’t produce a greenhouse effect; but that it is completely overridden by the effect of water, which as a vapor causes positive feedback warming (without any need for a CO2 trigger), but as a liquid or solid (clouds) produces negative feedback cooling. (via albedo enhancement, and ground level insolation reduction).
Only water as a GHG exists in the atmosphere in all three phases, to produce such a temperature regulation mechanism.
Other effects, such as CO2, aerosols, Cosmic Rays, Solar magnetism, volcanic ash, etc simply readjust the equilibrium amount of cloud cover to regulate the temperature at some new cloud cover percentage, and mean global temperature.
Direct solar radiation is absorbed mostly deep in the ocean (73% of area), and takes a long time via convection to return to the surface. However reradiation of Earth IR from atmospheric GHG including water, is absorbed in the top 10 microns of the ocean, and causes immediate prompt evaporation which eventually produces a higher percentage cloud cover.
Total global evaporation has to equal total global precipitation, and precipitation equals clouds, and dense clouds at that, which block sunlight.
So why is this important? Well if CO2 is not the devil incarnate; which it isn’t; despite the IPCC and Al Gore; then suddenly the USA can be completely self sufficient in energy in the future since we have more usable fossil fuels than anybody else on earth.
So I say let it freeze till the IPCC and Al Gore decide to tap out, and call off their scaremongering scam.

Bobby Lane
October 14, 2008 4:47 pm

This is what really confuses me. I know people don’t really want the return of the Little Ice Age, where glaciers would advance causing serious economic harm to places like that ski resort in Alaska, bury Juneau and its evirons in ice and snow, bringing untold ruin and radical change to landscapes. I know people want some sort of equilibrium, but the problem is that Nature is not attuned to the desires of people. While it is not going to runaway one way or the other, short of some catastrophe like world-wide volcanic upheavel or the Earth getting hit by a large meteor, there is quite a wide latitude. And most of our progress of recent years, as has been noted by and on this blog, has been under the benign influence of the Warm phase of the PDO. In a very real sense, we do not know life apart from this, though we are undoubtedly about to experience it in the coming months and years. People have this odd notion that “this is the way things should be and they should always stay this way.” But the nature of Nature is to change. It does not and should not stay the same. Ever.
Consider that if the coming changes drop global temperature by 1 degree C, and there is a major volcanic event that, for a year or so, global temperatures could drop by another degree C, things could get rather interesting (in the Chinese proverbial sense). That scenario is not at all a stretch of the imagination as many know.

October 14, 2008 4:54 pm

Too many years ago, I worked a commercial fishing boat one summer in Icy Strait and we ported in Hoonah. An interesting job that I have no desire to do again. Nonetheless, thanks for the trip down memory lane, Anthony.
Icy Strait is one gorgeous area and I recommend a cruise ship ride up through there. We were happy the glaciers were retreating as the water temp got up to about 12 degrees centigrade and at that temp we could go swimming for about 30 seconds instead of 15 seconds. Icebergs just get in the way and act like big icecubes.

Dan Lee
October 14, 2008 5:03 pm

And no La Nina in sight. What’s going on?

October 14, 2008 5:42 pm

Anthony you are missing the point, it is warm in San Francisco and GW caused wildfires are ravaging the land (ok California, but to AGWers that is all of America.
Besides Alaska is “that state” where Governor Palin, the only one of the four with any sense about climate issues and who is so EVIL that she is suing to get the Polar Bear de-listed from the endangered species act, is from.
So you know that Alaskans all make up stuff like this because they are ALL in the pocket of big oil.

Bruce Foutch
October 14, 2008 5:45 pm

Here is a link where you can get the complete book “Glaciers of Alaska”, by Molnia as a pdf file:
Direct link:
Its 90.3MB, so it will take a few minutes to download. Nice addition to your e-library.

Bill Illis
October 14, 2008 5:51 pm

There has been a large pool of cold water in the northern Pacific off North America for about 2 years straight now – the infamous negative PDO shift I guess.
Its looking a little bigger and a little colder right now.

October 14, 2008 6:19 pm

Skeptical as I am of AGW, I think I should point out that Fox and Franz Josef are only part of the story with New Zealand’s glaciers. They come down the western side of the Southern Alps, and are fed by snowfalls driven by the prevailing westerlies (the mountains lie right in the path of the Roaring Forties). In recent times they’ve been growing, although the general trend over the last 250 years has been one of retreat – as you drive up to the respective carparks you pass markers showing where the glacier fronts were in 1750, 1800 and so on. It’s clear the retreat started long before any human impact could conceivably have occurred. On the eastern side of the ranges the story is quite different – many of the glaciers there are continuing to retreat dramatically. There is now a sizeable lake at the head of the Tasman Glacier, for example, where there was solid ice just a couple of decades ago – see picture at
This is of course trumpeted as proof of AGW here, while not much is made of the advances on the other side of the mountains. Or of the fact that the skifields on Mt Ruapehu in the North Island are having their biggest year for snowin decades – still 3 or 4 metres of snow base with officially less than two weeks of the ski season to go. Chances are the season will be extended – see

October 14, 2008 6:23 pm

George E Smith…
Yep, you are on the mark there George. I was all set to tap out a similar post myself. But you sir, have stated it so much more elegantly and substantively than could I.
Water. It’s what makes this planet Unique…. In a lot more ways than first meets the eye.

October 14, 2008 6:50 pm

Very nice article. Nobody knows.
Nobody knows what will happen, we only have hints of what has happened in the past. Heck we were only smart enough to start recording temperature 130 years ago, and anyone who visits this site regularly knows those records are a more than a tad weak. Why is it so hard for people to admit, we don’t know?
If an ice age sets in we’ll be hoping for a little greenhouse effect that’s for certain.
I beat up the hockey stick graphs some more using GISS data as the correlation curve.
I made positive and negative hockey sticks from the same data as the masters using their own math.

October 14, 2008 7:47 pm

OT: One of Anthony’s friends at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., climatologist Thomas C. Peterson, has done his own survey of cooling vs warming articles in the 1970s.
Cooling climate ‘consensus’ of 1970s never was says in part:

The team’s survey of major journal papers published between 1965 and 1979 found that only seven articles predicted that global average temperature would continue to cool. During the same period, 44 journal papers indicated that the average temperature would rise and 20 were neutral or made no climate predictions.
The findings were “a surprise to us,” Peterson says. For decades the “skeptics had repeated their argument so often and so strongly that we misremembered the tenor of the times.”

I was there, I remember talking with Dad about an Ice Age being kicked off by snow not melting during a cold summer keeping the albedo high and starting runaway cooling. After flying across the country soon after that, I decided the snow would have to cover evergreen trees to keep the albedo high.
After the Mauna Loa data was published in 76 or 77, then everyone turned their attention to warming and I started pointing that nuclear plants didn’t emit significant amounts of CO2.

October 14, 2008 7:59 pm

“I know people want some sort of equilibrium, but the problem is that Nature is not attuned to the desires of people. ”
There is a set of people who believe that we can control anything, including the climate. They believe that if just enough money is thrown at something (and it always comes down to money with them), couple with a lot of regulations we can change the climate. And if the climate doesn’t change, then by-golly, toss the politician in charge out of office and put another one in until he gets the climate right.
How much is the US currently investing in ice? If we got serious with our spending, we could surely get it to do what we need it to do.

October 14, 2008 8:01 pm

[…] Read the original: Alaska glaciers on the rebound […]

P Folkens
October 14, 2008 8:07 pm

Missing from the AK glacier story are a few fun facts for the AWG skeptics. The recession of the Grand Pacific Glacier from Icy Strait in the 1700s to present was most rapid prior to 1879 when John Muir first visited the place on R/C Thomas Corwin. Going even further back, say to the 14th Century, the Mendenhal Glacier covered Gastineau Channel and the Stikine Glacier reached the Alexanders. The first indigenous peoples that populated the area were apparently extirpated by the Little Ice Age. As legend has it, the Tlingit Athabascan ancestors who repopulated the area traveled over the Stikine from the east (Canada). One group, the Hutznuwoo Tlingits traveled under the Stikine Glacier on the glacier’s melt water river to end up in Frederick Sound and settled on Admiralty Island. The point is that from roughly the 15th Century to the early 19th Century, the Southeast Alaska glacial melt was more significant than that during the Industrial Age. The AWG story won’t go back far enough to cover that earlier period because it doesn’t fit their agenda of blaming Northern Hemisphere industrialization as the cause of all the world’s ills.

October 14, 2008 8:23 pm

By the way, we REALLY don’t want to see a cold snap like this if you live someplace like California. Periods like the LIA are generally associated with mega-droughts. There have been periods during this interglacial where we have had periods of extreme drought that lasted for centuries. During these periods, the level of Lake Tahoe dropped along the order of tens of meters. We know this because the trunks of trees that grew then are still there on what was then the shore of the lake. It is not uncommon for California to experience drought periods lasting for hundreds of years.
I remember reading about that at Climate Audit a couple/few years back. Ah, here it is. Apparently we have in the past couple of centuries been living in an unusually wet period and our expectation of what “normal” is, is based on having lived during an unusually wet few centuries in this region.

October 14, 2008 8:57 pm

George is missing something.
The only way for the Earth to cool is to cool the oceans – mostly the tropical and subtropical latitudes.
The most efficient way to do this is to build a heat pump that moves the warm moist air to another location and then dump the heat into space and lock up the moisture.
The amount of heat represented by the evaporation and then condensation into ice of over 300 feet of the oceans during the last ice age is a very huge number.
A heat pump needs an evaporator, a pump, and a condenser.
What we do not understand is how the heat pump switched over rapidly into a cold phase. Or vice versa.
One can easily envision a subtropical moisture plume overriding the coast range and into the Canadian prairies all winter long. And then a polar jet that blocks the heat during the summer months.
Of course, when the average temps drop 10 to 20 degrees, even the cold water off Californian today looks subtropical.

October 14, 2008 9:34 pm

Glaciers have attached to them a climate memory.
Valleys once dug out are a sign of previously colder times.
We live in a pleasant “warmth” at the moment.
The thing is…at this point…consecutive decades of cooling or warming from here on out are possible.
It is easy to notice that civilization thrives in warmth and becomes stagnant in cold.
Suppose we should be somewhat thankful for the retreat of glaciers? Afterall, they perfectly coincide with us right now, exactly.
A quote from Jack Nicholson, “May be this is as good as it gets.”

October 14, 2008 9:37 pm

[…] MASS BALANCE: For decades, summer snow loss has exceeded winter snowfall. Anchorage Daily News via Watts Up With That? and ICECAP […]

Vincent Guerrini Jr
October 14, 2008 11:08 pm

This posted on Accuweather last week
TITLE:Alaskan Glaciers in widespread retreat and melting etc…
I just dont get it.

Frank Lansner /Denmark
October 15, 2008 2:29 am

Remember Lintzens article about how journalists has to twist things so all evidence must support AGW?
Heres an example of 2 VERY different versions of the new story about glaciers in Greenland.
The Danish version states clearl, with qutoes and everything that the glacier retriet is NOT related to global warming. It says specifically so. But science daily has a version that clearly says that the oppo-site. Im sorry you cant read Danish…!
Antony and Dee Norris etc, if you want me to tranlate, I will.

Frank Lansner /Denmark
October 15, 2008 2:30 am

Remember Lintzens article about how journalists has to twist things so all evidence must support AGW?
Heres an example of 2 VERY different versions of the new story about glaciers in Greenland.
The Danish version states clearl, with qutoes and everything that the glacier retriet is NOT related to global warming. It says specifically so. But science daily has a version that clearly says that the oppo-site. Im sorry you cant read Danish…!
Antony and Dee Norris, if you want me to tranlate, I will.

October 15, 2008 4:59 am

Vincent Guerrini Jr (23:08:18) :

This posted on Accuweather last week
TITLE:Alaskan Glaciers in widespread retreat and melting etc…
I just don’t get it.

It’s pretty simple, the article is about the dramtic changes this summer, the book’s manuscript was probably finished in the spring or summer of this year. In a delicious bit of irony, the book’s author is the researcher quoted in the newspaper. He was probably busy on the book instead of being in the field seeing the changes.

October 15, 2008 6:56 am

off topic- New scientist seems to be sinking to new lows. Not only have they let political stories dressed up as science take over their web site now they attack those who do not agree. Check out this very persional attack on botanist David Bellamy.

Alan the Brit
October 15, 2008 7:03 am

This is all very interesting stuff! All this apparent sudden cooling going on around us.
I posted a comment a short while ago on this blog about a paper posted onto the UK Treasury website about reduced solar output & a relative1.5°C cooling for 15-20 years or thereabouts. I check the website every now & then to see if said article has been pulled or “edited” somehow. Strangely enough, there seem to be several more papers being posted on same about solar influence on climate change here on Earth. Is there a surreptitious change of climate at the treasury? This certainly a departure from the the official line usually taken. You guys outside blighty/EU don’t seem to have the same repressive bureaucratic regime that we do over here. Does the US Treasury Department web have any similar/same articles on it?
There is also a coucil over here in Wales that that is going to turn off the street lights to reduce its Carbo Footprint of emissions. That’s the principle behind it apparently although they do concede that they a £250,000 short of funds which is a great way to save money. I can’t wait for local crime to soar, & accident rates to increase over the coming months.

Jeff Alberts
October 15, 2008 8:07 am

The problem with glacial history is that we don’t have markers placed by humans where the glaciers were 1000 years ago, 2000, 3000, etc. But it’s apparent from information form the German, Swiss, and Italian Alps that they were all much more receded during the periods I just mentioned than they are today. But for some reason all people want to look at are the recent times of human memory, a mere split second in geologic and glacial times. There’s simply zero evidence that glaciers are receding faster and farther now than ever before.

Ed Scott
October 15, 2008 8:27 am

Burning Brush: Global Warming or McMansions to Blame for California Wildfires?
Like every October, when the Santa Ana winds strengthen wildfires in southern California, the debate is on. Is the seeming increase in recent California fires, as Gov. Schwarzenegger suggested this summer, due to higher temperatures and droughts brought about by global warming? Or are the fires a lot like hurricanes—similar in strength and number over the past century, but perceived as a lot more damaging now because there are simply a lot more houses (and camera crews) in the way?

Fred J Muggs
October 15, 2008 9:23 am

“As the climate warmed from 1800 to 1900, the United States tripled in size.”
Gee there must be a cause->effect link here. Golly Mr. Wizard, global warming has really far reaching effects…
In contrast, I propose other factors were are work in the population tripling than temperature fluctuating a couple of degrees.
But then again I’m not a climate “scientist” looking for funding and trying to invent crisis to support said funding.

Dan Evens
October 15, 2008 9:44 am

What news of other ice fields? For example, I’ve recently returned from a trip through western Alberta, Jasper to Banff. In 2001 when I visited, last week of Sept. each time, there was much less snow visible on the mountains. This year there was lots of snow, often right down to the tree line. I take that to mean that this summer was much cooler than in 2001.

October 15, 2008 10:01 am

Ed Scott,
I read an article in National Geographic that said the fires are more intense now because we put them out before they burn the under brush and debris. And yes, I agree that there are not more fires just more homes and media. All the fire fighters know we should let the fires burn how they want. It is a natural cycle and if your home is in the way, too bad. Rebuild after the fire and feel safer for a while.

October 15, 2008 10:07 am

I believe these glaciers have been retreating since the 1850`s.
Asulkan and Illecillewaet Glacier
On her second visit to Glacier National Park in 1894, Mary Vaux (pronounced “vox”) was aghast at how the Illecillewaet Glacier had retreated since her previous visit seven years earlier.
AGW what AGW.

George E. Smith
October 15, 2008 10:09 am

“Austin (20:57:00) :
George is missing something.
The only way for the Earth to cool is to cool the oceans – mostly the tropical and subtropical latitudes. ”
Aystin; why do you jump to the conclusion that I am missing something ?
I’m alread concerned that I am abusing Anthony’s hospitality, by posting such long tomes; and I simply can’t throw in every detail that comes to mind.
The earth cools in many ways; which is why I personally believe the whole concept of a global mean temperature or ersatz substitutes like GISStemp or HADcrut, have no scientificbasis or justification at all. The Two I mentioned as well as RSS, and UAH are reputedly the results of performing some certain algorithms on some sets of data; different for each of those groups. So long as you don’t change the algorithm, and you gather the raw data from the same locations and instrumentation; then it might be interesting to compare one year’s or month’s results with another’s; but that is all you can do. None of those four “anomaly” reports can be construed to be giving the actual mean temperature of the earth (which would immediately vaporize every living thing on the planet) nor even the mean surface temperature of the earth, although I suspect that the two satellite based groups UAH and RSS come closer to reading actual surface temperatures. But so what; the thermal fluxes at any location on earth are not simply related to the local temperature.
You mentioned cooling the ocean. The oceans cool by a variety of processes, and I am sure my explanations are quite pitiful compared with the complexity of the reality.
The deep oceans behave quite closely to what a Black body would do. For solar radiation, you have a normal incidence reflection coefficient of 2% due to the refractive index (1.33) of water, and the usual Fresnel reflection laws. Over the complete hemisphere of incoming radiation, the total reflectance is more like 3%, because of the higher reflection coefficient for incidence beyond the Brewster angle up to grazing incidence. So 97% of the incident radiation enters the water, and procedes into the depths in a spectral manner that looks almost like the inverse of the solar spectrum. The green wavelenths go deepest, and the shorter, and longer wavelenghts are absorbed at shallower depths, till at 10-50 microns in the IR, the top 10 microns completely absorbs. So unless the water is shallow enough to see the bottom, about 97% of the solar radiation is absorbed in the ocean so it is like a grey body with a 0.97 absorbtance. Following Kirchoff’s law, it should then emit black body radiation with a 97% emissivity. If the water temperature was 15C, the so-called global average, that emission should be about 378 Watts per square meter (0.97 x 390). The actual emission should depend on the local surface temperature, because any IR emitted from cooler deeper water, is going to be at wavelenghts longer than 10.1 microns, which is the black body peak at 15 deg C. So it will be immediately re-absorbed in the next few microns of water; which warms that layer and so on till that energy reaches the surface. Since seawater of greater than 2.47% salinity has no density maximum short of its freezing point, like fresh water does, then the vertical temperature gradient will result in an upwards convection of the warmed water; so eventually much of that absorbed solar energy is transported back to the surface. Direct conduction is going transport heat in all directions both up and down, as of course does the radiation, but in the end, I believe the convection wins. this is an area where I don’t have information on the rates to say how much goes up and how much goes down. Tides and waves and storms of course confuse the issue. I’m sure oceanographers have a better understanding of the real numbers.
When the heated water gets to the surface film, then the IR radiation can finally escape with a spectrum that depends on the surface temperature. I believe UAH (probably RSS too can dirtectly read the surface temperature based on the surface IR emission spectrum. Wish I could talk to Roy Spencer or John Christie about that.
Well then you get the evaporation from the surface which takes with it about 590 calories per gram (well it’s 587.6 for 15 deg C water) but there again I don’t know evaporation rates, and the winds over the surface have a lot of influence, since that carries off the moisture to some place else.
Now over a tropical desert, the situation is quite different. The ground temperature could be +60C or hotter, and there is no water to evaporate. Depending on the surface rock; the emissivity may be only 40%, but the black body radiation would be about 1.8 times as high as at 15 C because of the 4th power Stefan Boltzmann law. The wavelength peak also moves down to around 8.9 microns or so, due to the Wien displacement law. Other than the lower emissivity, the radiation from these hot deserts is much higher than from ground that is at 15 C or Vostock ice that may be at -90C in the Antarctic winter night. So the actual surface IR radiation covers a range of more than 11 to one in radiance, and the spectral peak ranges from about 8.9 to 15 microns over the temperature range.
In a pine forest of a tropical rain forest, the thermal processes are different again and differently related to the local temperature.
That is why I maintain that there is no scientific significance to any computation of a mean global temperature; what you really want to know is the earth gaining energy from the sun, or is it losing energy to space, and cooling down, and it is the very hottest regions of the surface that are cooling the earth; not the polar cold regions; and that includes the so-called heat islands. Thoufgh city asphalt absorbs a lot of solar energy, it is also radiating like crazy during the daylight, and it cools very rapidly after sunset. the problem with heat islands, is that the temperatures measured there are being applied improperly to areas remote from the thermometer, where the thermal conditions are quite different.
Not being in the field, I have difficulty geting access to raw data, so largely I can only wave my hands in a qualitative fashion; whereas I would rather be able to give more quantitative input. I leave it to the climate experts who do have the data, to put flesh on my skeletal comments.

October 15, 2008 10:59 am

I agree, this is interesting stuff. Let’s hope the cooling trend continues.

Steve M.
October 15, 2008 12:22 pm

rachete (10:59:50) :
“I agree, this is interesting stuff. Let’s hope the cooling trend continues.”
Hmm, not sure I agree totally with that statement. IF we were to have a 2c drop in temperature, I believe we see more problems than if we had more warming. And God forbid, we go into a full blown ice age…-8c… we’d severe consequences.
The only good thing from a bit of cooling, would be the demise of the AGWers position, except they would say, “wait for this bit of cooling to end, THEN watch out!”

October 15, 2008 1:25 pm

What is the ratio of heat flux from IR vs the heat flux from evaporation ( under different wind and wave effects) for tropical oceans?
Is this .01, .1, 1, or 10, or 100? This would then tell us whether albedo or heat transport by water vapor is the dominant cooling effect.
I would suspect that because oceans moderate climates along coasts and air temp is related to water temp which sets dew point that determines air temp, that water vapor over the oceans is the dominant mechanism.
I agree that temp does not mean much because the heat in the vertical column of air over a desert is a lot less that that over the Gulf of Mexico. The water vapor just trumps the heat in the air significantly.
Thats why I contend that if we do not have humidity rates along with the temperature records, then ALL the temp records are basically useless. Now, some of the coastal records might be useful if we have SSTs as well.
Is there a satellelite that measures outgoing energy from the Earth? How does water vapor become droplets and is there a specific radiation signature for this that can be measured?
The CR Flux water vapor theory says that condensation is a function of the CR flux – condensation dumps huge amounts of heat which is then radiated away. This makes the condenser portion of the heat pump more efficient.
IF we can find this signature, THEN measure it, THEN the CR flux theory can be proved or disproved. We can also then see part of the heat leaving the earth.

October 15, 2008 5:07 pm

George’s analysis does it for me. AGW theory does well challenge cosmology for inanity, where theories de jour “are making real progress” towards “explaining” the universe. (One of my current faves on the arrow of time conundrum: time actually *can* go backward, but just not in our universe. In an alternative universe, no problem, BUT — here’s the thing — the people in that universe still experience it as going forward!) But enough OT. You cannot propose, much less analyze, falsifiable causal relationships among phenomena that can’t be defined sufficiently well to even measure properly. It’ a HUGE irony: climate is right here, right in our back yards so to speak, and massive amounts of data can be collected (now), yet the processes and timescales are such that it’s hard to imagine how meaningful progress in climatology can occur — It’s just too messy. And to borrow a bit from Mark Twain: “Everyone talks about the weather…” so ‘everyone’ is an expert, even those who should know better.

October 15, 2008 5:08 pm

[…] Alaska glaciers on the rebound Bad weather was good for Alaska glaciers MASS BALANCE: For decades, summer snow loss has exceeded winter […] […]

October 15, 2008 5:18 pm

Fire frequency and intensity have nothing to do with climate and everything to do with fuels. It’s the FUELS you FOOLS, as the saying goes, or ought to.
It doesn’t matter who or what starts the fire; what matters is the quantity, condition, and arrangement of the fuels.
Let’s say there is an old city warehouse in your neighborhood filled with pallets, packing crates, cardboard boxes, and oily rags. It is an obvious firetrap and the neighbors have repeatedly petitioned the city to clean it up. The city sits on its fat can and does nothing. Then along comes a 1) juvenile delinquent, 2) wino, 3) crackhead, or 4) squirrel that somehow ignites the fire which then burns down the neighborhood. Who or what is to blame? The climate?
As has been pointed out here repeatedly, the globe has cooled since 2001 and the PDO has shifted to a cooler eastern Pacific. That means the Pacific coast of N. America has been doubly cooled. Has that reduced fire size and intensity? Heck no. 2008 has been the worst fire season in CA state history.
It’s the fuels…

October 15, 2008 5:28 pm

I thought Global Warming was real! I heard that we would all baste in our body fat by 2012!! I read the world was on the verge of being destroyed by manmade heat pollution!!! I weep at the thought that the poor polar bears are drowniiiiiing!!!! God, sorry, Allah help us atone our sins!
Even with irreproachable proof that the world is cooling econuts sail resolutely on, unphased and undaunted, lying through their teeth about global warming aided and abetted by the Mainstream Media.

October 16, 2008 12:37 pm

What may be physically unrelated but still interesting is the correlation between the increase to Northern Hemisphere glaciations and the failure of the start of Sunspot Cycle 24. We are presently in sun spot minimum. A new suns spot cycle should have started months ago. Presently the sun is very inactive and outside all predictive models of sun spot behavior. Sun Spot Cycles have been attributed to climate changes in the past. For example the Little Ice Age was during a prolong period of suns spot inactivity. Especially during the Maunder Minimum, from 1645 to 1715, sunspots became exceedingly rare and temperatures dipped which coincided with the middle and coldest part of the Little Ice Age. Continued observations should be fruitful to deduce any sun spot related Earth climate influence.

October 17, 2008 9:50 am

Fire does have a lot to do with Climate. It just depends on the locale.
Large fires required sustained drying of the fuels over a season and a supression of smaller fires in the years leading up to the large fires.
Very large fire complexes require sustained drought and very warm temperatures compared to the previous years’ weather.
The very lush forests along the Olympic Peninsula and the BC Coast have some of the largest fuel loads in the world, yet rarely burn due to moist, cool conditions most years.
Alaska forests are much the same way. Most are wet, moist, and cool, with lots of scrub ladder fuels and taller evergreens. For a large fire to get going along the coast near the Gulf of Alaska requires a long warm summer or a series of them.
OTOh, fires are common in the intermountain west and California and on the Great Plains due to the long, hot, dry summers.

Ron de Haan
October 18, 2008 12:15 am

The advance of glaciers contain an important message: prepare for survival.
It’s interesting how the discussion about the advancing glaciers in Alaska brings us to wild fires.
In this regard I would recommend a short visit to the NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY website where you have the opportunity to select “fires” observed from space.
For me it was a most humbling experience to observe the immense scale and frequency of events.
(Besides the fires, stunning pictures from dust storms, volcano’s, storms, floods, the growth of algae that color the oceans blue green in spring, fantastic.)
Hardly ever mentioned besides the wild fires, the story of open coal fires, the biggest in China covering an area of thousands of miles, burning for thousands of years, see:
Besides the land based volcano’s the ocean floors are covered by about 3 million submarine volcanoes, 39,000 of which rise more than 1000 meters over the sea bed.
Many of them exchanging energy between the earth core and the oceans.
Remark: It is very interesting that during a cold period there seems to be a rise in earth quake and volcanic activity as well as severe weather events?
Really unbelievable human kind is panicking about a bit of human induced CO2.
(If yo visit the website, also have a look at the beautiful pictures made from Greenland last april)
There is NO FIRE in the world that will stop our dominating sun from cooling our planet when it’s in a minimum and for the time to come it looks the glaciers will advance.
We can only make it worse.
Hopefully the signal of advancing glaciers is understood by our world leaders so proper preparations can be made.
We have to adapt our agricultural infrastructure, secure our food supplies (2-3 years of supplies minimum), take care of sufficient reliable energy generation (forget about wind, solar and hydro electric and forget about bio fuels).
Since the global warming theory is buried by ice, coal and oil will do until we find something better.

October 18, 2008 9:53 am

it just forecast isn’t it..?

October 18, 2008 4:30 pm

“Global Warming” = http:/ = funding for world government!
Thats the plan and the reason for the global warming lie!

October 20, 2008 6:03 pm

[…] only that, but the glaciers in Alaska are growing: Two hundred years of glacial shrinkage in Alaska, and then came the winter and summer of […]

%d bloggers like this: