The photo below I took this weekend on my way back from a station survey in the remote northestern corner of California. It shows Mount Shasta getting it’s first significant snow of this precipitation season here in California.
Our local progressive weekly recently did a story on Mount Shasta’s glaciers, which have been growing. This isn’t news, but what is news, is the conclusion that was drawn from the growth. Apparently the growth is now being viewed as a sign of “global warming” or “climate change” if you prefer. So now we have glaciers that shrink, glaciers that grow, and these both signal climate change. Thank goodness that has been cleared up.
Unfortunately, the writer and the USGS person both seem to be oblivious to the fact that glaciers are a much better proxy for precipitation than temperature, and that sublimation, not melting, is the primary agent in glacier shrinkage.
North State ice age
Global warming melts glaciers elsewhere, but not at Mount Shasta
By Christy Lochrie
This article was published on 10.09.08. Chico News and Review, here is an excerpt:
First, the good news: Mount Shasta’s seven glaciers are on the grow. The largest, Whitney Glacier, has averaged a 60-foot-a-year growth spree for the past 50 years, according to Dr. Slawek Tulaczyk, a professor of earth sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.Now, the bad news: The 14,000-foot volcano’s glacier growth isn’t a reliable canary in a mineshaft when it comes to global warming woes.
“Mount Shasta is just a local system and does not really tell us much about global warming,” Tulaczyk said in an e-mail. “Everybody should know from their own experience that weather and climate are highly variable in space and time. It is absolutely incorrect to use Mount Shasta as some kind of proof that there is no global warming.”
So what’s up with this volcanic mountain—home to lenticular clouds and, lore says, outer-space lumarians—some 130 miles north of Chico?
Why, while other glaciers are melting like sun-struck snowmen, are North State glaciers plumping?
And what does it mean in the scheme of global warming issues, even as vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin denies that emissions or other man-created factors are to blame for temperature upticks?
Ed Josberger, a researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey in Tacoma, Wash., says North State glacier growth is proof of global warming, even if, on the surface, it strikes a counterintuitive chord. Shifts in weather patterns are likely to heat some places while chilling others.
“In terms of climate change,” he said, “there’s going to be winners and losers.”
Mount Shasta glaciers have grown, in part, because they’re high enough to escape some (about 2 degrees) of the Earth’s warming trends, and the shifting weather patterns have dumped more Pacific Ocean-generated precipitation onto the mountain, explains Andrew Fountain, a geology professor at Portland State University.
Fountain likens a glacier to a bank account: It grows when there are more deposits (winter precipitation) than withdrawals (summer melt). In most of the world, sped by temperature upticks, glaciers are drawing down as melt exceeds wintertime snow and ice.
“If air temperatures continue to increase in this century, the warming will overtake the glaciers,” Fountain said.
When asked if glacier melt is cause for alarm, both Tulaczyk and Fountain say no, but add that the melt is cause for concern.
Read the entire story on the News and Review here