This is Glacial Tap

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From McGill University , hmmm, where have we heard this water supply threat from receding mountain glaciers before? Children just aren’t going to know what glaciers are.

Glacial tap is open but the water will run dry

Retreating glaciers threaten water supplies

Glaciers are retreating at an unexpectedly fast rate according to research done in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca by McGill doctoral student Michel Baraer. They are currently shrinking by about one per cent a year, and that percentage is increasing steadily, according to his calculations.

But despite this accelerated glacial shrinking, for the first time, the volume of water draining from the glacier into the Rio Santa in Northern Peru has started to decrease significantly. Baraer, and collaborators Prof. Bryan Mark, at the Ohio State University, and Prof. Jeffrey McKenzie, at McGill, calculate that water levels during the dry season could decrease by as much as 30 per cent lower than they are currently. “When a glacier starts to retreat, at some point you reach a plateau and from this point onwards, you have a decrease in the discharge of melt water from the glacier,” explained Baraer.

“Where scientists once believed that they had 10 to 20 years to adapt to reduced runoff, that time is now up,” said Baraer. “For almost all the watersheds we have studied, we have good evidence that we have passed peak water.” This means that the millions of people in the region who depend on the water for electricity, agriculture and drinking water could soon face serious problems because of reduced water supplies.


Looks like we are dealing with another Lonnie Thompson clone. Here’s the handbill for a lecture on the topic, it seems this press release is a bit dated. From his Facebook page, it seems the dastardly connection to big oil is alive and well.

It’s so bad there, locals have taken to whitewashing the Andes:

Inhabitat reports:

Eduardo Gold is one of 26 people around the world to win the World Bank’s “100 Ideas to Save the Planet” contest and his dream is to bring back Peru’s glaciers from the effects of global warming. Mr. Gold is not a scientist — though some might think he’s a genius, others that he’s got a couple of screws loose — but he’s using the cash prize from the contest to whitewash three mountains just west of Ayacucho, Peru in hopes of bringing back melted glaciers that once hung there, high above the village of Licapa. In the past two weeks he and his team of four men have used a mixture of lime, egg whites and water to turn the Chalon Sombrero peak white. They’ve successfully whitewashed two hectares in the past two weeks and they’ve only got 68 more to go.

The USGS reports that it is a volatile area, so volatile in fact that large engineering projects have been put in place to mitigate aluviónes  (glacial floods). Wikipedia has this entry:

During the dry season from June to November, the Santa River provides only a little water for irrigation, drinking water and hydroelectric power. A couple of water reservoirs have been established to control the fluctuation of the river. Upstream of the hydroelectric power plant of Huallanca, the Río Santa watershed covers an area of 4,900 km², downstream another 7,300 km².

I wonder how much effect these might have had? No mention in the McGill press release. Here’s USGS take on the area From Feb 1999. There’s no mention of “climate change”.


Glacier Hazards

Since 1702, more than 22 catastrophic events have resulted from ice avalanches that have caused outburst floods from glacier lakes. The floods, known in Perú as aluviónes, come with little or no warning and are composed of liquid mud that generally transports large rock boulders and blocks of ice. The floods have destroyed a number of towns, and many lives have been lost (table 4). One of the hardest hit areas has been the Río Santa valley in northern Perú (fig. 11). Of these catastrophes, the most serious were the aluviónes that destroyed part of the city of Huaraz in 1725 and 1941, as well as the aluvión that resulted from the failure of Lago Jancarurish in 1950. In addition, two destructive, high-speed avalanches from the summit area of Huascarán Norte (6,655 m asl) in 1962 and 1970 destroyed several villages and caused the deaths of more than 25,000 inhabitants. Reports of these catastrophic glacier-related events include those by Morales Arnao, B., (1966, 1971), Chiglino (1950, 1971), Lliboutry (1975), Plafker and Ericksen (1978), and Hofmann and others (1983). Figures 6 and 12 give some idea of the effect of the Huascarán avalanches. Figure 13 shows the 1951 flood from Lago Artesoncocha into Lago Parón.

Figure 11.–The locations of the many natural disasters, glaciological in origin, that have caused deaths or property damage in the Río Santa valley of Perú since 1702. See table 4 for additional information.

Locations of  glaciological disasters, Rio Santa valley

Table 4.–Natural disasters in Perú that were glaciological in origin (see fig. 11)

No. Cordillera Area Description Date
1 Blanca Huaraz Floods destroyed part of the city of Huaraz. 4 March 1702
2 Blanca Huaraz Earthquake, ice avalanche, and floods damaged the city of Huaraz. Approximately 1,500 people were reported missing; only 300 people were left alive. 6 January 1725
3 Blanca Yungay Avalanche from Nevados Huandoy. Floods destroyed the town of Ancash, and 1,500 people were reported to have perished. At the same time, an earthquake also took place. 6 January 1725
4 Blanca Huaraz Slides and floods affected the village of Monterrey, destroying houses and fields; 11 people missing. 10 February 1869
5 Blanca Huaraz Flood in the town of Macashca. Many people were reported to have died. Rajucolla levee was broken. 24 June 1883
6 Blanca Yungay Ice avalanche from Huascarán impacted Shacsha and Ranrahirca. 22 January 1917
7 Huayhuash Bolognesi Aluvión from Lago Solteracocha in the Pacllón basin. 14 March 1932
8 Blanca Carhuaz Aluvión from Lago Arteza (Pacliashcocha) into the Quebrada Ulta (Río Buin) near Carhuaz (Kinzl, 1940). 20 January 1938
9 Blanca Pallasca Aluvión from Lago Magistral affected the town of Conchucos. 1938
10 Huayhuash Bolognesi Aluvión from Lago Suerococha impacted Río Pativilca causing damage to agricultural fields and town of Sarapo. 20 April 1941
11 Blanca Huaraz Aluvión from Lago Palcacocha damaged the city of Huaraz. Approximately 5,000

people died. The new part of the city was destroyed.

13 December 1941
12 Blanca Huari Aluvión from Lagos Ayhuinaraju and Carhuacocha caused by an ice avalanche from the Huantsan peak damaged the town of Chavín. Many people died. 17 January 1945
13 Blanca Huaylas Aluvión from Lago Jancarurish above the Los Cedros drainage basin. Destruction of the Central Hidroeléctrica del Cañón del Pato, the highway, and part of the railway from Chimbote to Huallanca. 20 October 1950
14 Blanca Huaylas Aluvión from Lago Artesoncocha into Lago Parón (two events). 16 June and 28 October 1951
15 Blanca Huaraz Aluvión from Lago Milluacochan into the Quebrada Ishinca drainage basin. 6 November 1952
16 Blanca Huaraz Slides and flood from Lago Tullparaju affected Huaraz city. 8 December 1959
17 Blanca Yungay Avalanches and aluviónes from Huascarán Norte. About 4,000 people died; 9 towns were destroyed, one of which was Ranrahirca (Dollfus and Peñaherrera del Aguila, 1962; Morales Arnao, 1962). 10 January 1962
18 Blanca Huari Ice avalanche from Nevado San Juan above Lago Tumarina (Quebrada Carhuascancha, Huantar District); 10 people died in Chavín. 19 December 1965
19 Blanca Yungay Rock and ice avalanche from Huascarán Norte severely affected the city of Yungay. Approximately 23,000 people died. The same day another avalanche took place between Lagunas Llanganuco. 31 May 1970
20 Blanca Huaraz Small avalanche from Tocllaraju near Paltay into Lago Milluacocha. 31 August 1982
21 Blanca Yungay Small ice avalanche from Huascarán Norte reached the Ranrahirca fan. 16 December 1987
22 Blanca Yungay Small ice avalanche from Huascarán Norte reached the Río Santa. 20 January 1989

Figure 12.–Sketch map and profile of the area affected by the 1962 and 1970 aluviónes from Huascarán Norte in the Cordillera Blanca (modified from Plafker and Ericksen, 1978). See also figure 6.

Sketch map and profile, alluviones from Huascaran Norte

Figure 13.–Flood from Lago Artesoncocha (1951) into Lago Parón in the Cordillera Blanca near Caraz.

Flood from Lago Artesoncocha

These catastrophes influenced the Government of Perú to establish an Oficina de Obras Seguridad (Security Works Office) to prevent or mitigate avalanches and floods from glacial lakes. Several glacial lakes have been drained by using two traditional methods, the first by excavating a channel through the morainic dam and the second by building tunnels through the moraine. Where the first method is employed, a channel through the top of the moraine is gradually and carefully excavated so that the water behind the dam is allowed to drain safely through the channel and into the stream below. When the water is drained to the desired level, a permanent concrete drainage pipe is constructed within the moraine. Next, the moraine is rebuilt to its original level by using compacted earth, which is covered in turn by rock and concrete. The permanent outlet provides drainage and a normally low water level, whereas the dam provides protection in case of avalanches and floods. The second method digs or drills tunnels through the morainic dams or surrounding rock; the tunnels are left open to prevent the glacier lakes from forming in the future. In both methods, great care must be taken to prevent uncontrolled drainage of the lake because of the possibility of catastrophic flooding. Construction is difficult because most sites are situated at elevations of 4,000 m or higher.

The first method was used successfully on Lago Llaca and Lago Shallap above Huaraz and on Lago Hualcacocha above Carhuaz (figs. 3, 14). The second method was used on the moraines of Lago Tullparaju above Huaraz and Lago Safuna, northwest of Nevados Pucahirca, and in the drilling of the Parón Tunnel above Caraz through granitic rock 50 m below the water surface, as well as the tunnels on 513 lakes above Carhuaz (fig. 3).

Drainage outlet, Lago Hualcacocha
Figure 14.–Construction of a drainage outlet for Lago Hualcacocha above Carhuaz to prevent catastrophic outburst floods.

A, First, a channel is carefully excavated through the morainic dam, and a permanent concrete drainage pipe is constructed within the moraine.

B, Second, a channel is built to drain the water safely to the stream below.

C, Third, the moraine is rebuilt to its original level by using compacted earth, and this is covered by rock and concrete. The permanent outlet provides drainage, and the dam provides protection in case of ice avalanches or morainic rock slides.

After more than 30 years of continuous work, the program appears to be successful because no destructive floods resulting from the breakout of glacial lakes have occurred in the Cordillera Blanca since 1972.


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“and that percentage is increasing steadily, according to his calculations.”
“according to his calculations”
Please show your work !!! (as my high school math teachers would always say !!)


Generally glaciers tend to be more a reflection of precipitation than temperature. When you see glaciers retreating it is often due to a lack of snow in winter and sometimes an increase in rain in summer.


If you are dependent upon water from glaciers, then you are dependent on shrinking glaciers.
Don’t complain when they shrink, complain when they stop shrinking.

Keith Battye

As a man who has considerable experience in hydrology, dam design and construction and water management let me state the necessary facts . . .
1. Run off is a function of precipitation and catchment area.
2. Glaciers act as dams/reservoirs that delay run off but don’t actually generate river flow per se.
3. The further downstream from the glacier one goes the smaller the proportion of the river flow is generated by the melting glaciers.
4. The growth and shrinkage of glaciers is a function of precipitation and temperature.
I would be very interested in knowing what the flow rates are at the foot of the glacier. My guess is that the flow is not terribly significant compared to that from normal rainfall in the larger/lower catchment area.


Most of the water needs of the communities to which the glaciers drain are not met by glacial melt but by the regular seasonally melting snow plus rain.
Glacial melt itself is a complex function of albedo, air and surface temperatures from the tongue upwards into the higher elevation, interaction with runoff and the rockbed, exposure to wind, melting by and freezing of rain and a variety of consequences of snowfall (compacting, icyfication, filling in of crags, avalanches etc):

Phillip Bratby

Keith Battye. You old skeptic you. You don’t get a PhD and future funding unless you predict dire consequences.

Phillip Bratby

“A couple of screws loose” is the correct answer.

Skeptic Tank

If, instead, temperate glaciers were advancing and covering populated areas, what would we do? Attempt to terra-form the planet with increased CO2 output … or move?

I’m not sure how the idea that glaciers contribute to water resources has got about but the idea is completely false. The equation on which all hydrology is based is:
Runoff = Precipitation – Evaporation – Increase_in_storage.
‘Storage’ can be in soils, aquifers, snow, glaciers, etc.
If glaciers are stable, they contribute nothing to flow: if increasing to a reduction in flow: if shrinking to an increase in flow.
There are of course secondary factors: a white glacier reflects more heat than bare earth. There can also be a change in the annual distribution of flow; without winter snow and a spring melt more of the runoff will be in winter rather than in spring or summer. Overall though, the effect on total runoff will be minimal.

lmao, so they drained glacial lakes, and now they’re concerned they might run out of water……. 😐
I’d laugh and point, but I don’t have enough index fingers for this beautiful piece of idiocy.

Honest ABE

Okay, let’s say you have a 100 ton glacier (tiny!), and it is melting at a rate of exactly 1 ton per year (1%). Next year it is 99 tons it melts off another ton which is 1.01% of its mass. Mein gott! It is accelerating!
I hate it when people play games with percentages.
In any case, as glaciers get smaller, which they have been since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) ended, they will have more surface area to their volume, which would make any sort of ablation look like it is “accelerating” even when the conditions are exactly the same.

Hector M.

The Andean glaciers are certainly retreating, but they are retreating since the most recent glacial maximum attained in 1680-1730 (date varies by latitude from South to North). But Andean glaciers represent a minuscule proportion of the area covered by the Andean ranges: their typical total area is less than 1 square km: vastly more rain falls on the surrounding rocks than on the peaks where it is likely to freeze. The total amount of water frozen in Andean glaciers is not likely to rise the sea level perceptibly in case it completely melts.
On the other hand, the impact of such melting on Andean crops is not significant. In the Alps or the Himalayas snow and rain fall copiously in the winter, and melt away during spring and summer thus providing water for crops downstream. In the tropical Andes of Peru and Bolivia (and Northern Argentina and Chile) the opposite is true: rainfall falls in the (Southern Hemisphere) summer (from October- November to March-April), with a dry or nearly dry winter season extending from April to October. Rain falling upon the mountains is more likely to freeze in winter (at any rate, it is likely to freeze at lower elevations during winter), but little rain falls on the Andes during winter. Crops are typically planted in November and harvested not later than April. No Andean crops are grown from April to November, and anyway any melting of glaciers would happen during summer, and water that failed to melt in summer is unlikely to melt in winter.
The current wave on secular retraction of glaciers since around 1700 may cause some lower-elevation glaciers to disappear, of course: the Equilibrium Line Altitude (ELA) has increased by about 300 meters since around 1700 (see refs), and is generally at about 4500 meters above sea level (masl), and therefore glaciers situated in mountains not reaching higher than 4500 masl are likely to lose their glaciers, while higher peaks are likely to see theirs reduced. Recent global warming may have slightly accelerated the rate of retraction, but curves covering 4 centuries suggest the acceleration has been small, and noticeable only in Bolivia (where the ELA is lower due to higher latitude S).
The main consequence to be taken care of is the occasional formation of proglacial lakes in some of the melting glaciers. Several such lakes (mostly quite small) have been formed during recent decades. Those lakes may undergo ruptures and bursts with potentially harmful consequences (avalanches). To prevent that, at least 35 proglacial lakes in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru have been already been protected with dykes and other reinforcements, and other such works are underway (see Some of the water in those lakes is now also used for irrigation downstream.
At those altitudes (around 4000 meters above sea level) every 100m of additional elevation decrease temperatures by about 1°C, This has the important effect of displacing upwards the limits of agro-ecological zones, thus permitting crops to be planted at higher altitudes. This is already visible in Bolivia, where large swaths of the High Plateau (typically 3700-4200 masl) now receive more rainfall than 30-50 years ago, and have fewer frost days in summer, thus enabling formerly natural grazing land to be planted with alfalfa for sheep or with quinoa for export as well as other crops such as barley. Natural pasture has also improved, especially at the yearly minimum (around September, before the rains) where animal-holding capacity was at its lowest. The same effect is starting to show in the continuation of the High Plateau in Southern Peru, north of Lake Titicaca. All in all, a tendency towards warmer and wetter climate (with smaller glaciers) is likely to be good for agriculture at high altitude.
Some recent references on Andean glaciers’ long term variability:
Jomelli, Vincent; Vincent Favier, Antoine Rabatel, Daniel Brunstein, Georg Hoffmann & Bernard Francou, 2009. Fluctuations of glaciers in the tropical Andes over the last millennium and palaeoclimatic implications: A review. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2008.10.033.
Solomina, Olga, Vincent Jomelli, Georg Kaser, Alcides Ames, Bernhard Berger & Bernard Pouyaud, 2007. Li¬ch¬enometry in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru: “Little Ice Age” moraine chronology. Global and Planetary Chan¬ge 59(1-4):225-235.

Steve from Rockwood

McGill University. A good friend of mine teaches there. The last time I had a beer with him he complained that students aren’t interested in geology any more. They want to study environmental science or become GIS desk jockeys. I wanted to hire one of his geology students – he didn’t have any. For three years running.
Carleton University. Another good Canadian University. Some of the students are starting to wonder about environmental science. We interviewed someone who can’t find an environmental job (not even in the Government). Thinking about migrating over to mining. Moving over to the dark side. We’re sponsoring the NSERC application for a MSc thesis. The smart ones always go first. I’ve hired 4 of them since 2004. Two of them now work in the mining industry pulling in $100,000 + a year. That’s a lot of carbon.
White washing the mountains. The irony is killing me. First the IPCC reports and now this? You can’t make this stuff up.

Very interesting article. The following piece is closely related, as some days ago someone elsewhere quoted this piece from Sceptical Science;
It was regarding the disappearance due to ‘global warming’ of the Chacaltaya glacier in Bolivia.
I pointed out that glaciers had been melting for hundreds of years-generally from around 1750-with some further advances in the early 1800’s.
In 1940 this glacier was already only .22km squared and I asked for evidence that it was the 18000 years old that has been quoted.
Professor Anderson wrote this article and I said I would follow the references up, which I have now done
The glacier has only been monitored since the 1990’s although there is a well respected observatory on top of the mountain, established in the 1940’s
I have examined a number of articles;
this is a small extract from it (pay wall)
This about Andes glaciers in general;’
and this very detailed account;
My surmise is that Chacaltaya was a fragmentary glacier that advanced during the LIA and has now reverted to being one of the fluctuating smaller ice packs that have occurred since the MWP.
This fluctuation is thought to be due to lack of precipitation not high temperatures.
Professor Anderson, who works in La Paz as an economist writing and advising on various topics including deforestation, has given me permission to quote our email exchange-my email first
“Good evening Professor Andersen
I was interested to read your article here concerning the Chacaltaya glacier
I am a climate change historian in the UK who lives very close geographically to the Hadley Centre who you cite in this article. Indeed I spent several days at their archives recently researching my latest article where I reconstruct Central England temperatures to 1538
In it I cite the decline and advance of a number of glaciers around the world to support my hypothesis that temperatures have been generally rising since the start of the Instrumental record in 1659.
I was interested in your article as it sounds to be a similar situation to Mount Kilimanjaro whereby AGW is blamed when the cause of the melting seems to lie elsewhere.
My question to you is if you had been able to authenticate that the glacier was 18000 years old as claimed? Many glaciers seem to come and go over the years especially when they are relatively small and I wondered if this one fell into this category?”
This is her reply;
Dear Tony,
Thank you for your e-mail. I can see you have become as fascinated by the topic as I have.
To answer your question: No, there is no way to verify that the Chacaltaya was 18000 years old. I certainly haven’t claimed it to be, and I am pretty sure you are right that it falls into the category of small glaciers coming and going depending on natural variations in temperatures, precipitation and cloud cover. This is especially so because it is a tropical glacier in an area where all precipitation falls in summer, while the sun is blazing from a clear blue sky all winter. This makes the glacier inherently unstable. Unlike Nordic glaciers, for example, which can accumulate mass in winter and lose it in summer, thus theoretically maintaining some kind of long run equilibrium, these tropical glaciers cannot accumulate mass in winter, as there is no precipitation. Rather, they are bound to lose mass during winter due to the lack of protective cloud cover. Thus, they can only gain mass if there are many consecutive summers of unusually cold, wet and cloudy weather. This evidently happens from time to time, but I think Chacaltaya is a prime example of the category you mention.
Best regards,
Lykke E. Andersen, PhD
Scientific Manager
Conservación Internacional Bolivia
Calacoto, calle 13, nº 8008
La Paz, Bolivia”
As an aside it seems that the observatory appears to be seeking a new role as can be seen by this from their web site. I thought the reference to cosmic rays especially interesting bearing in mind the interest in Svensmark’s work.
This from the research station at the top of the Chacaltaya glacier
“1952: The Cosmic Ray Laboratory is officially created, as a branch of La Paz University
• 1950- today: Several joint experiments (USA, Italy, Japan, Brazil,UK, …) are carried out at MCL with important contributions to Cosmic Ray Physics
• Health research at high altitude was performed by international teams
• The “competition” of particle accelerators (since 60’s) and satellite born instruments decreased the relevance of MCL in elementary particles research.
• At present, some old experiments continue in operation and an important new one is being carried out, linked to the Auger project (LAGO = Large Aperture Grb Observation
later on in the article;We propose the MCL as a new international center for climate change observations, with the aim of:
• hosting and operating instruments for atmospheric research
• developing agreements for carrying out jointprojects at MCL in the area of climate research.
• integrating international networks for climate change research, like SHARE and GAW
We suggest for the new commitment the “explosive” name of C-4: Chacaltaya Climate Change Center”
Precipitation is a vital element in glacier formation and disappearance and I think we are too quick to point to rising temperatures as the cause of melting.

But will they all be gone by 2035?

Hector M.

Entirely concur with climatereason. It is precipitation more than temperature that affects variation in tropical Andean glaciers.
It is interesting to note, by the by, that AR4 ensemble projections foresees an increase in summer (and annual) precipitation over the tropical Andes (). and Notice that these AR4 figures are drawn in terms of percentage change in precipitation, which is misleading because any decrease or increase during the dry season, even if by a significant percentage such as 30%, is not likely to be important at all, because little rain falls during the dry season anyway; no figure with the corresponding amount of projected change in rainfall, measured in mm/yr or mm/mo, was published by AR in this context or for this region).


I assume you were fishing for this Anthony.
This is Spinal Tap:


Hahaha, I live just upstream from a glacially excavated lake 4 miles long and 288 ft. deep. Somehow it stays full year round, even though there are now almost no glaciers in the whole of the ~12 mile long drainage basins south – but there is some year round snow now returning to the mountains south. The lake is somewhat unique in that it has a “terminal moraine” at its north end where it drains and has an about 15 ft. dam there to increase water storage for irrigation and to create a little control of the lake’s level for tourism season. But the other moraines to the east and west elevate another 700 ft higher along its length. So the lake’s depth could be increased pretty easily probably by another 100 ft., you know, by building something called a “higher dam”. Of course, this elevation would wipe out my house and about a 1/4 mile? long amount of “Wilderness” to the south. But, hey, anything to prevent “the destruction of creation”, right? [Hansen]
There are also many “caldera” lakes and high “hanging meadows” higher up in the Wilderness which somewhat resemble that ‘frightening’ wikipedia picture above.
Anyway, my fellow Climate Refugees, “Run for it now, before it’s too late!”

Martin Brumby

“and that percentage is increasing steadily, according to his calculations.”
In plain English that should be “according to a computer model with no predictive validity, based on dodgy and cherry picked, adjusted and homogenised data and on an incompetent statistical analysis.”
But hey! That’ll put plently of Grant money on the table!


Tropical glaciers are a proxy for ITCZ and monsoon derived precipitation. Shrinking tropical glaciers mean less precip due to convergence of mT with cT air masses. Less such convergence may imply lower interior temperatures in tropical and semi tropical continental interiors, and, lower energy levels within the Trade Winds. Seems like all of this is an indicator of long term cooling.

“Children just aren’t going to know what glaciers are,” writes Anthony. Triffic, an allusion to Dr. David “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is” Viner’s classic.
Maybe this’ll enter the language like “….gate” has. How about: Children just aren’t going to know what a beach is, what coral is, what birdsong is, what…


“In the past two weeks he and his team of four men have used a mixture of lime, egg whites and water to turn the Chalon Sombrero peak white. ”
I wonder what would have happened if an oil company had done that? Smeared the countryside with egg and lime? Greenpeace and WWF would be all over them. I certainly hope the egg and lime is sustainable.
May I come up with an advice? Magnetize the stuff. That will help.

John West

Hector M. says:
“The Andean glaciers are certainly retreating, but they are retreating since the most recent glacial maximum attained in 1680-1730 ”
Hector, you must have the dates wrong. This would suggest a SH glacial maximum at about the same time as the NH temperature minimum known as the Little Ice Age. We all know the LIA was just in the NH, Mann told us so. Please adjust your dates to conform with settled science. /sarc

Whitewashing the mountains?
Better be careful – comparing satellite images before and after will make it appear there’s been growth.
And, looking at it tomorrow would not show loss. You’d see a stable field, unaffected by CAGW.

I don’t understand how the peer review process can miss the obvious: the researchers seem to just ignore history entirely.


“he and his team of four men have used a mixture of lime, egg whites and water” Unfortunately by eating the egg yolks 3 species of lizards have become extinct due to cholesterol poisoning.

Theo Goodwin

Keith Battye says:
December 20, 2011 at 9:06 am
“3. The further downstream from the glacier one goes the smaller the proportion of the river flow is generated by the melting glaciers.”
You nailed it totally, Keith. When someone claims that a shrinking glacier will eventually cause a decline in the level of the river that it feeds, you must ask them where in the river the decline will be seen. Will it be seen 100 miles down the river? 1000 miles? Does the river flow through an all year around permanent desert?
Take any major river and you will find that the river’s source contributes about 1% to the volume of water found in the river a few hundred miles down river. Rivers are fed almost entirely by the watersheds that they flow through and not by their sources. Warmists overlook this fundamental relationship whenever they claim that loss of glaciers will mean loss of water supply down river. The relationship is so obvious that the Warmists who ignore it are either hardcore CAGW propagandists or else they are delusional. The number of glaciers whose loss means loss of water for a lot of people down river is probably nonexistent but certainly no more than 1% of glaciers.

Louis Hooffstetter

At the risk of sounding callous, There are places on this planet where people just shouldn’t try to live. Examples include the bases of glaciers, the flanks of active volcanoes, and the middle of deserts and ice caps. Sam Kinnison said it best:

Hector M.

@John West,
the dates are correct, as estimated from lichenometry and morraines by two independent set of researchers in different parts of the Andes (one predominantly French, the other mainly German). See my Jomelli reference. As Dr Michael E. Mann has famously said about MWP, warming (and cooling) was not probably synchronous around the globe. And remember that the advances and retreats of glaciers are not chiefly governed by temperatures but by precipitation, which is not perfectly correlated with temps.

Gil Dewart

Good discussion. It is also worth looking at the ice-rock interface (surface and sub-surface) and the glaciers’ internal dynamics (including such phenomena as “glacial surges”).

Hector M.

@John West:
And forgive me for ignoring your /sarc, since many people may actually think that such an argument as you sarcastically propose may be correct, so I thought a straight answer would be best.
Best wishes

Roger Knights

What’s the temperature trend in Peru? In the mountains? (I’ve read that the Southern Hemisphere hasn’t been warming.)

Gary Swift

Well, I wonder what the people who did this study would have to say about the above article:
Apparently, ice sheets have a history of both growth and retreat, even on relatively short time scales. Once again, it seems that current climate conditions are neither unprecedented nor alarming.

I did some climbing in the Huascarán area in 1971 and saw some of the devastation caused by the 1970 avalanche. The temporary tin-roof shacks still littered the countryside, a reminder of the unforgiving nature of this type of event.


“Where scientists once believed that they had 10 to 20 years to adapt to reduced runoff, that time is now up,” said Baraer. “For almost all the watersheds we have studied, we have good evidence that we have passed peak water.”
I’ve always wanted to say it, so here it is: IT’S WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT!!!
peak water omg


So let’s see, any precipitation that does happen to fall in the Andes will be made toxic by bacteria fed by egg whites?

Christopher Hanley

This is off-topic, but icy news just the same.
Attempts to reenact Mawson’s 1912 Antarctic landing have been forced to turn back due to the thick pack ice.
“I’ve never seen it like this.” was the comment of a veteran of 50 trips to Antarctica, including five to East Antarctica over 14 years:

When I the headline for this post I assumed it was a play on “This is Spinal Tap” re. Glaciergate. Perhaps not such a misapprehension as far as the science is concerned?


19 Dec: UPI: Central Asian glaciers resist warming
The mountains in and around the Himalayas are so high, unlike in the Andes, the Alps or the Rockies, that even in summer temperatures remain below freezing and most of the glaciers don’t melt away at all, Richard Armstrong, a geographer at Colorado University’s National Snow and Ice Centre, told Inter Press Service.
“It doesn’t make much difference if it gets a little warmer up there because it’s still far below zero,” he said.
In a study of a part of what is called High Asia, researchers found 96 percent of the water that flows down the mountains of Nepal into nine local river basins comes from snow and rain, and only 4 percent from summer glacier melt…
Read more:
19 Dec: UK Telegraph: Jonathan Pearlman: Cold Australian summer sees swimwear profits plummet
Australia’s coldest summer in decades has dampened the mood for Christmas shopping and led to plummeting profits for swimwear and clothing stores


Painting mountains white sounds like “sympathetic magic”. I cannot believe that albedo could be affected meaningfully on a purely local level. “The theory of sympathetic magic was first developed by Sir James George Frazer in The Golden Bough. He further subcategorised sympathetic magic into two varieties: that relying on similarity, and that relying on contact or ‘contagion’:
If we analyze the principles of thought on which magic is based, they will probably be found to resolve themselves into two: first, that like produces like, or that an effect resembles its cause; and, second, that things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed. The former principle may be called the Law of Similarity, the latter the Law of Contact or Contagion. From the first of these principles, namely the Law of Similarity, the magician infers that he can produce any effect he desires merely by imitating it: from the second he infers that whatever he does to a material object will affect equally the person with whom the object was once in contact, whether it formed part of his body or not ” From Wiki, of course. Voodoo dolls are a form of this magic.

R. de Haan

They simply don’t give up don’t they.
Unfortunately they are strong proponents of recycling.
So now we have this perpetuum mobile of climate scams.
It will only stop the moment they’re out of money.


White washing mountains… genius!
It sounds like an idea that came straight from the mouth of the Nobel Prize winning U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu…


There certainly have better not be many people depending upon the runoff from that glacier whose drainage culvert is posted above. That tiny culvert is worthy of a creek, not a river.


in the fifties i lived in glacier country about 55 miles north of Missoula Montana.
yes glaciers do melt during the winter, although at a very, very reduced rate.

Of course if we get more snow in our Warming World (as they predicted when they said, “Children won’t know what snow is.”) glaciers will obviously shrink.


Those rocks being white washed sure don’t look like they have seen any glaciation. They look more like the result of freeze-thaw fracturing on a formation experiencing active orogeny.

Hector M.

@Roger Knights:
According to the IPCC projections, the Southern Hemisphere as a whole is expected to be warming this century in its tropical section, albeit much less than the Arctic. What is actually not warming (and gaining ice) nor expected to warm, is Antarctica. IPCC sea level projections expect Antarctica to DETRACT water from the oceans (about 12 cm during the century, for a total rise averaging 34 cm across scenarios).
However, detection of temperature trends is difficult for a country such as Peru, or for that matter Bolivia. Stations are sparse, series are not long, urban effects may be large, and Peru is a large country with several climate systems (and microclimates). It is, furthermore, strongly influenced by El Niño. I do not know of recent analyses of temperature trends for the country as a whole, but there might be some. The High Plateaux in Southern Peru (and Western Bolivia) seem to be receiving more rainfall and a reduction in summer frost days, as compared with several decades back, which suggests some warming. I have not found references to similar phenomena in middle and Northern Peru, or in its Eastern (Western Amazonia) region.
Retraction of glaciers since the 18th century and more recently may be linked to some warming (rebounding from LIA) besides the effect of precipitation. However, IPCC models seem to suggest that warming in that region would entail MORE precipitation, not less. So attribution is not clear.

Rob R

I hate to throw ice in the face of several commenters but some rivers have multiple glacial sources. So the total percentage of river flow derived from glaciers can be significant in some situations. Otherwise I agree with most of the reaction to the post.

Kelvin Vaughan

Skeptic Tank says:
December 20, 2011 at 9:26 am
If, instead, temperate glaciers were advancing and covering populated areas, what would we do? Attempt to terra-form the planet with increased CO2 output … or move?
No in that case the conclusion would be that CO2 cools the planet and we must stop producing it.