The Hubbard Glacier defies ‘climate change’ – continues to grow

Hubbard Glacier could permanently dam the entrance to Russell Fiord in as little as 10 years
hubbard_frontFrom NOAA Earth Observatory: Since measurements began in 1895, Alaska’s Hubbard Glacier has been thickening and steadily advancing into Disenchantment Bay. The advance runs counter to so many thinning and retreating glaciers nearby in Alaska and around the world.


The image above, acquired by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, shows Hubbard Glacier on July 22, 2014. The image shows a close-up of the glacier’s terminus on that day. Yellow lines indicate the location of the terminus on August 1, 1978, and on July 13, 2002.

According to Leigh Stearns, a glaciologist at the University of Kansas, Hubbard’s advance is due to its large accumulation area; the glacier’s catchment basin extends far into the Saint Elias Mountains. Snow that falls in the basin either melts or flows down to the terminus, causing Hubbard to steadily grow. In addition, Hubbard is building up a large moraine, shoveling sediment, rock, and other debris from Earth’s surface onto the glacier’s leading edge. The moraine at the front gives the glacier stability and allows it to advance more easily because the ice does not need to be as thick to stay grounded. (If it is thin, it can start floating and will not necessarily advance.)

Twice in the past hundred years—in 1986 and again in 2002—the moraine has made contact with Gilbert Point and blocked the entrance to Russell Fjord. With nowhere to drain, runoff caused the water level in the fjord to rise rapidly.

The image below, acquired on July 13, 2002 by the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus on Landsat 7, shows the glacier the last time that it sealed the fjord. Water levels to rose 0.24 meters (0.8 feet) per day. However, the closure was temporary, as water pressure overpowered the encroaching ice and debris and burst through the natural dam, returning the fjord to normal levels.

Image acquired July 13, 2002 download large image (4 MB, JPEG, 2250×2250)

In 2002, Stearns was attending a glaciology conference in nearby Yakutat, Alaska, a town that depends on Russell Fjord’s marine life. “Understanding Hubbard’s behavior is scientifically interesting,” Stearns said, “but it also has immediate consequences for the town of Yakutat.”

Those consequences provoked her to investigate what controls the terminus position and its advance, and to estimate when the fjord might become permanently blocked. The findings, recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research, explain how the mechanics at the terminus override the influence of other climate fluctuations.

One estimate suggests that the fjord could permanently close by 2025. But Hubbard’s terminus is nearly 14 kilometers (9 miles) wide, and does not advance at the same rate across its entire width. The region adjacent to Gilbert Point, where the closure would occur, advances more slowly because seawater passing through the gap constantly erodes the ice. Based on the current rate of advance at the gap, Stearns estimated that closure could occur by 2043. Stearns cautions, however, that these closure dates are “projections based on our current observations, and should be viewed with skepticism.”

References and Related Reading

Stearns, L.A. et al. (2015) Glaciological and marine geological controls on terminus dynamics of Hubbard Glacier, southeast Alaska. Journal of Geophysical Research, Earth Surface, 120.

U.S. Geological Survey (2010, December) Hubberd Glacier, Alaska.

U.S. Geological Survey (2002, June 18) Advancing Glacier Coming Close to Blocking Fiord Near Yakutat, Alaska.

Credits: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens and Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and Hubbard Glacier data provided by Marcy Davis of The University of Texas at Austin. Caption by Kathryn Hansen.


84 thoughts on “The Hubbard Glacier defies ‘climate change’ – continues to grow

    • “Projections”, so loved by CAGW, could be abbreviated to PCP’s or “probably crap predictions”.

      • Based on the current rate of advance at the gap, Stearns estimated that closure could occur by 2043. Stearns cautions, however, that these closure dates are “projections based on our current observations, and should be viewed with skepticism.”

        Based on the current rate of advance at the gap, Stearns estimated that closure could occur by 2043. Stearns cautions, however, that these closure dates are “projections based on our current observations, and should be viewed with DENIAL.”

        I think changing the last word follows their meme better considering how skeptics are viewed

      • Of course. It must be melting more at the top and running downhill, plus the extra humidity in the super-warm air causes more snow on the glacier. Wait for the warmies to actually argue that one, lacking the self-awareness to realise that they’re arguing the exact opposite behaviour on “retreating” glaciers.

        (Speaking of which, I visited the glaciers in NZ, which are retreating alarmingly. Not surprising – that part of NZ gets past 25C in summer which tends to have an effect on ice! Anyhow, for all the warnings about “proof of climate change” you look at where it was in 1850. The thing has been going backwards from the moment pakeha looked at it, and is no faster or slower now.

    • My reaction too. Rather than mark it, I think they expect us to realise that the picture is “now”. ergo the white rippled area ahead (downstream/to the left) of the 2002 line, is where the ice is now.

    • My reaction too. Rather than mark it, I think they expect us to realise that the picture is “now”. ergo the white rippled area ahead (downstream/to the left) of the 2002 line, is where the ice is now.

    • From the paragraph immediately below the image:

      The image above, acquired by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, shows Hubbard Glacier on July 22, 2014.

  1. Oh-oh, she forgot to mention the magic words “climate change”, No funding for you!

  2. I was on a cruise to this glacier in 2008 and we were told it was GROWING at 22 feet/day and that future cruises may be shortly banned from entering the bay due to the danger of the gap closing then breaking down, causing dangerous water flows.

    I cannot verify that this was an official growth rate. It’s a magnificent sight in any case. If you are ever there take a camera with a panoramic function as it is very wide.

    • I was trying to think of any nails left to be driven home in this coffin this morning. Global temperature is “resting” (see Monty python dead parrot sketch). No trends in severe weather. Polar bears fine. With CO2 rising weve seen a general greening of the planet and record harvests. Global sea ice back to normal.

      I suspect the last possible thing alarmists can cite will be long-term land-locked ice (still responding to little ice-age).

  3. “steadily advancing into Disenchantment Bay.” Gaia is using the only language at her disposal. She is pouring herself into Disenchantment Bay. She is going home, to die. One weeps for humanity.

    • I’m sure some friendly climate scientists will start drilling through it at the points where their models say it should be collapsing in an effort to discover why it isn’t collapsing at that point. And, naturally, they will find that a collapse is imminent, but they need to drill more holes so they can observe the collapse to better understand global warming.

  4. /sarc
    Well, it’s proof of warming, of course : in this polar area it doesn’t meld ice, but it makes ice more fluid and advance quicker (instead of sticking to mountain flanks), hence the grow.

  5. I saw the glacier during a 2012 cruise. The seal who gave birth on a small chunk of ice right before our eyes did not seem too surprised that the glacier had not melted away. Alas, her grandchildren will simply not know what ice is.

    On another note, when the authors used the phrase “should be viewed with skepticism “, did they use the “sk” word deliberately? It almost seems like they were poking a stick at the settled science crowd. What do you think?

  6. let’s anticipate the alarmists response to this “dead parrot resting”:

    “This is all to be expected as when glaciers melt, they speed up and so this is why its advancing and getting thicker…”

    • Yes, the glacier is gliding downhill on a lubricating film of liquid water, presumably from melted ice. Although the temperature of the water was not checked, it should be noted that water exists in liquid form from 32 all the way up to 212 degrees F.

      • ED …

        “… presumably from melted ice.”

        Because glaciologists don’t know the difference between ‘gliding downhill’ and ‘growing.’ Thank goodness ED is here to correct them.


    • The ‘formal’ excuse is that melting surface water reaches the base of the glacier through moulins and lubricates the flow causing the glacier to advance and thin. Both of these things are bad in the dyspeptic world of alarmism.

    • I believe proper form by the stasi is to use a battering ram for knocking and flash bag grenades to neutralize babies. And don’t forget shooting the dogs.

  7. Headline , dramatic glacier growth caused by global warming threatens ‘protected environment ‘

  8. There is special Automated Laser ranging system set up on the nearby island (Haenke Island) to monitor the proximity of the terminus of Hubbard to Gilbert Point. Hubbard advanced to within 70 m of Gilbert Point in July 2011.
    Here is the site, but the last several years I haven’t been able to see the daily updates on how close the glacier is to the point. You could monitor it in real time. This was the time of year (up until August) that it seemed to advance on a regular yearly basis. Funny that the article didn’t reference this site:

    But the recent updates aren’t recent – from the site:

    “Recent Updates
    September 16, 2013 – HUbbard Glacier Update
    Gilbert Point – The Automated Laser ranging system at Gilbert Point was replaced in late August with a new updated system. Researchers from CRREL, The National Snow and Ice Data Center (Boulder, Colorado) and the USGS Alaska Science Center (Anchorage) removed the previous laser scanning system and replaced it with an updated version of the system developed by CRREL. The previous system was dependent on a high-powered radio link to Haenke Island, which required significant power to operate. The new system utilizes a low-power two-way Iridium communication system that reduces overall power consumption and allows for increased data acquisition intervals (hourly). Furthermore, a realtime camera system has been installed at Gilbert Point to collect and transmit visible images every 3 hours and thermal images every 8 hours.
    Haenke Island – The climate station at Haenke Island is damaged beyond repair and is scheduled for replacement. Inclement weather prohibited the team from replacing the system in August but the team will return in November to bring a new modern station online. The new system will also operate on the Iridium network versus the previous GOES system.
    David C. Finnegan/CRREL
    February 7, 2012 – Laser Ranging Update
    The Laser ranging system at Gilbert Point is temporarily off-line until further notice. Due to damage which occured last summer to the power system, a temporary power solution fitted in September has failed. At the current time plans to repair the system are tenative.
    David C. Finnegan/CRREL
    Gilbert Point
    August 28, 2011 – Summer Activities
    As the summer season comes to an end and the Hubbard Glacier terminus has begun its seasonal retreat, we are busy putting the finishing touches on an exciting season of activity. Hubbard advanced to within 70 m of Gilbert Point in July and showed signs of a more advanced position within Disenchantment Bay and Russell Fjord than in previous years. In terms of a closure, the advanced position of the glacier around Gilbert Point indicates that if a closure is to occur in the future the mechanism will be significantly different than previous closures (1986, 2002).”

    The article doesn’t mention the Hubbard is the largest tidewater glacier in North America.

    • But – but if its a tidewater then how can it be advancing at the same time as the current terrifying rise in global sea level. Plus even if its not warm enough to melt it, the acid oceans should make it fizz away and disappear. (/sarc)

  9. My goodness. There is something in nature on this planet that the “experts” don’t blame on the magic molecule CO2. Who would have thunk it?

  10. The article appears to be another ‘alarmist claim’ that ice is growing and will block all ports. Do we call this ‘CAGC [cooling]?’ /sarc

    • Ah the resident troll finally chimes in from under the bridge…

      The problem with your assertion dear Warren is that the scientists here advise the reader to view their projections with “skepticism”, which is the correction way to view projections. This is totally the opposite of what the disciples of your religion tell us… “our projections/predictions/models are DATA that must be viewed as hard truth of what will come to pass.”

      And so we are presented with the difference between Science vs Religion

      • So you have the cojones to say that peer-reviewed science and all the worlds institutions of Science, which conclude AGW, are institutions of Religion, and YOU, an avowed rejecter of their findings, represent SCIENCE? Fruitcake would be a good word to describe that thinking.

      • warrenlb, please try and compose a comment that doesn’t involve the words ‘peer reviewed’. To me it just reads like ‘here is my appeal to authority’.

      • Careful, don’t poke the troll too much or he’ll fly into an incoherent spittle-flecked rage, stamp his feet -oops, too late.

      • Hmm. Then we can talk. Anthony is co-author of peer reviewed papers. I was co-author in one and working on another. Care to discuss any aspect in particular?

      • So, your criteria have now become ‘peer reviewed’ and in a ‘decent journal’. Any chance you could provide a list of ‘decent journals’?

      • Billy, Warren, et al,

        If any list is forthcoming, which I doubt, it will actually be a list of those journals that at one point in the distant past used to be “decent” but have more recently been highjacked by enviro-wackos. Just read the climate-gate emails for evidence that the peer review process is now horribly flawed in a number of formerly “decent journals”.

        Holding up “peer-review” as evidence of global warming is now just a disguised appeal to authority argument.

        It amazes me that feeble brains on the CAGW side just can’t comprehend that if one side controls the peer-review process at a journal, then only the self-serving side of the argument will ever see the light of day in that journal. Feeble brains or dishonesty–take your pick.

        I’ll throw in just one example of broken science peer review and how it manifests itself as well to support my comment further, for good measure…


      • @Boulder Skeptic

        ‘CAGW’ is a term invented by skeptics, and is not used by any scientists.

        As far as your assertions on peer review are concerned. just because there are enviro-wackos, that has nothing to do with the hundreds of professional Climate Scientists doing research and publishing. I’ve known many of them professionally, in part when my Fortune 500 employer consulted with Scientists on Climate Issues, and your claims are wildly off base.

        And if you reject peer-review as a process, then you reject the gold standard of modern day science, because the modern findings –DNA, Evolution, Plate Tectonics, etc were developed and refined via research and publication with the screen of that process. If you condemn peer review in general, you reject the modern day findings of all science, not just AGW. I believe your position is not intellectually tenable.

  11. It seems that the mini glaciers in Glacier National Park get a lot of press because they are retreating, but Hubbard doesn’t get any press, even though it’s the largest tidewater glacier in North America. Also Taku Glacier the largest glacier in the Juneau Icefield doesn’t get any press, because it is advancing.

  12. The solution is simple: CHANGE THE RECORDS.

    This has been done several times with surface temperature records and the dummies bought it.

    New headline:

    Commentary by Jeffrey Simpleton

    Climate scientist Elmer Fudd commented: “Be vewy afwaid!” …

  13. Awaiting the new discovery of the properties of ice being made more flowy by warming.

  14. That’s not what the guy on the cruise said. He said that’s all from climate change and then looked all spiritual in his eyes.

  15. Similar to Hubbard glacier is Brüggen Glacier in Chile in the southern hemisphere.

    From Wikipedia:

    Brüggen Glacier, also known as Pío XI Glacier, is in southern Chile and is the largest western outflow from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Now about 66 km (41 mi) in length, it is the longest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica.

    This glacier is also advancing – Ref:

  16. “While the majority of tidewater glaciers in Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska are retreating, some are advancing. Hubbard Glacier, located in southeast Alaska, has an intriguing history; it retreated during the Little Ice Age when neighboring glaciers advanced and is currently advancing while neighboring glaciers recede [Barclay et al., 2001; Trabant et al., 2003; McNabb and Hock, 2014]. While Hubbard Glacier may behave independently of climate trends [Trabant et al., 1991], its flow dynamics suggest a strong correlation with seasonal forcings.”

  17. Believe some of the worrisome shrinking glaciers are advancing again, but we don’t get the clarion reports on it like we did when they were melting back. The last “published” data on glacial mass balances was in 2011 when things were going their way.

      • I looked at the list of WGMS glaciers (the last 3 reports) included in the total glacial mass balances. They don’t include Hubbard Glacier, Alaska, Brüggen Glacier in Chile, (largest tidewater glaciers in the NH and SH), Peterman Glacier in Greenland. They do include Taku Glacier. The glaciers they include in their total mass balances are very limited.

        I would like to see a list of the largest tidewater glaciers in the northern and southern hemispheres which have been advancing or retreating and their total mass (length, depth and area). This would include Antarctica, Greenland, Arctic islands, South America and Alaska.

        There needs to be a more comprehensive monitoring of “all” glaciers of the globe. And isn’t Antarctica itself a giant glacier? There are reports that its total mass is increasing. (There are also reports that it is loosing mass). Which is it? Antarctica has approximately 95% of all the freshwater ice in the entire globe…

  18. No need for “the warmist” to worry. If the Hubbard Glacier cuts off the Russell Fiord and its level rises then it will become the poster child for sea level rise.
    Isn’t that how climate-science-by-press-release works?

  19. The general pattern for glaciers is south facing (north facing in the southern hemisphere) glaciers are retreating, while north facing glaciers are advancing. You see this in Greenland and the Himalayas. All Antarctic glaciers outside the peninsula are north facing, so fit the general pattern.of retreat versus advance.

    Increasing atmospheric temperatures can not be the cause of this, and the cause is very likely to be global cloud reductions, and hence increased surface sunlight, which will have a much greater effect on south facing slopes than north facing, and at lower latitudes versus higher latitudes.

    West flowing, N American glaciers like Hubbard are generally in deep valleys and at high latitude, and hence will be relatively shaded, with increased sunlight having less effect than many other locations.

  20. If this were retreating, I could google “Hubbard glacier,” and the first 50 or so article hits would be duplicate commentaries on the press release about global warming/climate change. But since it is advancing…there are a few articles but mostly stuff about cruises.

  21. Can’t they just blow up Gilbert point and save the fishing industry?

    Or dig a canal to bypass Gilbert Point?

    These concerns all seem so silly.

    • I think they could. It would be money well spent compared to the billions spent on “climate Change”. Kind of like spending money to reinforce the dikes in New Orleans.

  22. @Philip Bradley
    June 22, 2015 at 5:02 pm : Okay then Philip, now that increased meridional airflow is likely causing more cloudiness in mid to high latitudes: what sort of lag time might we expect before those glaciers lengthen again? Brett

  23. Oh dear! Mr J Philip Peterson, what do dikes say when they have been reinforced? Are their clothes more fashionable? And would it be better if gays were reinforced instead? But why in New Orleans? Are those ladies somewhat special?

Comments are closed.