Researchers crack the 'Karakoram anomaly'

It’s an “anomaly”, or could it be weather~ctm

From Eurekalert

Public Release: 7-Aug-2017

Newcastle University

A summer ‘vortex’ of cold air over the Karakoram mountain range is causing the glaciers in the region to grow in spite of global warming, scientists have shown.

Publishing their findings today in Nature Climate Change, the team from Newcastle University, UK, have identified a large scale circulation system — or vortex — centred over the Karakoram, a large mountain range spanning the borders of Pakistan, India, and China.

In winter, the vortex affects the temperature over the whole 2,000 kilometre mountain range, but in the summer the vortex contracts and has an effect only over the Karakoram and western Pamir.

This induces an anomalous cooling in summer which is different to the warming seen over the rest of the Himalaya.

Co-author Professor Hayley Fowler, says this Karakoram vortex goes some way to explaining why the glaciers in this region are behaving differently to those in most other parts of the world.

“While most glaciers are retreating as a result of global warming, the glaciers of the Karakoram range in South Asia are stable or even growing,” explains Professor Fowler, Professor of Climate Change Impacts at Newcastle University.

“Most climate models suggest warming over the whole region in summer as well as in winter.

“However, our study has shown that large-scale circulation is controlling regional variability in atmospheric temperatures, with recent cooling of summer temperatures. This suggests that climate models do not reproduce this feature well.

“We don’t know how climate change will affect this circulation system and what the effect of sudden shifts might be.

“But the circulation system is currently providing a dampening effect on global warming, reducing glacial melt in the Karakoram region and any change will have a significant effect on ice melt rates, which would ultimately affect river flows in the region.”

The Karakoram anomaly

Usually, glaciers oscillate between growth and retreat.

Snow falls on the peaks and gradually compacts and turns to ice while lower down the glaciers lose ice to melting and evaporation.

If snowfall equals snowmelt, the glacier is in equilibrium but global warming has tipped the balance so that most of the world’s glaciers are shrinking.

The Karakoram anomaly was first described in 2005 and since then, scientists have been trying to determine what might be causing the expansion of glaciers in the region – which includes the world’s second largest mountain K2.

Acting like a counter-weighted temperature control, the unique summer interaction of the Karakoram vortex and the South Asian Monsoon causes temperatures in the Karakoram and Pamir to cool while those in the Central and Eastern Himalaya are warming, and vice versa.

Over recent decades, these vortex-monsoon interactions have resulted in stormier conditions over the Karakoram.

“This vortex provides an important temperature control,” explains Newcastle University’s Dr Nathan Forsythe, lead author of the study.

“It is therefore important to look at how it has changed and influenced temperature over the last century so we can better understand how a change in the system might affect future climate.

“This is of huge importance in terms of food security because of the large populations that rely on water resources from snow and ice melt from the mountainous catchments to grow their irrigated crops in the Indus Plains of the Sindh and Punjab states and provinces of Pakistan and India.”


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45 thoughts on “Researchers crack the 'Karakoram anomaly'

  1. So, if glaciers are shrinking, it’s proof of global warming.
    And if glaciers are growing – yeah, that’s proof of global warming, too.
    Yeah, I thought so.

  2. The vortex should warm and melt the glaciers quickly. This cannot happen if the vortex does not warm. Which means in this northern latitude region, there is no warming at high altitude, particularly sensitive like polar regions, to small temperature changes.

  3. Didn’t I hear that the glaciers in New Zealand were growing – they called that an anomaly too.

    • It it does not support the theory of AGW, then it is either “weather” or an “anomaly”. If it supports their cause, then it is “climate” and the “normal”. And it is perfectly OK to have more weather and anomalous events than climate or normal events, too. That just shows that climate is really driven by AGW.

  4. Vortex is the new dog.
    Why these glaciers grow? Because my vortex ate global warming.
    Reminds me of Obama´s explanation for winter record snowfalls some years ago.

  5. No matter what the purely local effects are, even if it amounts to everywhere people actually have looked, the theory of anthropogenic global warming is still correct./s

    • So if purely local events give very hot weather it is immediately identified as more proof of global warming. If a local event is very cold it is just weather. Looks like you “win” no matter what happens.

  6. Winter precipitations grow glaciers while the summer precipitations melt glaciers,
    It is a decadal oscillating see-saw, depending on such factors as the AMO, PDO or ENSO whichever happen to be the most influential in a particular geographic region.

  7. “Most climate models suggest warming over the whole region in summer as well as in winter.”
    And thats not because the people making the models don’t know this phenomenon happens, its because the models are made to scare people into thinking global warming is more of a problem than it is, to keep the grant money flowing into climate change research. The model keepers will NOT correlate their models to include this effect because it does not increase the scare value of their product, which is temperature predictions of the future.

  8. I observed considersble shrinkage of several Karakoram glaciers between 1985 and 2000. I have not been there since. I cocluded that the shrinkage was probably at least partly due to dust pollution and soot particulates arising from the increasing industrialisation of China and the Indian sub continent. The bare ice near the snouts of the glaciers where maximum retreat was taking place looked vey black.

  9. Yep, Weather is not climate.
    Weather is what happens.
    Climate is what you thought would happen.
    Variations on this confusion have led to the whole gambling industry.

  10. Most of the world’s glaciers are in Antarctica aren’t they? Does anyone know what is happening to them? I seem to remember Lord Monckton saying that they were not shrinking but that was about four years ago.

  11. The Karakoram anomaly
    Usually, glaciers oscillate between growth and retreat.

    So what is so unusual about the current oscillation from growth to retreat other than the simple fact that it is occuring at a period of warmer climate?

  12. Nice catch, CTM. Fun paper to ridicule. The basic problem is that zonal vortices of the sort postulated are ephemeral weather products from complex jet stream interactions. They don’t persist in place for a decade, not even over seasons. To argue they reappear the same way seasonally for a decade is to assert Holdrens explanation for a single cold snowy New England winter applies for a decade. And the Karakoram has seasons. So utterly illogical explanation from the gitgo.
    The fact that some Himalayan glaciers are receding while others advance is not new news. Essay Himalayan Glaciers. And that fact is just another existence proof that global climate models do not regionally downscale. Essays Last Cup of Coffee and No Bodies give other silly examples of that regionally downscaled climate model misuse for alarmist CAGW purposes.

    • “The basic problem is that zonal vortices of the sort postulated are ephemeral weather products from complex jet stream interactions. They don’t persist in place for a decade, not even over seasons.”
      Yeah, the jetstream and its high and low pressure systems are moving all over the place. It’s hard to see how a high-pressure system would be able to remain in place for a decade. If there is any evidence of such I would love to see it.
      I have heard that a high-pressure system tends to form in the Himalayan mountains quite often, but I would tend to think this is periodic not semi-permanent.
      There is the extremenly long drought in California’s past to consider when thinking about persistent weather systems. What kind of weather pattern would it take to cause a hundred-year drought?
      I think this is the high pressure system being referenced (marked):,33.86,296/loc=86.348,29.192

  13. The idea that glaciers have been retreating because of human caused warming is bunk.

    Glaciers have been observed to be shrinking since the middle of the nineteenth century, long before human-caused climate change became significant. Leclercq et al. (2011) showed that glaciers started melting around 1850 and that the rate of mass loss has remained fairly constant (about 150-400 billion tonnes of water per year according to Figure 4.12 in the IPCC AR5 report Chapter 4) from then until the present day. The world seems to have hit “peak glacier” around 1850 and the loss of glacier ice since then has added roughly 10 cm to global sea levels. link

    We have been warming out of the Little Ice Age since the middle of the nineteenth century. It’s natural variability. The deniers are the ones denying that.

    • Thanks for that factual info.
      It is incredible that the facts are so distorted and glacier history is ignored, apparently intentionally.
      It is incomprehensible that any scientist would not give the complete story and pretend that Glaciers only recently melted due to CO 2 and SUV’s

  14. This vortex just turned up?
    It has not been there till they did a study?
    Methinks, this has been going on for a long time.
    Ok! Now will it take down helicopters.
    Or cause big ships to float up Broadway.
    Guess I should what out for Wolves.

  15. “If snowfall equals snowmelt, the glacier is in equilibrium but global warming has tipped the balance so that most of the world’s glaciers are shrinking.”
    So what?
    Monbiot has it that if the glaciers melt, the rivers will stop flowing and even the Mekong will dry up. That is how childish the treatment of glaciers has been to date.
    Now what? These glaciers are growing as a ‘consequence of man-made global warming’ and the rivers will increase in volume flooding everything in between there and Vietnam? How will they put a terrifying spin on ‘normal?

  16. All tropical and temperate glaciers must melt when they reach below the summer frostline. Or the sea, everywhere. Neve supply is the tricky bit…..

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