How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

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How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby GNP Jim » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:21 am

The following story "How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park" was recently broadcast on NBC Nightly News:

https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/vi ... 4414403601

The focus of the story was the recession of Grinnell Glacier. The NBC reporter, Anne Thompson declared: "the glacier has lost half it's size since then (1967) as we put more greenhouse trapping gasses into the atmosphere".

So how factual is this story?

-"How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This (Glacier) National Park". Taken literally, this is quite a sensational title! Glacier National Park, named for its glaciated features, would still exist even if the small valley glaciers disappeared.

-"the glacier has lost half it's size since then (1967)". the US Geological Survey has measured the area of Grinnell Glacier repeatedly throughout the years. They give the area in 1966 as 252 acres. In 2015 it was 139 acres. This is a reduction of 45%. Close enough, the statement is true.

-"as we put more greenhouse trapping gasses into the atmosphere". According to https://www.co2.earth the atmospheric CO2 level in 1967 was about 320 ppm. Today it is about 407 ppm. So it is true that greenhouse gas levels are increasing.

HOWEVER, the premise of the NBC story is that the increasing level of CO2 is THE CAUSE OF the melting glaciers, and will somehow "wipe out" the Park. Is this true? I find the NBC story to be quite misleading and it ignores historical scientific data. I recently did a post on this subject under the topic "Morton Elrod". In this post I showed that:

- Elrod, an early Park naturalist documented the very rapid recession of Grinnell Glacier in the 1920's.

-A paper by Arthur Johnson, 1980, documented the very rapid recession of both Grinnell and Sperry Glaciers during the 1900 to 1940 time period.

-A paper by James L. Dyson, 1941, discusses the rapid melting of all of the park’s glaciers during the 1900 to 1940 time period. He found that a number of glaciers had already disappeared, the principal glaciers have been reduced 40-75 per cent in area and more in volume, and other important glaciers "have been reduced to pitiable remnants.”

- U.S. Geological Survey data shows that the rate of surface area loss has remained remarkably constant since 1966, during a period of ever increasing CO2 levels. Also the rate of surface loss has been less than half the rate observed prior to the 1940’s, when CO2 levels were much lower than now.


In 2012 Don J. Easterbrook, Professor Emeritus of Geology at Western Washington University, during a discussion of glacier retreat in Glacier National Park, made the following comment:
"We’ve been thawing out from the Little Ice Age (LIA) glacier maximum (about 1500 to 1600 AD) and glaciers have been fluctuating back and forth in a see-saw pattern for the past several hundred years. The general thawing out from the LIA has been periodically interrupted by periods of cooling during which glaciers advanced. Glaciers advanced during notable cool periods—the Maunder Minimum (about 1650-1700 AD), the Dalton Minimum (1790-1820 AD), ~1880-1915, and ~1945-1977. Glaciers retreated during warm periods between each of the cool periods, some faster than others. In many places, glacier margins at the end of the 1880-1915 cool period were not very far from their LIA maxima and retreated rapidly during the ~1915-1945 warm period, especially in the 1930s. All of this means that the notion of glaciers only retreating since the increase in CO2 emissions that began after WWII (1945) is total nonsense—it’s been going on for thousands of years.
The global climate has been warmer than present almost all of the past 10,000 years (not just the Medieval Warm Period) and rates of warming were 10-20 times greater than recent periods as we thawed suddenly from the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago (well before CO2 increased). The idea that recent rates of warming and glacier retreat are “unprecedented” is refuted by a huge mass of data on glaciers and global climate over periods of thousands of years. The real truth lies in the data."

I think Easterbrook is spot on: "The real truth lies in the data." There is NO CORRELATION between atmospheric CO2 levels and glacier melt rate. The NBC story ignored the historical data and is alarmist and misleading.
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby Jay w » Sun Nov 19, 2017 11:25 am

I'd like to see the data on this:

The idea that recent rates of warming and glacier retreat are “unprecedented” is refuted by a huge mass of data on glaciers and global climate over periods of thousands of years.

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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby GNP Jim » Sun Nov 19, 2017 1:51 pm

The data in the science papers that I cited clearly shows that current melting rate of the Park's glaciers is not unprecedented. It was much higher in the early 1900's. The links to these papers are in the Morton Elrod post. If you want to see data, they are a good start.
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby mattB » Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:48 pm

The environment is a very complicated intertwined system. It is probably not a good idea to make any claims that anything isolated factor is definitely a cause of climate change, or warming, or cooling; and also an equally bad idea to say that any isolated factor is NOT a cause of climate change. Because of the complexity of the system, and the highly inter-relations of many seemingly independent factors, it is nearly impossible to isolate any factor and say with confidence that it is or isn't a factor in causing climate change..
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby GNP Jim » Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:39 am

I'm sure you have seen or heard the Park's prediction that all of the glaciers will be gone by 2030.
It seems that is about to change. USGS is now saying SOME of the glaciers will disappear between 2030 and 2080.


ImageUSGS 2080 by jimmygriz2000, on Flickr

It will be interesting to see how the Park handles this information in their messaging.
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby orin » Tue Nov 21, 2017 7:46 pm

I agree that "How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This (Glacier) National Park" is a poor title. The scientists didn’t write the headline however. Just like everyone else reporters vary in the accuracy of their work.

Easterbrook’s views are an outlier. They are not accepted by the majority of the climate science community. Not being a climate scientist myself, my best chance of interpreting the climate data accurately is to adopt the majority view. It might be inaccurate but its the best I can do.

Predicting the exact time of the demise of the Glacier ice is difficult. It is a relatively small area and the predictions of climate science apply to larger regions. Many local factors can affect the accuracy of predictions applied to Glacier.

As far as I can tell, Glacier National Park reports its interpretation of the climate science to the public adjusted by the local knowledge of its employees. As new data gets added to the existing pile I see no reason why the Park Service wouldn’t simply interpret that data as best they can even it it requires changes to their outlook.

Personally, I hope the glaciers hang around longer than predicted.
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby daschmit » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:58 am

I apologize for adopting a tone that could be considered as argumentative in my first post on this outstanding forum. However, Easterbrook’s interpretation of climate change is very much mainstream in disciplines such as geology, archaeology, paleontology, and paleoanthropology, that have to reconstruct ancient climatic regimes using techniques such as palynology, dendrochronology (tree-ring dating), ice-core- and varve analysis. Palynology is the “study of plant pollen, spores and certain microscopic plankton organisms . . . in both living and fossil form.” If we understand the environmental conditions (e.g. temperature, precipitation, latitude, and altitude) under which specific plants currently occur, we can interpret heavy concentrations of those species in the fossil record as indicators of similar climatic conditions in the distant past. Varves, on the other hand, are “annual layers of sediment or sedimentary rock.” For research purposes, varve samples are usually taken from glacial lakes. I don’t know whether scholars at local universities have established a varve chronology for Glacier NP, but researchers in Sweden have created a continuous varve chronology that covers the last 52,800 years.

The problem with mainstream interpretations of climate change isn’t that they are “wrong.” Instead, they represent a correlation drawn from extremely shallow historical data. We have reliable, quantitative meteorological data for, at most, the past two hundred years, which largely coincides, as Easterbrook observes, with the period following the end of the Little Ice Age. There is no question that greenhouse gas emissions have risen significantly during the Industrial Revolution, but the big, still unanswerable, question is: To what precise degree does human modification of the atmosphere through usage of fossil fuels and their resultant greenhouse gas emissions contribute to this particular warming period, as opposed to ones that are the product of naturally occurring climatic cycles?

In support of his argument, Easterbrook could have, but did not, choose to reference the Altithermal Period, also known as the Holocene Climate Optimum (HCO), which persisted from about 9,000 to 5,000 years ago. The Altithermal is generally believed to have been characterized by considerably warmer temperatures than currently prevail, and hunter-gatherer bands on the Northern Plains certainly did not significantly impact greenhouse gas emissions at the time. In short, Easterbrook is correct: “The idea that recent rates of warming and glacier retreat are 'unprecedented' is refuted by a huge mass of data on glaciers and global climate over periods of thousands of years. The real truth lies in the data."

Furthermore, there have been periods of glaciation on Earth that were far more severe than the one that terminated between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. At least one of these episodes (2.4 to 2.1 billion years ago), which has been described as “Snowball Earth,” involved glacial advance to the point that ice covered virtually all of the earth’s surface. Of course, those glaciers eventually receded. Similarly, the eventual demise of glaciers that currently exist in Glacier National Park does not signify the end of glaciers for all time; it is only a byproduct of warming within another interglacial period, one that comes on the heels of the most protracted cool period since the end of the Pleistocene.
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby glacierfever » Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:40 pm

It is hard to not notice over the years how many people have jumped on the man-made climate change topic as a mantra in their life. I have always been skeptical of this given the short historical time frame we have to compare against the thousands of years (millions really) of climate processes/cycles. Unfortunately it becomes a political issue and many folks just can't accept others questioning their own emotional conclusions.

I find the information you have outlined to be enlightening and hope others will pay attention to the data. SInce my very first visit to Glacier in the early 80's the whole issue of melting glaciers has changed to a political issue, by those outside the park, and by the park itself. I question the constant implication by the folks in the green uniform relating that the glaciers are melting because of climate change where the underlying message is we humans are melting them. I never have accepted this as conclusive. I'm not a denier. I am a skeptic of the purported magnitude of the impact.

On my first trip to Glacier the park personnel explained that the glaciers have been melting for some 10,000 to 20,000 years. Low and behold at some point the message changed to the current climate change mantra. It is difficult to say how much the narrative has changed due to an overabundance of staff who are on board with the mand-made climate change belief. Likewise, so much research funding is awarded based on finding a correlation to man-made climate change that it can only bring the research into question. Can you fathom a researcher who is funded by public money concluding climate change isn't the problem? They would likely never receive funding again.

No doubt, we humans do have an impact. As technology progresses we can make things more efficient, cleaner, less impact, etc. I don't believe "the sky is falling" approach to this subject and am willing to listen to a sensible discussion of the subject provided the data is given the loudest voice. Thanks for posting this information.
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby GNP Jim » Wed Nov 22, 2017 5:13 pm

"daschmit": I don’t know whether scholars at local universities have established a varve chronology for Glacier NP.


There is a recently completed chronology for GNP: A lacustrine-based Neoglacial record for Glacier National Park, Montana, USA, Munroe etal, 2012

http://community.middlebury.edu/~jmunro ... 12_GNP.pdf

A couple of the primary findings:
-"alpine glaciers in GNP advanced and retreated numerous times during the Holocene after the onset on Neoglaciation ca 6500 BP."
-"The culminating Little Ice Age advance (LIA) was the most recent and extensive of a series of advance/retreat cycles over the past millennium."
-"Retreat from the LIA) maximum was the most dramatic episode of ice retreat in at least the last 1000 years."

The historical record shows that a large majority of the LIA retreat occurred before 1950.
Last edited by GNP Jim on Thu Nov 23, 2017 7:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby daschmit » Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:58 pm

Thanks for that link, GNP Jim. This is precisely the kind of data that Easterbrook was referencing, i.e. data derived from analytical tools that drastically predate the availability of quantitative, historical records, thereby permitting climatic reconstructions to be viewed through a much longer chronological prism. It appears that the earliest cores are from Cosley Lake and date to roughly 12,100 years ago. ‘tis interesting that an ash layer from that core corresponds with the Mazama volcanic eruption that formed Crater Lake around 7,630 years ago.

I should add as a caveat to my previous post that it is mindboggling to consider that, during the period that those of us who are Baby Boomers have lived, human population worldwide has almost tripled. In 1950, world population was roughly 2.52 billion, reached 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, and 7 billion in 2011. India and China alone now have roughly 2.7 billion people, which is slightly more than the world population in 1950. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population. That kind of population growth certainly will fuel escalating use of fossil fuels and production of greenhouse gases, but the question still remains: To what degree has human activity contributed directly to this period of “global warming”?
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby mattB » Thu Nov 23, 2017 2:37 pm

daschmit wrote:I should add as a caveat to my previous post that it is mindboggling to consider that, during the period that those of us who are Baby Boomers have lived, human population worldwide has almost tripled. In 1950, world population was roughly 2.52 billion, reached 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, and 7 billion in 2011. India and China alone now have roughly 2.7 billion people, which is slightly more than the world population in 1950. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population. That kind of population growth certainly will fuel escalating use of fossil fuels and production of greenhouse gases, but the question still remains: To what degree has human activity contributed directly to this period of “global warming”?


Are you saying that adding 5 billion people and increased consumption of fossil fuels over the last 65 years has had no impact on the environment or climate?
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby daschmit » Thu Nov 23, 2017 5:41 pm

Of course not. The question that remains to be answered definitively is: To what precise degree does human modification of the atmosphere through usage of fossil fuels and their resultant greenhouse gas emissions contribute to this particular warming period, as opposed to ones that are the product of naturally occurring climatic cycles? Furthermore, should we interpret the evidence presented to advocate that we are exclusively responsible for this climatic event as cause-and-effect or correlation?

I presented the population data to properly qualify my previous argument in support of Easterbrook’s position, one with which I fundamentally agree, that “The idea that recent rates of warming and glacier retreat are ‘unprecedented’ is refuted by a huge mass of data on glaciers and global climate over periods of thousands of years.” Disciplines that, by virtue of their subject material, have to reconstruct ancient climatic regimes utilize analytical tools and provide insights that are utterly ignored by those who employ only this thin cross-section of historical data to interpret contemporary weather patterns.
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby mattB » Thu Nov 23, 2017 11:26 pm

daschmit wrote:Of course not. The question that remains to be answered definitively is: To what precise degree does human modification of the atmosphere through usage of fossil fuels and their resultant greenhouse gas emissions contribute to this particular warming period, as opposed to ones that are the product of naturally occurring climatic cycles? Furthermore, should we interpret the evidence presented to advocate that we are exclusively responsible for this climatic event as cause-and-effect or correlation?

I presented the population data to properly qualify my previous argument in support of Easterbrook’s position, one with which I fundamentally agree, that “The idea that recent rates of warming and glacier retreat are ‘unprecedented’ is refuted by a huge mass of data on glaciers and global climate over periods of thousands of years.” Disciplines that, by virtue of their subject material, have to reconstruct ancient climatic regimes utilize analytical tools and provide insights that are utterly ignored by those who employ only this thin cross-section of historical data to interpret contemporary weather patterns.


Why do we need to know the "precise degree" that human activity has contributed to warming?
Has anyone said that human activity is the only factor responsible for climate change?

What difference does it make whether warming periods and glacier retreat are "unprecedented" or precedented, if the warming trend impacts the lives of millions of people? Just because it has happened many times in the distant past, doesn't mean that life as we know it on the planet won't be impacted, and may be impacted severly...

Do you think all scientists that are supporters of climate change theories and human effects on climate change are only looking at modern weather records and are not looking at ancient data when possible, like glacial ice-cores?

What if human activity only plays a very small role in overall global warming or cooler, but what if that small contribution pushes the warming past a tipping point?
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby GNP Jim » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:53 pm

Last fall in this thread I posted the following:
ImageUSGS 2080 by jimmygriz2000, on Flickr

This was a significant change from the Park's position that all the glaciers would be gone by 2030. I questioned back then how the Park would handle this information in their messaging. After my visit to the park this year, I observed the following:

- In the 2018 Glacier Visitor Guide, the "Climate Change and the Crown of the Continent" page dropped any reference to the 2030 date. However it also failed to mention the new "certain studied glaciers by 2030 to 2080" projection by USGS.

- I asked 4 park interpretive staff who gave presentations on glacier recession/climate change if they were aware of the new projections. None of them knew about it.

-Three of these staff told me the actual date of glaciers disappearing was not important, it was the unprecedented rate of melting that was most important. When I asked them if they were familiar with the historical data (see my "Morton Elrod" post) that showed much higher recession rates in the early 20th century. None of them knew any of this information. I got a lot of push back on this, even though the data is indisputable.

It appears the Park decided to not disseminate the new USGS projection to park visitors.
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Re: How Climate Change Is Wiping Out This National Park

Postby glacierfever » Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:10 am

I appreciate reading the data and input on this subject.

When I first came to Glacier in 1982 I was told, by GNP, that the Glaciers had been melting for thousands of years. (I don't recall whether it was 2000 or 20000) I mention this because both time frames put the melting far ahead of the impacts by humans claimed by many of the climate articles. So Glacier's narrative changed somewhat. But the idea that the Glaciers would always be there is simply not proveable. That they would eventually melt away seems an obvious outcome. To me it also seems obvious that the melting of a given glacier would accelerate as it melted simply due to the increase of heat in the circular/valley area where it exists because more and more of the rock, etc. is exposed and reflecting/retaining heat around the glacier...and, the glacier gets "thinner".

Due to the fact that more funding (money) flows to researchers who support the man-made warming argument, I see this as a political issue more than just a scientific study issue. Let's face it, climate change is used as a divisive political issue on a daily basis. It has become sort of like a religion to some people. In fact, there are people out there that claim the climate issue has actually become a religion of sorts. Any taxpayer money follows those who support it.

I live immediately next to Glacier National Park for a large part of the year. I care about the park, the wildlife, the history, as much as others. But not with blinders on. I travel alot. In the last few years I have encountered many, who when they find out I live next to GNP, say they need to visit the park before the glaciers are all gone. The point is that the publication of this topic is sending more visitors to the park each year.

I would like to see the glaciers stay just because I don't like change. But, alas, in life, change is constant.
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