Glaciers And Ice Sheets: Here Today and Here Tomorrow

Dr John HappsBy Dr. John Happs

How often do the climate alarmists tell us that few glaciers still exist because of (imaginary) global warming and those that remain are rapidly melting away?  Not surprisingly, the alarmists, particularly those from the media and vested interest groups, always point to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) computer model projections, referring to one in particular–the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP8.5.)

Even the political/ideological IPCC has sensibly branded RCP8.5 as “Highly Unlikely”

So, what are the glacier numbers?

  1. There are more than 200,000 alpine/valley (land-based) glaciers and many others stemming from the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland.
  1. Glaciers have advanced, retreated and halted many times over the last 400,000 years being influenced not only by temperature but also by other factors, such as wind, precipitation, altitude, latitude, aspect, topography and slope angle.

Global temperature is often promoted, usually by naïve climate alarmists, as the only important input into glacier formation, growth and retreat yet, in very dry parts of Antarctica, where low temperatures are seemingly ideal for glacier growth, the small amount of net annual precipitation results in glaciers growing very slowly, or even diminishing in size.

Glaciers can also be influenced by sublimation or the transition of a substance directly from the solid to the gas phase. Glaciers can experience this process resulting in the “evaporation” of ice, exacerbated by wind action. Sublimation can be seen in the way that ice cubes left in the freezer will shrink over time.

More than 18,000 glaciers have been identified across 50 World Heritage sites but this represents less than 10% of the Earth’s glaciated area. The media, climate activists and vested interest groups like to argue that all glaciers are receding because global temperature is increasing. Not surprisingly, many glaciers have been retreating since we emerged from the Little Ice Age (1250-1850), a time when many farms and houses across Scandinavia were destroyed by advancing glaciers between the 14th and 19th centuries.

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