See Comments down arrow

¿Dónde están los glaciares de antaño?

29 May 2024 | News Roundup

Did you know that Venezuela’s last glacier was just demoted to an icefield? Or that this tropical, nearly equatorial, nation even had glaciers? Well, it was and it did. And a reader asked us how to answer an alarmist claim that the demotion proves there’s a man-made global heating crisis, which of course is being bleated in unison by the herd of independent media minds around the world, none of whom of course hitherto knew or cared that said glacier even existed until it afforded this week’s opportunity to bang the climate apocalypse drum. To which we said, as we usually do, check how long it’s been melting, because as a rule the shrinking of glaciers demonstrates not that man is warming the planet but that the planet is warming man. Then, and yes in true scientific fashion we checked it ourselves to see if our hypothesis was sound. Si señor. It most certainly is. The thing’s been melting since before World War I, most of the melting happened before World War II, and whenever the man-made climate breakdown thingy hit, surely it wasn’t 1938.

The ex-glacier in question is the Humboldt glacier, “struggling for survival in the Sierra Nevada National Park” according to the Times of India. Brave glacier! (And not to be confused with Greenland’s “Humboldt glacier“.) Mind you the South American one is not going to make it, given that Venezuela is not merely tropical but very nearly touches the equator, and is not a major mountaineering destination because its highest one, Pico Bolívar (not to be confused with Colombia’s Pico Simón Bolívar, a massive 5,730 metres high) tops out just under 5,000 metres above sea level (4,978) and the ice field in question is on Pico Humboldt (please give now to alleviate the name shortage), at 4,925 metres. Not where you’d store your ice if you cared about it.

Euronews.green complains that:

“Venezuela has lost its last glacier, making it the first nation in modern history to hold this unenviable record. At least five other glaciers have disappeared in the South American country within the last century as climate change drives up temperatures in the Andes. The country lost 98 per cent of its glacial area between 1952 and 2019, research shows.”

Note again that climate change is some weird mystical thing that surrounds us and penetrates us and causes temperatures to rise. It is not a description of them doing so. And of course when “research shows” mere citizens fall silent.

Despite which we did go and look at the actual research and, persevering down to Figure 5, found this map proving we were completely right all along and these journalists don’t know how to fact-check:

It’s a nice piece of work graphically speaking, with bright colours easy to follow, based on a reconstruction of the various glaciers going back to 1910, and the key here is that all the purple stuff is what melted between 1910 and 1952.

Big splotches, aren’t they? And look at the other two areas: they were half gone by 1952 and dwindled to specks or vanished by 1998, a full 26 years ago (the blue stuff being what vanished between 1952 and 1998). Showing crucially that major melting started over a century ago, at a minimum. We don’t know what happened before 1910 because ice doesn’t leave much in the way of a fossil record.

The pattern of Venezuelan glaciers is not anomalous. Rather, all glaciers have been retreating for centuries, with most of the melting predating the recent past. Where we know in more detail, most of it happened before the 19th century. For instance, look at the map of Alaska’s famed glaciers published by W.S. Cooper in 1923 and compare the ice extent in Alaska’s Muir Inlet as of 1880, compared to 1916. Or the Reid and Torr inlets from 1879 to 1916:

Or, for a prettier version, look at this 2013 brochure given to one of us when we visited:

Look at the ice in 1750 and in 1880, and then from 1880 to today. There was some mighty climate change back in George Washington’s day, that’s for sure. Caused by climate change, no doubt. But not by us and our horse-drawn buggies. As is also true of the Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand, in case anyone tries to tell you the Little Ice Age was regional.

All of which does not prove that something weird started in 1958, or 1988, or 2000, or whenever the alarmists currently claim. On the contrary, it proves the exact opposite. We are in a long-term warming trend that is overwhelmingly natural, unless you believe that human CO2 not only causes artificial heating but shuts off the natural kind through some hitherto unknown process incompatible with the laws of physics and chemistry as we know them.

People get it wrong all the time, because they’re so dogmatically certain that they do not check either facts or reasoning. As we noted back in 2020, claims that the shrinking of France’s largest glacier was “irrefutable proof of global warming” were dead wrong. It was the opposite. The glacier had grown dramatically in the 18th century, peaked around 1850, and then shrank dramatically.

Glacier disappearance goes back much farther than 1800 too. As one paper safely published back in 1992 put it, with regard to Hannibal’s apparently eccentric decision to bring elephants through the Alps:

“By the 3rd century BC the Alpine glaciers were in a backward position compared with their position in 900-350 BC. This fact and the mildness of the climate, inferred from tree-ring analyses, suggest that ice conditions were not severe in the Alps in 218 BC.”

And the two main primary sources, Livy and Polybius, stress the appalling geography of the whichever pass or passes he used, but do not mention ice or glaciers. So possibly some countries that now have at least residual glaciers now did not then. Which again rather proves our point.

Nowadays everybody’s so sure of the opposite that they find it whether it’s there or not. The research that says claims that:

“Glacier retreat in mountainous regions has accelerated worldwide within the last fifty years, triggering efforts to document what will soon become legacy landscapes (Barry 2006; Zemp et al. 2015; Huss et al. 2017). In the tropical Andes, the rate of glacier retreat after 1950 is above the world’s average, with a notable increase after 1970 (Rabatel et al. 2013; Veettil and Kamp 2017).”

And nobody saw it coming that the place they were studying would be going up in flames faster than the average. But the rest of the statement is also nonsense. They have no idea what the rate of retreat of the glaciers in this region was before 1900 so they can’t compare it to the present. Besides what “rate” are they talking about? Distance? Volume? Percentage? If the latter it’s a cheat, because of course as it gets smaller the rate of percentage decrease will accelerate. But as we’ve shown before, only an insane person would maintain that the rate of glacier retreat in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park was slower 200 years ago than recently, or that it doesn’t have mountains.

Wikipedia predictably claims that:

“Most of New Zealand’s large glaciers shrank significantly towards the end of the 20th century, a consequence of global warming.”

But after that ritual genuflection it blurts out that:

“Franz Josef Glacier advanced rapidly during the Little Ice Age, reaching a maximum in the early 18th century. When Haast became the first European to see the glacier it was still much longer than today, and the ice surface was 300 m higher. Between its first official mapping in 1893 and a century later in 1983, Franz Josef Glacier retreated 3 km up the valley.”

Note the “still”. That mapping was in 1893 and it had already retreated an enormous distance. Like the Humboldt, it responded to natural warming long ago, and the fact that it still is does not mean the warming suddenly started recently or changed its nature and cause. It means it’s a continuation of a long, natural, cyclical rebound from the Little Ice Age.


7 comments on “¿Dónde están los glaciares de antaño?”

  1. Why is it that the rate of glacial retreat or temperature increases everywhere is always higher than the world average?

  2. Retreat of glaciers does not indicate the world is warming. The fact is that when a glacier is retreating the rate of accumulation of ice is less than the rate of melting. A glacier can retreat even when the world is cooling as long as the rate of melting is more than the rate of accumulation.
    The rate of accumulation can be lowered by drought as well as warmth.

  3. The phrase 'because of climate change' is so ubiquitous that it appears to indicate that climate change itself is a quasi-religious phenomenon. Failure to include reference to it in almost any statement leaves the writer open to accusations of being a denier. The term 'denier' also has religious antecedents: "And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice." (Matthew 26:75).
    Climate change has ceased being a science, if indeed it ever was, and has become a religion.

  4. Some months ago I was debating with some climate alarmist about you know what, I cited data from CDN, the predictable response was that Jon Robson is "just an historian". Seems history is quite a bit more relevant to this situation than a doctorate degree in biology for example!

  5. Philip Carson…in answer to your question, the rate of average local temperature increase always seems to be higher than the global average because the global average includes land and water and the local temperature change its being compared to is invariably for a land area. That’s why every country is warming a 1.5x or 2x or some other multiple of the global average. It’s a slick bit of deception.

  6. So that’s the basis for the contention! Thank you. It was always a mystery but land is a completely different beast to sea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *