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UK Telegraph: RTFM IPCC AR4 WG1

2011 January 27

The UK Telegraph breathlessly reports …
Himalayan glaciers not melting because of climate change, report finds

Researchers have discovered that contrary to popular belief half of the ice flows in the Karakoram range of the mountains are actually growing rather than shrinking. …

…The new study by scientists at the Universities of California and Potsdam has found that half of the glaciers in the Karakoram range, in the northwestern Himlaya, are in fact advancing and that global warming is not the deciding factor in whether a glacier survives or melts.


Sigh. File it under RTFM.

Whereas glaciers in the Asian high mountains have generally shrunk at varying rates (Su and Shi, 2002; Ren et al., 2004; Solomina et al., 2004; Dyurgerov and Meier, 2005), several high glaciers in the central Karakoram are reported to have advanced and/or thickened at their tongues (Hewitt, 2005), probably due to enhanced precipitation.


No one who has read even lightly about the Himalaya and glaciers believes there is a one-size-fits-all description of the area. Not Dr Pachauri. Not the IPCC. Not even Dr. Hansen. The region is complex. Glacier dynamics include uneven distribution of dust, soot, CO2, and water vapor. The new paper that the Telegraph twists to its own end simply adds to that complexity. <cue feigned shock>

Science Direct: Cryospheric Change in China

This paper provides an overview of the current status of the cryosphere in China and its changes. Up-to-date statistics of the cryosphere in China are summarized based on the latest available data. There are 46,377 glaciers in China, covering an area of 59,425 km2. The glacier ice reserve is estimated to be about 5600 km3 and the annual glacier runoff is about 61.6 × 109 m3. The continuous snow cover extent (> 60 days) in China is about 3.4 × 106 km2 and the maximum water equivalent is 95.9 × 109 m3 yr− 1. The permafrost area in China is about 1.72 × 106 km2. The total ground ice reserve on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau is estimated to be about 10,923 km3. Recent investigations indicated that glacier areas in China have shrunk about 2–10% over the past 45 yr. Total glacier area has receded by about 5.5%. Snow mass has increased slightly. Permafrost is clearly degrading, as indicated by shrinking areas of permafrost, increasing depth of the active layer, rising of lower limit of permafrost, and thinning of the seasonal frost depth. Some models predict that glacier area shrinkage could be as high as 26.7% in 2050, with glacier runoff increasing until its maximum in about 2030. Although snow mass shows an increasing trend in western China, in eastern China the trend is toward decreasing snow mass, with increasing interannual fluctuations. Permafrost degradation is likely to continue, with one-third to one-half of the permafrost on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau anticipated to degrade by 2100. Most of the high-temperature permafrost will disappear by then. The permafrost in northeastern China will retreat further northward.


Black soot and the survival of Tibetan glaciers

We find evidence that black soot aerosols deposited on Tibetan glaciers have been a significant contributing factor to observed rapid glacier retreat. Reduced black soot emissions, in addition to reduced greenhouse gases, may be required to avoid demise of Himalayan glaciers and retain the benefits of glaciers for seasonal fresh water supplies.


Melting of major Glaciers in the western Himalayas: evidence of
climatic changes from long term MSU derived tropospheric
temperature trend (1979–2008)


Global warming or the increase of the surface and atmospheric temperatures of the Earth, is increasingly discernible in the polar, sub-polar and major land glacial areas. The Himalayan and Tibetan Plateau Glaciers, which are the largest glaciers outside of the Polar Regions, are showing a large-scale decrease of snow cover and an extensive glacial retreat. These glaciers such as Siachen and Gangotri are a major water resource for Asia as they feed major rivers such as the Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra. Due to scarcity of ground measuring stations, the long-term observations of atmospheric temperatures acquired from the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) since 1979–2008 is highly useful. The lower and middle tropospheric temperature trend based on 30 years of MSU data shows warming of the Northern Hemisphere’s midlatitude regions. The mean month-to-month warming (up to 0.048±0.026K/year or 1.44K over 30 years) of the mid troposphere (near surface over the high altitude Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau) is prominent and statistically significant at a 95% confidence interval. Though the mean annual warming trend over the Himalayas (0.016±0.005K/year), and Tibetan Plateau (0.008±0.00K/year) is positive, the month to month warming trend is higher (by 2–3 times, positive and significant) only over a period of six months (December to May). The factors responsible for the reversal of this trend from June to November are discussed here. The inequality in the magnitude of the warming trends of the troposphere between the western and eastern Himalayas and the IG (Indo-Gangetic) plains is attributed to the differences in increased aerosol loading (due to dust storms) over these regions. The monthly mean lowertropospheric MSU-derived temperature trend over the IG plains (dust sink region; up to 0.032±0.027K/year) and dust source regions (Sahara desert, Middle East, Arabian region, Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan and Thar Desert regions; up to 0.068±0.033K/year) also shows a similar pattern of month-to-month oscillation and six months of enhanced and a statistically significant warming trend. The enhanced warming trend during the winter and pre-monsoon months (December–May) may accelerate glacial melt. The unequal distribution of the warming trend over the year is discussed in this study and is partially attributed to a number of controlling factors such as sunlight duration, CO2 trends over the region (2003–2008), water vapor and aerosol distribution.


Glacier changes in the west Kunlun Shan from 1970 to 2001
derived from Landsat TM/ETM+ and Chinese glacier inventory data


Recent studies have indicated that widespread wastage of glaciers in western China has occurred since the late 1970s. By using digitized glacier outlines derived from the 1970 inventory and Landsat satellite data from 1990/91 to 2001, we obtained area changes of about 278 glaciers with a total area of 2711.57 km2 in the heavily glaciated west Kunlun Shan (WKS) in the northern Tibetan Plateau (TP). Results indicate that the prevailing characteristic of glacier variation is ice wastage, and glacier area decreased by 10 km2 (0.4% of the total 1970 area) between 1970 and 2001. Both the south and north slopes of the WKS presented shrinkage during 1970–2001, but whereas on the north slope a slight enlargement of ice extent during 1970–90 was followed by a reduction of 0.2% during 1990–2001, on the south slope the glacier area decreased by 1.2% during 1970–91, with a small increment of 0.6% during 1991–2001. Comparisons with other glaciated mountainous regions in western China show that glaciers in the research area have experienced less retreat. Based on records from the Guliya ice core, we believe that an increase in air temperature was the main forcing factor for glacier shrinkage during 1970–2001.

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  1. 2011 January 28 at 7:17 am
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