Glacier National Park: July 20th, 2011

Despite (or perhaps because of) my hectic schedule the family took a trip up to Glacier National Park in Montana.  I have always wanted to see it, but have never made it up there before.  I finally used the excuse to take pictures for the website and the book to finally make it there.  It is a beautiful place and well worth the visit.  I did take the time to take lots of pictures and now I am going to put them to good use.

One question I wanted to ask the rangers there was “How old are the glaciers there?”  There is a very common misconception that the glaciers there exist from the last ice age.  That of course is wrong, but I was curious what they would say.  The answer I got from the ranger was 3,000 years old.  That is a reasonable answer, but one I find unlikely.  Glaciers farther north and higher than Glacier National Park are typically much younger than that.  I have never been able to find an ice core from glacier national park that would answer this question.  Certainly it is possible that some of the glaciers are 3,000 years old, but I suspect that 900-1,000 is more accurate.  I have yet to find enough accurate information to answer this though.

The glacier on Heavens Peak was the first one I got good pictures of.  Even though it was a cloudy day.  Here is the full size picture with all the camera details still attached.

The Inconvenient Skeptic

Heavens Peak on July 20, 2011. Note that the snow is still in the tree line.

Since I have not visited the part before, I had to search a little for a comparable picture from late July.  Picking a picture from any other time of year would result in a misleading comparison.  The best I found was the following picture that was described as late July in 2000.  So the same mountain, but 11 years ago.

The same mountain peak, but taken 11 years previous.

2011 shows significantly more snow than 2000 did for the same peak.  Total precipitation is very important to glacier behavior and last winter had a lot of snow, hence in July there is still a lot of snow.  Of course that this year has been abnormally cold has helped the snow.

The mountain to the right when viewed from the Going-to-Sun-Road resulted in this picture.

The Inconvenient Skeptic

Right side of Heavens Peak. Still snow within the tree line in late July of 2011.

From the same source I found the comparable picture from 11 years ago.

Right of Heavens Peak in 2000.

Finally there are the pictures from Logan Pass.  This is the place that only opened a few weeks ago because of the difficulty in removing the snow from the road.  I would also like to add that they cleared out an enormous parking lot of snow.  That is a land usage change that will inevitably result in faster melt rates because of the increased surface area of the snow that is exposed to the air during the summer.  It is clear that the tourist activities that take place in Glacier National Park are reducing the snow coverage and perhaps impeding the natural cycle of things where there is extensive activities.

The Inconvenient Skeptic

Clements Mountain from Logan Pass. Extensive snow still covers the ground that tourists hike on daily during the summer.

At least 2 m of snow remains at the visitors center at Logan Pass. I could find no year before where so much snow remained so late in the summer.

The snow that remains now is hard as a result of many melts and thaws.  Snow cover like this that survives a summer could easily be the forming layer of a new glacier.  Unfortunately the snow was removed from a football field sized area to make way for the parking lot.  I noticed in many places on the road up where deep snow existed on each side of the road, but had been removed to clear the road.  Such removal clearly impedes the natural melting of the snow.

Here are some comparable pictures from years ago.

July 1997:

Clements Mountain from Logan Pass in 1997.

Logan Pass visitors center in July 12th of 2003.

I have done my best to show only pictures from July to keep the comparisons as valid as possible.  Now let me ask this.  How often is the month shown when warmists show year to year pictures of glaciers.  Certainly many glaciers have receded in the past couple of decades, but that is only part of the story of the Earth’s climate.  Glaciers are an indicator of what is going on with the climate, but not in the way that most people expect.

The glaciers here are beautiful.  They may be melting now, but I am not worried about their existence.  Small glaciers like these are young and like the early snowfall that happens each year they may melt before winter arrives.  Understanding the climate is the key.

Posted in Climate by inconvenientskeptic on July 25th, 2011 at 9:40 pm.


This post has 5 comments

  1. Go Canucks!!! Aug 3rd 2011

    According to Wikipedia, the greatest recent extent was during the Little Ice Age. This does not preclude that the glacial remnants are 3000 yr old.


  2. ARWallace Aug 22nd 2011

    My question is simple: do you really think there is any information at all in a pairwise comparison such as this? I assume that you will argue that people who support AGW do it too, so two more observations:

    1) If wrong why repeat the error? Does that add clarity?
    2) Comparisons of glaciers essentially integrate snowfall-snowmelt over many years thereby reducing the standard error of the estimate.

    Seriously, have you looked into your heart and decided if you are doing this because you are really confident that you are right where others have failed? Might you be doing it for other less praiseworthy reasons? You may be hurting people, so please be careful.

    Just FYI, as an engineer/economist/statistician/professor, my answer to #1 would be: no information at all and not excusable as evidence even on a blog, and #2 would be: slightly better but I would need to see the variance in the snowfall time series to know what inference could be made.

    Final question. Have you ever published an article on climate change in a peer-reviewed journal? If not, why not? And please, don’t tell me it is not possible to be skeptical. Surely you understand that novelty is the most certain way of getting published.

    ARW (not my real name)

  3. inconvenientskeptic Aug 22nd 2011


    As a matter of fact there is a vast amount of useful information available in such a comparison. Most of it I can’t yet explain because of the pending book, but it is there.

    Yes, it is a reverse contrast to the typical pairwise pictures that people are bombarded with by Al Gore and his ilk. They cherry pick such images, so this demonstrates that it is only cherry picking. Such small glaciers have no more meaning than the fluctuations of the snow level every autumn in the northern hemisphere. The snowline rises and falls throughout the autumn. Glaciers behave in the same manner, just on a different time scale.

    I am thoroughly confident in my conclusions and would not have chosen this course (and thousands of hours of my free time) if I wasn’t sure. I also would not have chosen it if it didn’t need to be done, but unfortunately the scientific process of peer-review and consensus has failed us and this journey needs to be done.

    As for peer-reviewed journal. I have not tried nor am I likely to try. There is no benefit from that. It would simply be a time sink for no benefit. Any professor should find this article interesting.

    I have done more research and development in the past 12 years than most professors will do in their lifetimes. Probably more than most departments will accomplish. Papers are a wonderful use of time when you are a professor. When critical decisions must be made in a month, there is no time for that process.

    Papers and grants are a great way to keep people occupied who are willing to play that game. I don’t have the time for that. My results have saved/made 10’s of millions of dollars at the minimum. I don’t need a peer reviewed journal to tell me that it worked. The bottom line tells me that it did.

    Arguing about peer-review is not a scientific argument, it is philosophical. My philosophy is hardened by more than a decade of real world engineering. I would make a very poor fit in the glacial and incremental revision of the university world where paper after paper is generated on the same research.

    You are correct that the Glacier National Park pictures are essentially meaningless. So is a 100 year temperature trend or even a 500 year trend when dealing with the Earth’s climate.

    When the Eemian interglacial ended, it took 11,000 years. The rate of change in that period of time was -0.7 °C per 1,000 years. The de-trended standard deviation was +/- 0.6 °C based on the EPICA ice core.

    2-sigma of +/- 1.2 °C is significant and basically double the long-term trend and that is using data that is 70 year averages. The actual year to year variation was likely much higher. It is simply impossible to detect a long-term statistically significant trend in less than 1,000 year periods.

    You ask if I have really and carefully looked at my heart. I would not be doing this if I wasn’t. Global warming would be the best thing that could happen for mankind. Unfortunately it will not happen, not matter how much we will want it to in the future.

  4. ARWallace Aug 23rd 2011

    I have nothing to add. I think you have said it all. I look forward to reading your book.

    Just FYI, my guess is that professors in climate science at top schools make about $300K directly and another $100K consulting. And of course you get a lot of freedom to work on whatever you want. If your output is what you say, you would also get tenure and international respect. I think you would find that most faculty at top schools don’t care about pedigree – just about the quality of the work.

    Just a thought in case you ever want to leave your job.

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