Over the past few years there have been a number of news articles about the imminent disappearance of all the glaciers in the Himalayas. I won’t go into the detail of the IPCC report that predicted their demise by the year 2035, but it did happen. All of this is silly because that is not how the Earth’s climate behaves. Every source of climate information in the Northern Hemisphere shows that the Earth experienced the warmest climate of the last 100,000 years bout 6,000 years ago and since then (especially over the past 4,000 years) the Northern Hemisphere has been experiencing a gradual cooling. That does not mean that each century is colder than the one before, but it means that each millennium is colder than the one before.
A few weeks ago I discussed a paper that demonstrated a new method of studying glaciers that showed the the last 1,000 years in Norway have been the most glacially active of the past 8,000 years. This is certainly what I would expect based on all the scientific evidence of how the Earth’s climate behaves over the longer periods of time.
Now there is a new paper that shows that even over the decade from 1998 to 2008 that a significant percentage of the glaciers in the Himalayas are expanding. Of the 5,615 km2 used in the study, it was found that 26% of the region was experiencing growing glaciers. I didn’t find anything specifically about the percentage that was shrinking (but some number > 50% is stable), but overall they found that the region’s glaciers were thickening at a rate of +0.11 (m/yr), which is growth of about 4 inches per year.
The region of the study were the Karakoram Glaciers of which the mountain K2 is part of. The Baltoro Glacier is one of the larger glaciers in the area.
It was also noted in the study that there has been a decrease in river run-off from this glacier complex. Since the glaciers have been growing in mass and the run-off has decreased, the only possible explanation is that the region has been colder and the glaciers have been melting less over the past decade.
The decrease in the river flow from the region has been enough that the paper concluded when the thickening is taken into account, the glaciers in the region have had a net contribution of -0.01 mm/yr on the sea level. Meaning that the glaciers are keeping more mass from the oceans than they are giving back.
While this study only covers a single decade, it is still an interesting find. An area that has been consistently labelled as a contributor to the rising sea-levels (see here for the latest on that), has in fact been causing a net decrease in the sea level.
This is not to say that all glaciers are growing because in some places they are shrinking. The biggest problem with the Theory of Global warming is that it assumes too much on a short period of data. I would not make any conclusions about the long term climate based on a 10 year study of this region of glaciers. But when I look at dozens of papers that cover broad regions of the Northern Hemisphere and cover thousands of years, the trend is clear. Glaciers are advancing in the long-term. This complex just happens to be doing it in the short-term as well.
Of course it is also possible that this particular glacier complex simply failed to get the memo about global warming.