Himalayan glaciers "melting ten times more slowly than feared"


UDPATE: Cartoon by Josh, right.

Remember the IPCC melting glacier scare? Gone by 2035? Glaciergate? It made great publicity for the alarmists. Sadly it was total rubbish. And now further studies reveal that the melting is fully ten times slower than previously thought.

But it’s still bad news, naturally. They’re still melting. Just an order of magnitude more slowly than we had previously been led to believe, as the ABC reports:

Himalayan glaciers and ice caps that supply water to more than a billion people in Asia are losing mass up to 10 times less quickly than once feared, according to a new study.

Based on an improved analysis of satellite data from 2003 to 2010, the findings offer a reprieve for a region already feeling the impacts of global warming.

But they do not mean that the threat of disruptive change has disappeared, the researchers warn. [Of course, any good news has to be tempered with a reminder that the planet is going to hell in a handcart – Ed]

“The good news is that the glaciers are not losing mass as fast as we thought,” says Professor Tad Pfeffer of theUniversity of Colorado‘s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and a co-author of the study.

“The bad news is that they are still losing a lot of water. There is still definitely a serious problem for the Himalayas.”

Much of that loss, it turns out, is taking place in the huge plains immediately south of the towering mountain range, where pumping from wells is draining ancient aquifers far faster than precipitation can replenish them.

Earlier estimates, also based on satellite data, mistakenly attributed much of the draining of these water tables to glacier melt-off, says Pfeffer.

So the attribution of the cause was wrong too.

Other calculations now thought to be off the mark were based on scaled-up extrapolations from lower-elevation glaciers that were more accessible to observation, but also more subject to warming trends.

“Many of the high glaciers would still be too cold to lose mass even in the presence of atmospheric warming,” says co-author John Wahr, a physicist at the University of Colorado. (source)

And of course, none of this says anything about the cause of the warming. Amazing that the ABC reported this, but at least the spin cycle made sure that any good news was diluted by more hectoring warnings of disaster.

Even more dire warnings at the press release here.

More at the UK Guardian here, where it is claimed that “the worlds greatest snow-capped peaks have lost no ice in the last ten years”.


  1. So in other words … the uncertainty of the known ‘melting unknowns’ have contributed to the certainty of the unknown ‘melting knowns’ insofar as the melting of the Himalayan glaciers are concerned.

  2. Aaron James Duff via Facebook says:

    Oh you lying deniers, and your lying lies! Stop corrupting science with facts!

  3. Notice the quote at the end from a tame warmist – Bristol University glaciologist, Prof Jonathan Bamber:

    “”I believe this data is the most reliable estimate of global glacier mass balance that has been produced to date,” said Bamber. He noted that 1.4 billion people depend on the rivers that flow from the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau: “That is a compelling reason to try to understand what is happening there better.”
    He added: “The new data does not mean that concerns about climate change are overblown in any way. It means there is a much larger uncertainty in high mountain Asia than we thought. Taken globally all the observations of the Earth’s ice – permafrost, Arctic sea ice, snow cover and glaciers – are going in the same direction.”

    Get that – “the most reliable estimate” apparently means “there is a much larger uncertainty in high mountain Asia than we thought.”. I thought reliable estimates meant less, not more uncertainty. Post-normal science at its best.What he really means of course is that he’s disappointed that most of what’s been written about Himalayan ice-loss has been exposed as alarmist nonsense. And he of course wheels out the hoary old myth (without quite saying so) that Asian rivers depend largely on glacier melt. If they did, wouldn’t increasing ice-loss ADD to their flow? Or am I missing something?The contribution is actually about 5%. Alarmists can’t do simple arithmetic; if 70-80% of streamflow in rivers like the Ganges (Ganga) was from ice-melt(as has been claimed), the glaciers would have disappeared tens of thousands of years ago. The Ganges alone holds the equivalent of several of the largest Himalayan glaciers. I’ve calculated that the 30km long Gangotri Glacier (one of the largest) would provide just 24 days flow in the Ganges.

  4. in this study how many glaciers were measured? lets hope it was a bit more than the 10 out of an estimated 54,000 world wide used in the original scare study. mind you i recall the date of 2035 was an error, not corrected in the reports. they actually meant 2350…so 10 times slower would “fit”…so its still on topic…maintaining the scare…

  5. So … the Himalayan glaciers are melting slower than was thought and a mistake was made in one page of the IPCC report about this. And the Arctic ice is melting faster and faster despite solar radiation being at a low and the Pines glacier in Antarctica is accelerating in it’s flow and now thought likely to make a significant contribution to sea level rise all on it’s own. Meanwhile it turns out that the cooling effect of aerosols has been underestimated and the underlying warming that has been masked by the aerosols is considerably greater than was thought. And the release of methane from the permafrost is accelerating. And the ocean is becoming more acidic from absorbing CO2 and may be too acidic soon for pterapods to form shells – possibly leading to the collapse of the food chain in the Southern Ocean. In any case overfishing means that many fish populations are on the verge of extinction…but that’s another story.

    And you are prepared to gamble my children’s future on the chance that nothing serious will happen? That there is no such thing as a climate change tipping point? You are being taken for fools by the fossil fuel industry.

    • UPDATE: I should have saved my breath. It all makes sense now.

      • LOL … Good exposé Simon.

      • So Simon – are you going to tell us who Streetcred, Baldrick and thingadonta are? I imagine you can use their emails to find them on Facebook or at whichever fossil fuel company or right wing think tank they work for. I imagine what you have done would be in breach of most privacy policies, but I guess you don’t have one.

        • Your environmental and climate activism is in the public domain, but I have removed the links anyway. You are not here to learn anything or engage in debate, just smear anyone who disagrees with you as a right wing, fossil-fuel funded denier. “Merchants of Doubt”? – oh, please. Don’t come back.

    • Streetcred says:

      You always know that when they invoke “the children” argument that they are full of puff and little understanding of real science. I’m quite happy for my “children” not to have to bare the burden of $billions wasted on ideological beliefs … wake up Jane but if you’re serious about all of this then you are welcome to turn off your electricity and go live in a cave … or follow the lemmings over a cliff, I don’t mind which you choose 🙂

  6. thingadonta says:

    The chief author of the ‘disappearing Himalayan glaciers in 35 years’ claim, said that they only left it in the IPCC report, following several external IPCC reviewer’s criticisms at the time, for political reasons! What a howler. In this they actually verbally admit breaking the rules for IPCC reports, that they are not to be statements made for political purposes. It’s there for history to see and judge, and its a joke.

  7. Have any of you read ‘Merchants of Doubt’? You really should. And where do you get your climate ‘information’? Not right wing blogs by any chance?

    Do you get any of your funding from fossil fuel companies or right wing think tanks?

    [REPLY: We don’t get any funding from anyone, unlike most Green groups – Ed]

    I don’t rely on IPCC at all – the research they cite is well out of date now. And climate change is accelerating fast.

    I assume you don’t debate that the Arctic sea ice is melting faster than predicted? See graph half way through: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRc_9nNTZg0

    And even the Koch brothers funded study shows that warming continues and did not ‘stop in 1998 as so often claimed. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y15UGhhRd6M

    A reference on ocean acidification: http://oceanacidification.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/ocean-acidification-book-now-published/

    Review including impact of acidification on pteropods http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.110308.120227

    and another review article: http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.environ.33.041707.110117

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