Saturday, February 24, 2007

You Gotta Feel Sorry

The Oregonian reports that glacier study at a plum global warming research project came up with head scratching data. Two of Greenland’s largest glaciers, which had shown dramatic shrinkage in 2004 and 2005, unaccountably had shrinkage last year at only the normal rate.

Ian Howat, a researcher with the University of Washington and University of Colorado, was at a loss to explain why except that the glacier’s shape is now “stretched and thinned”.

The variability in such a short time underscores the problem in assuming that glacial melting and sea level rise will occur on a steady upward trajectory, said Ian Howat, a researcher with the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory and the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center.

"While the rates of shrinking of these two glaciers have stabilized, we don't know whether they will remain stable, grow or continue to collapse in the near future" because the glaciers' shape changed greatly, becoming stretched and thinned, Howat said.

"Future warming may lead to rapid pulses of retreat and increased discharge rather than a long, steady drawdown."

Meanwhile, Lonnie Thompson, from Ohio State University, studying a Peruvian glacier, said his glacier may be gone in five years.

Lonnie Thompson, a professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University, said that the retreat of the Qori Kalis glacier in Peru exceeds any other retreat in at least the past 5,000 years.

The glacier is one of several tongues of ice retreating on the Quelccaya Ice Cap, the largest body of ice in the tropics, said Thompson, who said the retreat of glaciers worldwide is evidence of global warming.

Lonnie Thompson, reporting on a sparse glacial area, had dramatic global warming news. Poor Ian Howat, who should have had continuing mega evidence of global warming in Greenland, had at the best mixed, if not negative global warming news to report. Warning that shrinkage rate of the Greenland glaciers could escalate, remain stable or even go down, Howat was true to his data in saying that scientists don’t really understand global melting.

Could that mean that they don’t really understand global warming all that well either?

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