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Mendenhall Glacier’s Retreat and Obama

September 11, 2015

President Obama made some remarkable statements about CO2 being the cause of global warming and the retreat of the Mendenhall Glacier on his visit to Alaska.

In viewing the glaciers retreat, Mr. Obama said, “It sends a message about the urgency we’re going to need to have when it comes to dealing with this,” referring to his efforts to cut CO2 emissions.

Several articles have been written about the Mendenhall Glacier. One stood out in particular as it described the glacier’s yearly retreat since the early 1800s. The article asked, why would CO2 be the cause of the glaciers retreat before the industrial revolution with increased atmospheric CO2 levels?

I have been fortunate to visit the Mendenhall Glacier, as well as hiking to the face of the Fox Glacier in New Zealand, and cruising past nearly a dozen Chilean glaciers on my trip around the Horn of South America.

All of the glaciers had one thing in common, they were all retreating.

D. Dears on Mendenhall Glacier

D. Dears on Mendenhall Glacier

It would be a simple matter to jump to the conclusion that CO2 emissions were the cause of global warming and the retreat of glaciers.

But that would be a big, unscientific jump.

Why did the glaciers retreat before the industrial revolution when atmospheric CO2 levels were still around 280 pm?

Mendenhall Glacier Retreat. From Roanoke Slant by L.B. Hagen

Mendenhall Glacier Retreat. From Roanoke Slant by L.B. Hagen

This diagram shows the reach of Mendenhall Glacier 11 years before the American revolution in 1776, and nearly a century before the industrial revolution, which is often cited as beginning around the mid 1800s and sometimes as beginning around the turn of the twentieth century, and the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels.

Clearly the retreat was not due to CO2 levels in the atmosphere, even though it could be attributed to global warming as the earth exited the Little Ice Age.

As reported elsewhere, “Between 1767 and 1909, as the world was thawing out from the Little Ice Age, the glacier’s terminus retreated nearly a mile.”

Attributing the retreat of glaciers to atmospheric CO2 levels defies logic, as well as science.

President Obama’s call for action to cut CO2 emissions to save glaciers is misguided at best. It’s also bad science.

It demonstrates, once again, that the hysteria over CO2 emissions could lead to a bad agreement this December at COP 21 in Paris … an agreement that will curtail the use of fossil fuels and harm Americans.


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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Catcracking permalink
    September 11, 2015 11:48 am

    Another excellent article.
    I am constantly perplexed as to the rational of those who ignore or omit either through ignorance or intentionally the geological facts and cherry pick data to claim climate change alarms.
    Any honest scientists who looks at all the data must conclude that glaciers have been melting for centuries and the long term melt is clearly not associated with CO 2 ergo the current melt is not uniquely associated with man made CO 2 emissions. We are living in an Inter glacial period.
    I am puzzled with what is the agenda given the facts on glacier melting, etc from the CAGW advocates including the administration. see below:

    “While George Washington rowed around ice floes on the Delaware River and Hans Brinker skated toward Amsterdam on the frozen canals of Holland, the Mendenhall Glacier was beginning its retreat from its furthest forward position, known as its Little Ice Age Maximum.

    Between 1767 and 1909, as the world was thawing out from the Little Ice Age, the glacier’s terminus retreated nearly a mile, leaving behind a terminal moraine ridge, composed of rocks, sand and silt at the southern end of River Road.

    Successive recessional east-west trending moraines were deposited in places like Mendenhall River School, along Taku Boulevard, and across the Loop Road near Threadneedle and Garnet Streets. Melt water pooled behind the moraines and formed Dredge Lakes. Subdivisions, roads, campgrounds and a visitors’ center now occupy sites that were covered by 500 to 1,000 feet of ice merely 100 to 200 years ago. We live in a unique community that has a glacier flowing into its own backyard!

    A U.S. Geological Survey map made in 1909 shows a small pond at the edge of the glacier, south of the present Skaters Cabin. The basin that was to become Mendenhall Lake was still occupied entirely by ice, and both Duck and Jordan Creeks received a steady supply of glacier melt water.”

    Glacier retreat accelerated in the decades that followed, receding another one-half mile by 1931, and Mendenhall Lake was born.

    While the world struggled with the Great Depression and World War II between 1931 and 1949, Mendenhall Glacier retreat was wreaking havoc on rivers and water flow in Mendenhall Valley.”

    I happened to visit the glacier in Alberta Columbia ice fields in the late 70’s and took the spectacular trip on the glacer via a tracked vehicle. I believe those “tours” are still available for those so inclined. See below for the history of growth and recessions.

    “The last major period of advance occurred during the Little Ice Age, which lasted from about 1,200 to 1900 AD. Around 1800, the Athabasca Glacier peaked, then went through a period of recession, and then advanced again until 1840, when it began receding until the present day.[3]”

    • September 11, 2015 1:10 pm

      Thanks. Thanks also for the additional information.

  2. Neil Jones permalink
    September 11, 2015 1:13 pm

    Brief, to the point, and well said. One wonders why our press is incapable of making the same point.

    • September 11, 2015 1:18 pm

      Unfortunately, the media has bought into the CO2 hypothesis, and, like robots, support Obama. An acquaintance sent a Juneau newspaper the same diagram used in my article, and the Juneau paper wouldn’t publish it.

  3. Eutychus Masino permalink
    September 13, 2015 11:51 pm

    Please cite the source for your figure. Also, you should cite your references, not simply state “As reported elsewhere, “Between 1767 and 1909, as the world was thawing out from the Little Ice Age, the glacier’s terminus retreated nearly a mile.” ”

    The figure looks pretty amatuer and I am wondering about its veracity and who put it together.

    • September 14, 2015 8:12 am

      From Juneau Empire, “Mendenhall Glacier is shrinking and scientists want to know why, January 5, 2001.”
      Source of the picture used in the article is the Roanokeslant, L.B. Hagen. It has also pictures showing three other glaciers that began their retreat in the mid to late 1700s.
      You may also be interested in, “Retreat of the Mendenhall Glacier reveals the remains of trees which grew more than 2,000 years ago, Juneau Empire, September 13, 2013.”
      Thanks for asking.


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