Tag Archives: Glaciers

Gone by 2020: worse or better than thought?

This is part 8 in the series on the prediction that glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone by 2020. You might want to see to part 1, part2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6 and part 7 if you haven’t already.

Back to a previous series on the prediction when the glaciers in Glacier National Park would be gone. In hat series, I focused primarily on two specific predictions (with the end date of 2020 and 2030) and how these were presented to the public. I knew there were other predictions around, but at that time I was not particularly interested in them, so didn’t search for these specifically.

In the meanwhile, I came across the NationalReview article “Beware the Boogeyman Alarm” by Kyle Smith and that contains this interesting paragraph (my emphasis):

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All gone by the year 2020: what does it matter anyway?

This is part 7 in the series on the prediction that glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone by 2020. You might want to see to part 1, part2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6 if you haven’t already.

The last six posts were about the prediction that the glaciers in Glacier National Park would be gone by 2020. I also delved deeper in the relation of this prediction with a similar prediction that the glaciers would be gone by 2030, making the case that the 2020 prediction was an update of the 2030 prediction (contrary to how it is reported in most media).

Now you could object that this looks like nit-picking. Glaciers are shrinking anyway, that is also clear from previous post, so what does it matter whether someone made a wrong prediction of how long the remaining glaciers would last. The discussion whether the glaciers in Glacier National Park would be gone by 2020 or 2030 seems small change compared to the big picture that they will be gone in the future.

I could somewhat understand such objection, but I think there is much more to it than that.

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All gone by the year 2020: is observed glacier melt the basis for the prediction?

This is part 6 in the series on the prediction that glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone by 2020. You might want to see to part 1, part2, part 3, part 4 and part 5 if you haven’t already.

In a previous post, I walked down memory lane to the time I was about 19 years old. In this post, I will go back to the more tender age of 14 and my first trip abroad. It was a trip to Switzerland on the health insurance plan of my parents. Its intention was to give the working class youth the opportunity to breathe in the pure mountain air of Switzerland. We were a bunch of kids of the same age and, as you would expect, there were a lot of outdoor activities like sports that we could chose from.

Not being that much into sports and a more nature-minded boy, I often joined the hiking group that did nature walks in the vicinity of the center were we stayed over. At one point, there was the opportunity to see a glacier. I had learned about glaciers in school and was eager to see one. It was not that close by and after a stiff walk we arrived at the glacier. Boy, was I disappointed. We saw some melting ice chunks and a small patch of ice stretching along the mountain. Although it was nice to see some ice in that time of the year, it was a real anti-climax.

One of the guides then said that a lot of glaciers were shrinking and that this glacier was no exception. This was in the mid 1970s.

I was reminded of this scene from my youth when reading this paragraph in the Hall & Fagre paper “Modeled Climate-Induced Glacier Change in Glacier National Park, 1850–2100” (my emphasis):

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All gone by the year 2020: Wikipedia rewrites history (2)

This is part 5 in the series on the prediction that glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone by 2020. You might want to see to part 1, part2, part 3 and part 4 if you haven’t already

This post is a follow-up on a previous post in this series, more specifically the post of Wikipedia rewriting history by suggesting that the 2030 prediction was a “later estimate”, following the 2020 prediction. Contrary to the reality that the 2020 estimate was an update of the 2030 estimate and the 2030 estimate was in fact rehashed after the 2020 claim was abandoned (probably because it became clear that the 2020 estimate would fail).

My take was that the Wikipedia contributor found that the 2030 estimate was made in an later snapshot of a National Park Service webpage and didn’t look at the estimates in the snapshots before 2010, therefor went from the assumption that the 2030 prediction was a later estimate. I think that this still holds, but that there is more to it than that.

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All gone by the year 2020: entering the wrong data gets the right answer

This is part 4 in the series on the prediction that glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone by 2020. You might want to see to part 1, part2 and part 3 if you haven’t already

Let me first tell you a story of a young student. Fast rewind to the beginning of the 1980s and this young, eager student took a practical exam chemistry. The exam consisted of some questions about lab practices and one practical test that had to be performed in the lab. That test was important because it counted for half of the points.

The easiest test that the students learned in that year was determining the amount of iron in a (self-prepared) iron salt solution. The procedure was pretty simple, it was by far the shortest test and the final calculation was also straight forward. Every student would get a different assignment, so all the students were dreaming of getting that specific question as their assignment.

At the beginning of the exam, the students had to draw a small piece of paper (with the name of the test that they had to perform) out of a box. When this young student drew his piece of paper out of the box, he read … determining the amount of iron in an iron salt solution.

Yabba dabba doooooo!

Imagine the joy he felt, realizing that this exam would be a walk in the park… He looked forward getting a good grade.

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All gone by the year 2020: Wikipedia rewrites history (1)

This is part 3 in the series on the prediction that glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone by 2020. You might want to see to part 1 and part2 if you haven’t already

The title of this page has been updated to reflect an later update.

Wikipedia claim glacier national park melted by 2020  and 2030

During my research on the “All gone by the year 2020” prediction, I also encountered the Wikipedia page about the Glacier National Park (U.S.). My attention was immediately drawn to the sequence of the predicted estimates when glaciers would be gone according to a Wikipedia contributor (my emphasis):

Based on the warming trend of the early 2000s, scientists had estimated that the park’s remaining glaciers would melt by 2020;[52] however, a later estimate stated that the glaciers may be gone by 2030.[5]

As it is stated, it is seems that the “glaciers would melt by 2020” prediction came first and was followed by the later “gone by 2030” prediction. I went through a lot of material about those predictions in the last week and this statement is in fact the reverse of what happened in reality. The 2020 estimate was a 2009 update of the 2030 estimate that was made originally made in 2003. This post will explain how the Wikipedia contributor managed to switch the two.

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All gone by the year 2020: some justifications for why the prediction failed

This is part 2 in the series on the prediction that glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone by 2020. You might want to see to part 1 if you haven’t already

There are some efforts to explain the failed “gone by the year 2020” prediction. These are however more difficult to find because they are so sparsely distributed and not to be found in the media, this contrary to the emotional “gone by the year 2020” claim that was broadcast and shared widely.

I found two justifications for the failed prediction. The first one is a paragraph on a webpage of the National Park Service dedicated to melting glaciers (emphasis by the National Park Service):

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All gone by the year 2020: some background

Glacier National Park: new sign

All glaciers in Glacier National Park (US) will be gone by 2020. That is the bold prediction that was communicated by the Glacier National Park officials. I learned about this claim viewing the story of Roger Roots who visited the St. Mary Visitor Center and noticed a diorama representing melting glaciers with following sign (my emphasis):

GOODBYE TO THE GLACIERS
The small alpine glaciers present today started forming about 7,000 years ago and reached their maximum in size and number around 1850, at the end of the Little Ice Age. They are now rapidly shrinking due to human-caused climate change. Computer models indicate the glaciers will all be gone by the year 2020.

He found this end date highly unlikely and prophesied that the park officials would have to remove that sign at some point. When he came back two years later, he saw that the diorama sign had been changed. One word in the second last sentence was changed and the last sentence (that computer models indicated that the glaciers will be gone by 2020) was replaced (my emphasis):

They are now rapidly shrinking due to human-accelerated climate change. When they will completely disappear, however, depends on how and when we act.

To me, that raised the question what exactly that claim was based on. Park officials don’t just put up such signs without a reason. They had to be really, really certain that claim was true, otherwise they wouldn’t communicate a date that was so close in the future. So what is the solid science behind this “gone by the year 2020” prediction?

While researching the post, I quickly came to the conclusion that I had too much material with different themes, so I will split it into smaller posts. In this post, I will give some more background about the claim that is needed to understand later posts on the subject.

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