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The new hiatus

A new paper by Bahuguna et al published in the Indian journal Current Science finds that there has been little or no change to the extent of Himalayan glaciers in recent years:

...a study has been carried out to find the change in the extent of Himalayan glaciers during the last decade using IRS LISS III images of 2000/01/02 and 2010/11. Two thousand and eighteen glaciers representing climatically diverse terrains in the Himalaya were mapped and monitored. It includes glaciers of Karakoram, Himachal, Zanskar, Uttarakhand, Nepal and Sikkim regions. Among these, 1752 glaciers (86.8%) were observed having stable fronts (no change in the snout position and area of ablation zone), 248 (12.3%) exhibited retreat and 18 (0.9%) of them exhibited advancement of snout. The net loss in 10,250.68 sq. km area of the 2018 glaciers put together was found to be 20.94 sq. km or 0.2% (±2.5% of 20.94 sq. km).

The results are suitably caveated with respect to the length of period studied and the resolution of the images, but it certainly doesn't look like a precipitous retreat is taking place.

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Reader Comments (42)

Yes, in retrospect, the doom laden threat of the disappearance of all of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 does now seem a tad premature.

Even if, all of the glaciers were in retreat which clearly they are not. To assign the retreat, solely down to the supposition that it is somehow to do with man made emissions of CO2 - is a preposterous ascription - a transport from a well known form of groupthink, of warmist global lunacy. But even though it was a gargantuan leap, it didn't stop them [IPCC/Greenpi88] did it?

May 10, 2014 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

This reassuring news obviously won't be mentioned by Aunty's doom-sayer Jonathan Amos.

May 10, 2014 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Witchcraft I say! Voodoo Science.
And with error bars >10x the observed change, pretty worthless?

May 10, 2014 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

As glaciers form from precipitation there have clearly been cycles of extreme drought and snowfall, known to be the inevitable result of global warming, that have cancelled each other out.

Static glaciers are therefore entirely consistent with extremes of weather in a warming world.


May 10, 2014 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Could voodoo be to blame for this travesty?

May 10, 2014 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

Ahh bugger...

Sorry Adam, I didn't see your posting before I submitted mine...

May 10, 2014 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

The dynamics are such that even a hint of confirmation of doom hypothesis would be hyped. So I guess the fact this report comes out the other way is quiet a strong message..capiche ?

May 10, 2014 at 11:07 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Caveats left, right and come we never see these in papers that purport to identify without a doubt Mann Made Global Warming (tm) is worse than we thought?


May 10, 2014 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

It is good to see that more than 97% of commenters here agree with our revered master Maharishi Mahesh Patchy that reports such as these are just so much voodoo 'science'.

There's plenty of time till 2035, and in the meantime the number of CO2s being piled up in our atmosphere pretty much guarantee that by then Himalayan glaciers will be something that our children and grandchildren will only ever be able to read about in Greenpeace pamplets.

You'll see.

May 10, 2014 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterJerryM

Once again skeptics are justified in their skepticism. Once again global warming fanatics are shown to be doomsday cultists.

May 10, 2014 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Pamphlets!!! A 'Greenpeace pamplet' is something else altogether, and not for pre-watershed discussion.

May 10, 2014 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJerryM

What did we tell you?
Nearly 14 times as many glaciers are retreating as advancing. 93% in fact.
Another cherry, Minister?

May 10, 2014 at 12:10 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Are there any real scientists trying to identify which aspect of the CO2 driven global warming doesn't seem to function in the way they assumed?

May 10, 2014 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

JerryM nailed it. This is only more voodoo science. Didn't our supreme leader Gordon Brown say in October 2009 at the Major Economies Forum in London: just twenty-five years the glaciers in the Himalayas which provide water for three quarters of a billion people could disappear entirely.

They could disappear entirely by 2035, causing certain death for three quarters of a billion people. Or maybe they won't, till 3520. Or never. That's how urgent this is. The science is settled.

May 10, 2014 at 12:55 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Though I can't see them mention it, it sounds consistent with the GRACE study published in Nature 2012 which said:

"The high mountains of Asia, in particular, show a mass loss of only 4 ± 20 Gt yr−1 for 2003–2010, compared with 47–55 Gt yr−1 in previously published estimates."

To their credit, though they may have forgotten it, even the Guardian managed to report that with

"The Himalayas and nearby peaks have lost no ice in past 10 years, study shows'.
"The discovery has stunned scientists, who had believed that around 50bn tonnes of meltwater were being shed each year and not being replaced by new snowfall."

Well there you go. But CMIP5 models apparently manage to take it all in their stride, swiftly re-setting themselves and continuing to predict disaster. For example

May 10, 2014 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

I had visited a popular glacier in Norway, walking kilometres up the mountain until we reached the tip of the beautiful blue ice. About 2 kilometres down there was a signed fixed to the rock which showed where the tip of the glacier was some 200 years ago. Yes, hundreds of years ago. Glaciers did not commence their melt in 1980. Glaciers expanded during the Little Ice Age (ask the Vikings of Greenland) and commenced their retreat when the world commenced to warm up again, naturally of course. It kept warming until 1997. Now we are in a 17-year stasis with the possibility of cooling.

May 10, 2014 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered Commenteralex

The glacier retreat we should have seen is hidden in the deep oceans, or something!


May 10, 2014 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

Retreating glaciers (or sea ice) are, in any case, not dispositive of global warming. Melting may be due to black carbon deposition.

Also, I vaguely recall that the 2035 was, possibly, the result of a transposition error from study that claimed disappearance of trhe Himalayan glaciers by 2350. That would be approximately be the result of an annual retreat of 0.2% (per year).

To get a better feel for trends and fluctuations in glacier extents worldwide, check out Jean Grove's work. I recall one of her figures showing that the last round of glacier retreats worldwide commencing around the mid-1800s, which would be broadly consistent with black carbon, solar fluctuations, as well as greenhouse gas emissions being contributing factors.

May 10, 2014 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterIndur M. Goklany

The "it was a perfectly understandable typo" meme was only belatedly introduced after one of the Warming Warriors stood back and realised how really, really stupid the 2035 figure actually was.

Before then, it was gospel.

May 10, 2014 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJerryM

RR & JerryM

I don't myself buy into the transposition theory (that 2350 was transposed to 2035), but it remains possible -- note the parenthetical "possibly" in my post. In any case, I believe any glaciologist working on the Himalayas should have recognized the plausibility of the 2035 projection when compared with existing empirical trends. So I would classify that as a major fail for whoever peer-reviewed the original IPCC chapter. As an engineer, that's the least I would expect from a peer-reviewer, i.e., separate the improbable from the possible. Of course, this is hindsight on my part.

[BTW, the same logic makes me skeptical of many current claims regarding sea level rise by 2100. The greater the divergence between current and projected SLR rates, the greater my skepticism.]

May 10, 2014 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterIndur M. Goklany

The New Scientist journalist Fred Pearce gives a good account of the infamous IPCC AR4 error on Himalayan Glaciers in his book "The Climate Files" (which is mostly about Climategate, but also covers other issues around that time). Pearce himself was part of the story, because he wrote the article which was the source of the crazy 2035 date.

To summarise Pearce's account:

In 1999, Pearce interviewed Indian glaciologist Syed Hasnain, who said his research suggested total loss of Himalayan glaciers by 2035. Pearce published that claim in New Scientist, but apparently it didn't cause much of a stir. Later he was told by British glaciologists that the claim was unsound.

However, as we know, the 2035 claim was repeated in the IPCC AR4 Working Group 2 report in 2007, with the source being a WWF report, which in turn attributed this to Pearce's New Scientist article and an unpublished report by Hasnain which did not in fact contain the 2035 claim. WWF's quote had in fact come from a different article co-written by Hasnain.

Basically the AR4 authors had not checked the source, which they should have done. It was an entirely avoidable mistake.

However, I was pleased to see that when preparing the AR5 WG2 report published a few weeks ago, the WG2 co-chair Chris Field did 2 things to try to stop this kind of thing happening again:

1. He repeatedly reminded the Lead Authors of our responsibility to check sources, and only use "grey literature" if it could be shown to be credible.
2. He put in place a thorough fact-checking system for the drafts of the report: the Technical Support Unit staff went through every line of the report, and wherever there was a number, they personally looked up the source for this (which meant looking up 12000 references) and checked that the number was in fact supported by the reference, and that the reference was appropriate.

Of course one can never guarantee complete infallibility, but I think the WG2 report in AR5 was much more carefully checked than AR4.

May 10, 2014 at 8:23 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Yes, Richard. But it is a shame that the SPM-5 was such a load of bollocks.

May 10, 2014 at 8:36 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

Richard Betts says above that Lead Authors have been instructed to "check sources", which I guess is some sort of comfort, but surely Lead Authors should be experts who already know the validity or otherwise of sources.

I'm still left with the impression that IPCC reports are not exactly the state-of-science that some would have us believe, but lean somewhat towards the political agendas of WWF, Greenpeace, etc.

May 10, 2014 at 8:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Mr Betts, Sir,

Do you have a view on the both the manner and intent of the behaviour on the part of Mr Pachauri to contradictory viewpoints of the 2035 meltdown prediction? "Voodoo science" and the like...

I hope you can see my point?


May 10, 2014 at 8:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJones

@Radical Rodent,

...does carbon occur in any other colour?...

I think one of the fullerenes looks like mud (C70?) - though your point is well made. The struggle now is not only against invisible 'Carbon Pollution' in our clearblueskies but also that smutty 'Black Carbon' on the virginsnose.

May 10, 2014 at 10:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Richard Betts May 10, 2014 at 8:23 PM

Thanks for the admission that mistakes were made. Might you also consider how such mistakes have contributed to homo sapiens now being afraid of the environment that spawned him?

May 11, 2014 at 12:23 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Ah, but it's worse than we thought, as 13 times as many glaciers are in retreat as are in advance!
I can see the Grauniad headline now.

May 11, 2014 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

Lots of O/T stuff removed

May 11, 2014 at 9:12 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Well done Bish.

May 11, 2014 at 9:27 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Once again skeptics are shown to be right and AGW fanatics shown to be wrong.

May 11, 2014 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Alan Reed

Don't forget that black carbon -- diamonds. Didn't think it was worth commenting on.

May 11, 2014 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterIndur M. Goklany

Alright – don’t rub it in! But the idea of problems caused by ice-fields covered in diamond dust is interesting.

May 11, 2014 at 3:33 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

@Dr Goklany

I believe that 'black carbon' on glaciers is largely a myth. In many places the glaciers themselves are the instruments of their own destruction. They grind away the valley in which they flow creating large quantities of rock of all sizes including much dust which can, and does, blow many miles from its source.

I have not seen any analyses of surface deposits on glaciers. I'm sure if there were any and they showed it was largely 'black carbon' we'd have heard about it.

May 11, 2014 at 7:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Take a look at "20th-Century Industrial Black Carbon Emissions Altered Arctic Climate Forcing," by Joseph R. McConnell et al., Science 7 September 2007: Vol. 317 no. 5843 pp. 1381-1384.

It's available at

Sorry for the ridiculously long alphanumeric string.

May 11, 2014 at 7:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterIndur M. Goklany

Richard Betts

and only use "grey literature" if it could be shown to be credible.

For me grey literature which is credible is literature otherwise it is unconfirmed grey literature. Lapogus and Jones have called it correctly.

May 11, 2014 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Indur M. Goklany
You can use the HTML a tag and include the URL in the href="" part and a brief title between the tags, See here for detailed information.

May 11, 2014 at 7:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Here is clickable Indur's link comes out as a PDF download

May 11, 2014 at 9:13 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

May 11, 2014 at 7:40 PM | Indur M. Goklany

Thank you for a very interesting link. It would appear from that example there is no recent black carbon problem in the two western Greenland sites sampled. There was from the late 19th century until about 50 years ago but things now are pretty much back to pre-industrial levels. Interesting, also, to note the precipitous decline of non-sea salt sulfur in recent times, presumably as a result of clean air acts.

There is a very evident problem in the Alps with Saharan dust but I suspect that has changed little over the years.

I wonder if there is a different story in, say, the glaciers of Asia?

May 11, 2014 at 11:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar


Check out -- I'm sure there are more on line.


Black carbon concentrations from a Tibetan Plateau ice core spanning 1843-1982: recent increases due to emissions and glacier melt, by Jenkins, M.; Kaspari, S.; Kang, S.; Grigholm, B.; Mayewski, P. A. The Cryosphere Discussions, Volume 7, Issue 5, 2013, pp.4855-4880.

Abstract. Black carbon (BC) deposited on snow and glacier surfaces can reduce albedo and lead to accelerated melt. An ice core recovered from Guoqu glacier on Mt. Geladaindong and analyzed using a Single Particle Soot Photometer provides the first long-term (1843-1982) record of BC concentrations from the Central Tibetan Plateau. The highest concentrations are observed from 1975-1982, which corresponds to a 2.0-fold and 2.4-fold increase in average and median values, respectively, relative to 1843-1940. BC concentrations post-1940 are also elevated relative to the earlier portion of the record. Causes for the higher BC concentrations include increased regional BC emissions and subsequent deposition, and melt induced enrichment of BC, with the melt potentially accelerated due to the presence of BC at the glacier surface. A qualitative comparison of the BC and Fe (used as a dust proxy) records suggests that if changes in the concentrations of absorbing impurities at the glacier surface have influenced recent glacial melt, the melt may be due to the presence of BC rather than dust. Guoqu glacier has received no net ice accumulation since the 1980s, and is a potential example of a glacier where an increase in the equilibrium line altitude is exposing buried high impurity layers. That BC concentrations in the uppermost layers of the Geladaindong ice core are not substantially higher relative to deeper in the ice core suggests that some of the BC that must have been deposited on Guoqu glacier via wet or dry deposition between 1983 and 2005 has been removed from the surface of the glacier, potentially via supraglacial or englacial meltwater.


Historical Trends of Atmospheric Black Carbon on Tibetan Plateau As Reconstructed from a 150-Year Lake Sediment Record, by Zhiyuan Cong, Shichang Kang, Shaopeng Gao, Yulan Zhang, Qing Li, Kimitaka Kawamura, Environmental Science & Technology 02/2013; DOI:10.1021/es3048202

ABSTRACT. Black carbon (BC) is one of the key components causing global warming. Especially on the Tibetan Plateau (TP), reconstructing BC's historical trend is essential for better understanding its anthropogenic impact. Here, we present results from high altitude lake sediments from the central TP. The results provide a unique history of BC over the past 150 years, from the preindustrial to the modern period. Although BC concentration levels in the Nam Co Lake sediments were lower than those from other high mountain lakes, the temporal trend of BC fluxes clearly showed a recent rise, reflecting increased emissions from anthropogenic activities. The BC records were relatively constant until 1900, then began to gradually increase, with a sharp rise beginning around 1960. Recent decades show about 2.5-fold increase of BC compared to the background level. The emission inventory in conjunction with air mass trajectories further demonstrates that BC in the Nam Co Lake region was most likely transported from South Asia. Rapid economic development in South Asia is expected to continue in the next decades; therefore, the influence of BC over the TP merits further investigations.

May 12, 2014 at 3:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterIndur M. Goklany

Dr Goklany, thanks again, interesting papers.

As the first abstract notes, in the melting zone at the snout of a glacier, many years of impurity collection are exposed at once. Whether recent amounts of black carbon makes any difference in this area is worthy of further research. On some glaciers in Iceland the volcanic ash which melts out at the margin can be so thick that even though it is black it acts as a good insulator and ice pinnacles form with a thick platform of ash on the top.

In my view, the whole topic merits much more research = in particular whether black carbon is much more prone to re-distribution on the surface than heavier contaminants.

May 12, 2014 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Billy Liar

Funnily enough, Stephan Harrison and I have a PhD position on debris cover on glaciers - you are right that we need much more information on this.


Countering criticism of the AR4 glacier statements without double-checking their credibility was clearly a rash move.

May 13, 2014 at 7:46 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Mr Betts,

Thank you kindly. Indeed it was rash but my question really pertained to the motives of Mr Pachauri in making such "rash" moves in the manner he did?

Of course you can't read his mind but like many you will have a view on how he actually countered the criticism. The manner of it.

Thank you kindly for at least responding.

I mean that.


May 13, 2014 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterjones

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