Humans to blame for melting glaciers

Study links man to rapidly-shrinking formations.
Associated Press
Aug 15, 2014

More than two-thirds of the recent rapid melting of the world's glaciers can be blamed on humans, a new study finds.

Scientists looking at glacier melt since 1851 didn't see a human fingerprint until about the middle of the 20th century. Even then only one-quarter of the warming wasn't from natural causes.

But since 1991, about 69 percent of the rapidly increasing melt was man-made, said Ben Marzeion, a climate scientist at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.

"Glaciers are really shrinking rapidly now," he said. "I think it's fair to say most of it is man-made."

Scientists fault global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas as well as changes in land use near glaciers and soot pollution. Glaciers in Alaska and the Alps in general have more human-caused melting than the global average, Marzeion said.

The study is published Thursday in the journal Science.

The research is the first to calculate just how much of the glacial melting can be attributed to people and "the jump from about a quarter to roughly 70 percent of total glacier mass loss is significant and concerning," said University of Alaska Fairbanks geophysicist Regine Hock, who wasn't part of the study.

Over the last two decades, about 295 billion tons of ice is melting each year on average due to human causes and about 130 billion tons  a year are melting because of natural causes, Marzeion calculated.

Glaciers alone add to about four-tenths of an inch of sea level rise every decade, along with even bigger increases from melting ice sheets — which are different than glaciers — and the expansion of water with warmer temperatures.

Marzeion and colleagues ran multiple computer simulations to see how much melting there would be from all causes and then did it again to see how much melting there would be if only natural causes were included. The difference is what was caused by humans.

Scientists aren't quite certain what natural causes started glaciers shrinking after the end of the Little Ice Age in the middle of the 19th century, but do know what are human-causes: climate change, soot, and local changes in land use.

There is a sizable margin of error so the 69 percent human caused can be as low as 45 percent or as high as 93 percent, but likely in the middle.

"This study makes perfect sense," said Pennsylvania State University glacier expert Richard Alley, who wasn't part of the research. "The authors have quantified what I believe most scientists would have expected."

Not all of the human-caused melting is from global warming from the burning of fossil fuels, but climate change is the biggest factor, said Ted Scambos, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The study showed that it took time for global warming and other factors to build up and cause melting. That lag effect means the world is already locked into more rapid melting from the warming that has already occurred, Marzeion and Alley said.




Re: "polluting our planet,"

Depends on whether one concludes that CO2 is a pollutant or not.


The world, the universe is such a perfect harmony of events, it's completely ludicrous to believe what we exhale is so toxic to our own existence.


It is not a pollutant like sulfur dioxide. It is a molecule that sits in the atmosphere and prevents the heat from the earth to escape.
It is not just what we exhale. That by itself is not the problem. Burning fossil fuels produces the carbon dioxide. See my earlier educational post.


Re: "a mute (sic) point,"

Did you mean "moot"?

It means debatable.


Thank you, MOOT POINT , people.

The Big Dog's back

Yep, I miss that black smoke coming from coal fired plants.


And all the sh_t that gets dumped in the creeks and rivers from those plants.


@ Contango: Thanks for the spelling correction (my bad) however...if you care to breathe CO2 (etc.) for long periods of my guest. Let me know the outcome of your experience.
Additionally, if your reply to my comments/observations is the best you can do about the matter of pollution in an overall sense...try harder please. Otherwise your comments will be considered as "moot".


Re: "pollution in an overall sense..."

If CO2 is a "pollutant," then why not water vapor which has shown to also be a global warming contributor?

A more potentially worrisome problem: The Carrington Effect.

If a similar event occurred today, the developed world could potentially be dark for yrs.

What are Al Gore and the other 'geniuses' doing about it?

See, there's ALWAYS some big business 'conspiracy' to worry about. Enjoy!


Re: "care to breathe CO2,"

We can't carry on normal respiratory functions without it.


Without CO2 our respiratory center would not be triggered to inhale.


Global warming? Satellite data shows Arctic sea ice coverage up 50 percent!
It was only five years ago in December that Al Gore claimed that the polar ice caps would be completely melted by now. But he might be surprised to find out that Arctic ice coverage is up 50 percent this year from 2012 levels.
Scientists have been struggling to explain away the 15-year pause in rising global temperatures. Some have turned to solar activity or natural climate cycles to explain the hiatus in warming.

The Bizness

Your statements are not sound science.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

At least regarding the statements about the sun, that is sound science. You may be interested in Dr. Nir Shaviv. He's not a "denier" per se, but he isn't making conclusions about causes before more is known. As an astrophysicist with high credentials, he also isn't an industry puppet (nor government lackey for the other side of the same coin). This piece of writing is especially candid:

"This divergence between theory and data exactly describes the the situation over the past several years with the lack of temperature increase (e.g., as I described here some time ago). It is also the reason why the IPCC had to lower the lower bound. The discrepancy is large enough now that a climate sensitivity of 2°C is inconsistent with the observations. However, under legitimate scientific behavior, the upper bound would have been decreased in parallel, but not in this case. This is because it would require abandoning the basic premise of a large sensitivity. Since the data requires a low climate sensitivity and since alarmism requires a large climate sensitivity, the "likely range" of climate sensitivity will remain large until the global warming scare will abate."

Don't just read this entry but the discussions under it as it is other learned people civilly (and scientifically) discussing the subject matter. I think you'll appreciate it especially, Biz. Though on the subject of science in generally, and especially how it relates to the climate, there is an interesting slide shared in the discussion of the article which states:

Utter Stagnation:
Symptom of NonScience

"Any field of study that has the word science in it probably isn't."
Ken Iverson, from Arthur Whitney, Memories of Ken

In the time a non-politicized branch of Applied Physics has increased chip size from mega to giga, there has been no quantitative progress on the accuracy of our understanding of Mean Planetary Temperature.

There is a disconnect of in-paradigm career science from the most fundamental classical computations.

EDIT: I offer these to you not out of confrontation. From what you have said about yourself you enjoy science as well as the environment. You are also very civil in discussion and passionate about the area (I kinda wish you'd post more in the forums actually). So when I offer up stuff like this it is in hopes that, together, we can promote a greater awareness of things and make sure we are agreeing upon science, not consensus (as it were).


OMG! are so way out of whack on your numbers. Check out the data. Since 1978 the sea ice coverage is the opposite direction you mention. It is about 50 % less!


I post facts. Sorry.


Maybe, but not this time. The whole world knows better and you are saying the arctic ice has increased over the time it takes to actually get a read on a climate change and not a weather change. Wow!
You didn't mention that your article states that 2012 saw the lowest level of Arctic Ice ever. There is a difference in weather vs. climate. Look over a longer time period.
NASA scientists have unequivocally determined that the climate is warming, and there is a 97% consensus that human activity is the main cause. The last decade was the warmest in recorded history.
Get multiple sources so you aren't giving misinformation, please!


In some of the articles I have read it seems that the arctic ice is less however the antarctic ice is much more just as this past summer a ship carrying researchers to the antarctic became lodged in the ice and two ice breakers that went to free the ship also became stuck in the ice although they were able to eventually free themselves. It seems they misjudged the size of the ice cap as it was much larger than expected.

The Big Dog's back

Why do right wingnuts always highlight that one or 2 scientists who agree with them?

The Big Dog's back

The only disconnect going on is right wingnuts from reality.


Does everyone read these real long posts? Right or wrong, I tend to ignore the real long posts. I prefer the shorter posts. What say you?


Yes, it is always much better to simply call names, and tell them they are wrong. It makes no sense to explain your statement and back it with facts, that is so hard to read that much. Do you bother to read the articles as those are always longer than the the posts about them. It is such a bother to read the articles, as they are so long.

Sarcasm is a lost art. Maybe some posts are too long for the intellectually vacuous.


Oh my! You are GRUMPY. If you have read most of my posts, I usually write some serious stuff, after reading the articles. Most articles are relatively short. It is a newspaper, not a novel. I do not call names. But, I must admit I do get sarcastic like you did when someone gives me asinine comments. Some of the posts are pretty funny and outrageous so I will occasionally take that for its entertainment value and use what I consider humor.
I think a good writer with a well thought out response can make their point with a few words. But, if people want to write a novel, that is their choice. I just don't have to climb on that wagon. By the way, I am not sure if you were referring to my intelligence. If you were referring to me, I would gladly compare IQ's. I know mine. If not, you are not very nice to everyone else!


The majority of Americans ain't buying the scare tactics.

"Poll: 53 Percent Of Americans Don’t Believe In Man-Made Global Warming"


So, we do everything based on polls? Not too bright! People once thought the world was flat according to a poll taken in 1490. Uhhhhhh, try science!!!
The picture of the earth I saw sure looked flat.


Mr Knowitall says " People once thought the world was flat according to a poll taken in 1490. Uhhhhhh, try science!!!"

At one time this part of the world was under a sheet of ice and I do not feel there was very much man made global warming at the time that it melted.

I think that the politicians are really about the only persons that do things because of polls.


It is not about whether or not global warming is or is not happening now. It is. The point is how much of it is human induced. My point is that science says human activity is facilitating the warming.
On polling. The sad thing is politicians do things by polling, sometimes they don't use facts. I think we are in agreement on this.


Re: "human activity is facilitating the warming."

Correlation is not causality.

Again: If there is indeed causality, the effects can only be dealt with, not eliminated.

The developing world is not giving up on oil and gas because the developed 'rich' nations say so.

There are advantages to a warming climate - use them.

Also, what 'exactly' is the correct avg. temp of the Earth? And when was the temp 'ever' avg.?

'Poindexters' playing with their computer models - GIGO.


It is scientific method. We know what we know till we find out differently. And so far we know carbon dioxide that humans spew into the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial revolution is a cause of global warming. What are the advantages of a warmer climate? Disadvantages?
It is not about average temperature. It is about the trend.