As the Earth's climate warms, glaciers are shrinking worldwide. But Fox News is using a recent study showing stable glaciers in one region of the Himalayas to obscure the global melting trend and cast doubt on climate change.
Study: One Mountain Range Is Bucking The Global Melting Trend
Study: Karakoram Range In Himalayas “Is Holding Steady, And May Even Be Growing.” LiveScience reported that a study published in Nature Geoscience found that glaciers in the Karakoram mountain range did not shrink between 1999 and 2008:
Glaciers and sea ice around the world are melting at unprecedented rates, but new data indicates that this phenomenon may be lopsided. It seems that some areas of the Himalayan mountain range are melting faster than others, which aren't melting at all, a new study indicates.
Specifically, the Karakoram mountain range is holding steady, and may even be growing in size, the study, published in the April 2012 issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, suggests.
“The rest of the glaciers in the Himalayas are mostly melting, in that they have negative mass balance, here we found that glaciers aren't,” study researcher Julie Gardelle, of CNRS-Université Grenoble, France, told LiveScience. “This is an anomalous behavior.”
The Karakoram mountain range spans the India-China-Pakistan border. It is home to the world's second highest peak, K2, and has the highest concentration of peaks over 5 miles (8 kilometers) high in the world. It is home to about half of the volume of the Himalayan glaciers. [LiveScience, 4/16/12, via The Christian Science Monitor]
It Was Already Known That Karakoram Glaciers Are Anomalous. The Carbon Brief reported on the recent study:
The research, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, used satellite data to assess the state of glaciers in the central Karakoram mountains between 1999 and 2008, and found that the glaciers gained ice slightly over that period. The finding confirms evidence from the late 1990s of growing glaciers in the Karakorum, but suggests that previous estimates of how much the Karakoram glaciers contribute to sea level rise have probably been too high. [The Carbon Brief, 4/16/12]
Globally, Glaciers Are Losing Ice Rapidly. Skeptical Science explained:
Globally glaciers are losing ice at an extensive rate (Figure 1). There are still situations in which glaciers gain or lose ice more than typical for one region or another but the long term trends are all the same, and about 90% of glaciers are shrinking worldwide (Figure 2).
Figure 1: Long-term changes in glacier volume adapted from Cogley 2009.
Figure 2: Percentage of shrinking and growing glaciers in 2008-2009, from the 2011 WGMS report
It is also very important to understand that glacier changes are not only dictated by air temperature changes but also by precipitation. Therefore, there are scenarios in which warming can lead to increases in precipitation (and thus glacier ice accumulation) such as displayed in part of southwestern Norway during the 1990s (Nesje et al 2008).
The bottom line is that glacier variations can be dependent on localized conditions but that these variations are superimposed on a clear and evident long term global reduction in glacier volume which has accelerated rapidly since the 1970s. [Skeptical Science, 12/17/11]
Climatology Professor: Study Concerned “A Very Short Period” And Doesn't Contradict Global Melting Trend. The Guardian reported that Jonathan Bamber, an expert on sea-level rise and climatology, cautioned that the study covered “a very short period”:
Prof Jonathan Bamber, at the University of Bristol, said Gardelle's research was consistent with global gravity work. But he cautioned: “Nine years is a very short period to draw strong conclusions about trends in glaciers. If you are looking for a climate effect - as opposed to a weather effect - you usually take a 30-year period as a minimum, on the assumption that this averages out the interannual variability.”
Cogley emphasised that, despite the relatively ice small growth seen the Karakoram, global glacier and ice cap melting is continuing and contributing to rising sea levels. “The world exhibits enormous variety, but that doesn't mean we cannot make valuable generalisations about how it is changing,” he said. [The Guardian, 4/15/12, via Carbon Brief]
Lead Researcher: “We Cannot Expect The Climate To Be Uniform Over The Whole Range.” From an article at CNN.com:
Lead author, Julie Gardelle from University of Grenoble in France says explanations for this increase are still not clear, but might lie in the localized climate.
“Studies have already reported an increase in winter precipitation and a lowering of summer temperatures since the 1960s in low-altitude valleys of Karakoram,” Gardelle said.
“Given the wide extent of high mountain Asia, we cannot expect the climate to be uniform over the whole range, so a peculiar atmospheric behavior over Karakoram may not be surprising,” she added.
The study confirms an anomaly in the region which was put forward in 2005 and contrasts with the experience of the central and eastern Himalayas where most glaciers are shrinking, say researchers.
Despite the slight gains, Gardelle says, the message on climate change remains the same.
“Global warming is far from spatially homogeneous and continuous with time. In our warming world, there are regions of the Earth where, during a few years or decades, the atmosphere is not warming or even cooling,” Gardelle said.
“Karakoram may be one of those, but we lack consistent high elevation weather station to conclude firmly on this.” [CNN.com, 4/17/12]
But Fox Hides Global Trend To Cast Doubt On Climate Change
Fox Suggests Study Refutes Global Warming. On the April 20 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News co-host Steve Doocy and guest Chris Horner never made clear that the study concerned one particular range in the Himalayas, and actually claimed that most glaciers are “getting bigger” and that this shows “their theory is wrong”:
STEVE DOOCY, CO-HOST: Global warming hysterics could soon face a cold, hard truth. Some glaciers are actually growing. French scientists studying satellite images have discovered the glaciers in Asia have actually increased in size over the past nine years. Oh, hope Al Gore is not watching this. Chris Horner is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute; he joins us today from Virginia. Chris, I thought the glaciers were all disappearing and now you're telling me that they're getting bigger.
CHRIS HORNER, COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: You could say most are getting bigger because most of the glaciers are found down under in Antarctica and that is cooling despite Al Gore's prior claims and growing. But around the world -- around the United States, South America, Canada, Asia, Europe -- glaciers are in fact growing, as well as some are shrinking. But frozen things have a very limited repertoire and they tried to read much too much into select ones shrinking.
DOOCY: So Chris, what does this do to their argument that everything, you know, the globe is getting warmer and everything is melting?
HORNER: Well they have yet to let facts stand in the way of their argument, but what it does is it continues to educate the public because glaciers have this emotional tie to people and you can point to them. But we're going to point to the ones growing -- Mount Shasta, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Ferry National Park in Canada, all over -- and point out that their theory is wrong. You don't -- we could continue spending money on the pursuit of knowledge, which seems to terrify them, instead of redesigning the American economy fundamentally, as the president wants.
DOOCY: Sure. This is surprising. You know, I haven't heard on any of the other channels that some of the glaciers are getting bigger, but that's why people watch Fox. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/20/12, emphasis added]