Broken Time Machine Redux

Having posted about GlacierWork’s stunning photos documenting glacier declines in the Himalayas just a few months ago, I was caught off guard by a new paper that suggests the glaciers in the Karakoram range are getting bigger.  The Karakorams are actually just the northwestern extension of the Himalayas, and GlacierWorks posted numerous photos documenting glacier decline there over the last century or so.    For instance, look at the colorized version of this 1909 photo, originally black and white, by Vittorio Sella of Concordia, the junction of the Baltoro and Godwin-Austin glaciers:

A glacier-filled valley
Concordia, 1909, by Vittorio Sella

It wouldn’t be a broken time machine without the weird color artifacts, like the fractal blue “lightning” in the upper right corner, due to differences in the positions of objects (especially clouds) in the current photo the colors came from:

Godwin-Austen & Upper Baltoro Glaciers 2009
Concordia, 2009, Click to see full size at GlacierWorks

It’s patently obvious that the glacial volume has decreased substantially in a century.  The new paper by Julie Gardelle, Etienne Berthier, and Yves Arnaud in Nature Geoscience compared satellite data between 1999 and 2008 and reported a mass gain (technically, an increase in ice volume).  Of note is how their last data was collected in 2008 and the most recent GlacierWorks photo is from 2009.  Apparently, after a decade of weight gain, the glaciers are still looking thinner than they did a century ago.  So while it is interesting that these glaciers are currently bucking the trend amongst sub-polar glaciers, it is far from certain that they can keep it up.  I also think this demonstrates that scientists are completely willing to admit “global warming” is not a monolithic trend, and that regionally some odd things can happen.  That’s why the preferred term is “climate change.”

2 Replies to “Broken Time Machine Redux”

  1. Thank you for writing about our little non-profit! Interesting and thoughtful post. The Karakoram is a unique place, much different from the rest of the Himalaya. Have you visited our website recently, to see pictures of our new exhibits at Everest Base Camp and the MIT Museum?

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