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Glacier Test Shows Global Warming

Updated 2:37 AM ET September 15, 2000

By PAUL RECER, AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ancient ice drilled from deep inside a glacier shows that the past century has been the hottest period in 1,000 years in the high Himalayan Mountains.

Researchers said the new finding is yet another indication the Earth is warming and supports other studies that show a rapid melting of mountain ice fields is under way on three continents.

"We think this is alarming," says Ellen Mosley-Thompson of Ohio State University, the co-author of a study appearing Friday in the journal Science.

Mosley-Thompson is a member of a team, led by Lonnie G. Thompson of Ohio State, that has analyzed ice cores from some of the most remote mountains in the world. The new cores, cylindrical specimens of ice, came from a glacier more than 20,000 feet high in the Himalayas.

"This is the highest climate record ever retrieved," Thompson said in a statement. "It clearly shows a serious warming during the late 20th century, one that was caused, at least in part, by human activity."

Herman Zimmerman, director of the National Science Foundation's earth sciences division, said the new studies "leave little doubt that the Earth is warming and that all characteristics of our climate can change rapidly."

"This is something that needs to be taken quite seriously by all the peoples of the world," Zimmerman said. The NSF sponsored the 1997 expedition that extracted the Himalayan ice cores.

Mosley-Thompson said the team has the ice cores record chemical clues of the climatic conditions that existed when the ice was deposited.

The most recent core, from the Dasuopu Glacier on the flank of the 26,293-foot Mt. Xixabangma, included ice that was laid down more than 12,000 years ago.

An analysis of the Dasuopu ice deposited during the last 1,000 years shows a dramatic trend of warming, Mosley-Thompson said.

"The last century has been warmer than the previous nine centuries," Mosley-Thompson said, while the last decade has been the warmest period of all.

Other studies, based largely on surface temperature readings, have found a global average warming of almost one degree over the last century, but the effect may be even more dramatic in the world's mountains, she said.

"These high elevation ice fields seem to be warming more strongly than what you could call the global average," Mosley-Thompson said.

She said there has been a significant shrinkage of permanent ice fields in Asia, South America and Africa that provide a significant part of the flow in major rivers. Many such rivers are in areas with monsoon weather patterns, where there usually is little rain for six months of the year. Ice melt from the rivers has become an increasingly important source of water for cities and farms, Mosley-Thompson said.

"For these rivers to continue to flow year-round, they have to be fed by ice in the high mountains," Mosley-Thompson said. If the ice fields continue to shrink, she said, "the question then is where will the river flow come from during the dry season."

Mosley-Thompson said the mountain warming effect seems to be worldwide.

"Everywhere we go, we get the same picture" of shrinking ice fields and increasing high altitude warming, she said.

In northern Peru, there is a marked shrinkage of ice fields in the Andes and a dry season reduction in flow of up to 70 percent in the Rimac River which supplies water to Lima, Mosley-Thompson said. In Africa, aerial photos taken of Mt. Kilimanjaro and checked against 1912 maps found a 75 percent loss of ice mass, she said.

There are no records to give a historic comparison for the Mt. Xixabangma ice fields, but she said that Indian scientists have found rapid shrinkage of ice fields around nearby Mt. Everest and tentative findings of a reduced dry season flow in rivers draining the Tibetan plateau.

-- (floods.and.fires@getting.worse), September 17, 2000


This is NOT good news. This means that the oceans are the only thing keeping us cooler at lower altitudes. No wonder there were so many fires this year, especially at higher altitudes.

Global warming is working its way down from the higher atmosphere, and once the oceans get much warmer, we are certainly doomed. There will be no escaping to the mountains, they will all be burned or rendered barren by intense radiation.

-- (we.are@sooooo.screwed), September 17, 2000.

Actaully, this really is not news. The Earth has been getting warmer for a long time. Glaciers have been shrinking since well before large scale industrialization. After all, not that long in geologic time, much of North America was covered with ice. We are still coming out of the last ice age.

The question that remains to be settled is to what extent, if any, human activity has contributed to or increased this trend.

Nor does it appear likely, as the post above suggests, that TEOTWAWKI is at hand. After all, global temperatures are still a lot lower than they were during the Mezazoic (era of the dinosaurs), and plant and animal life seemed to do well back then.

Now, on the other hand, if you live on an island who's high point is a few feet above sea level, you probably should not be investing in local real estate if you're counting on long term appreciation.

-- E.H. Porter (Just, September 18, 2000.

You've missed the whole point of the article Porter. It is the rate of the ACCELERATION of the warming that is alarming. As the article states...

"It clearly shows a serious warming during the late 20th century, one that was caused, at least in part, by human activity."

The only time anything close to this type of acceleration of the warming has been observed was during and E.L.E. (extinction level event), caused by highly abnormal anomolous events such as a giant meteor impact.

-- (, September 18, 2000.

No, I got the point. I just didn't agree with it, or the conclusions it draws.

Their characterization of their data is that:

"Ice deposited during the last 1,000 years shows a dramatic trend of warming . . . the last century has been warmer than the previous nine centuries . . . while the last decade has been the warmest period of all"

I see nothing about "acceleration." What I see is that the world has been getting warmer for at least the last 1000 years. And, definitely for the last 100 years.

Now, as I've said before, I don't see that as necessarily anything other than a long term climatic trend. I don't say that human intervention is not influencing climate. It probably is. To what extent we still don't know.

And, ask yourself this question. Temperatures have been going up for 100 years. 100 years ago, steam engines were used for most industrial production, and most people traveled by horse. If we need to revert to a time even before that one, are you willing to make the sacrifice? I'm not; most of the world is not. The developing world certainly is not.

-- E.H. Porter (Just, September 18, 2000.

Yes, I certainly am! People lived for thousands of years without steam engines and gas powered vehicles, are you saying you're too spoiled to live as they did? You'd rather kill your children? That's really pathetic, especially when we have alternatives where we wouldn't even have to give up our conveniences. People like you would prefer to practice denial and feign ignorance rather than work toward the solutions, and that is uncharacteristic of the spirit of humanity until this point in time. Very, very selfish, and very, very sad, especially for future generations.

-- (the.children.will@inherit.our.shit), September 18, 2000.

Well, for better or worse, I'm not and I doubt if my children would be. Life "for thousands of years" before gas and steam engines was short, brutal and unpleasant. If we have to chose between that and some sort of terrible disaster, there'd better be a lot clearer evidence that giving up civilization as we know it would help.

-- E.H. Porter (Just, September 18, 2000.

Okay, let's assume that what you say is true, there is no evidence that all of the pollution produced by our machines is heating the planet. What about all of the medical evidence that shows how bad air pollution is for a person's health? It causes emphyzema, asthma, neurological disorders, and a variety of other ailments. Are you denying that as well? You would still rather use a gas-powered vehicle than an electric one, even if it jeopardizes our health?

-- (old.ways@bad.ways), September 18, 2000.

Nope, old.ways. Believe it or not, I'm something of an environmentalist. I've always supported clean air legislation. I live 2 miles from my workplace, and frequently walk or bike to work. I'm lucky if I buy a tank of gas a month. Can you say the same?

But, the ultimate in clean combustion is an output of pure carbon dioxide and water vapor. And C02 is a major greenhouse gas. So, any form of combustion, clean or not, has the potential to promote global warming. Which then raises a question about electric vehicles. Where does that electricity come from? Coal? Nuclear? Hydro (which destroys millions of acres of vital habitat)? What about transmission loss (which tends to make electric power less efficient overall)?

There are no simple solutions that will not require a dramatic decrease in everyone's life style. Before I would agree to something like that (assuming they ask me), I'd want to see more evidence that global warming is a human caused event.

-- E.H. Porter (Just, September 18, 2000.


Howz it going. Just got back from the north Cascades. Very clear there. You could see from Hood to Baker on the approach to SeaTac. The Islands were clear and you could see the Canadian Peaks from San Juan. Good weather for hiking.

Nice of you to spend so much time trying to educate these folks. But using facts just won't work. I know: I have tried.

Best wishes,,,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (, September 18, 2000.

What facts? There are more facts showing a strong correlation of accelerated warming with industrialization than there is to the contrary. Why is that so hard to understand?

You take records of warming trends that normally fit into periods of tens of thousands of years and you try to say that the same amount of warming occuring in 100 years is normal? That isn't using facts, that is denial for your own convenience.

-- (, September 19, 2000.

There are more facts showing a strong correlation of accelerated warming with industrialization than there is to the contrary.

This simply isn't true. Besides, it is not a zero sum game. It is the quality, not the quanity that counts. But I won't argue. I have learned not to argue with those who have the true religion.

Best wishes,,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (, September 19, 2000.

Z, that argument cuts both ways. You and EH also have the true religion, and no set of facts will sway you, for whatever reason. Odd that EH should mention the civilization 100 years ago -- that was about the time an Englishman tried to warn the world that increased burning of coal for the Industrial REvolution would have exactly the effect that we now see.

-- Warmer (, September 19, 2000.

Would you prefer global cooling?

-- Lars (, September 19, 2000.

Yes, I would.

-- (, September 20, 2000.

Lars, you may not be too far off. There has been speculation among scientists (I remember a few articles) about being in the middle of an ice age, meaning another will be coming. Yeah, move to the bahamas!

-- Maria (, September 20, 2000.

And, of course, Warmer has hit the nail on the head. Personally, I like the Industrial Revolution. I would not give it up, even if it turns out it has some influence on climate.

And, after all, an SUV a day keeps the glaciers away. Living as I do in Minnesota, a new ice age would raise hell with property values.

-- E.H. Porter (Just, September 21, 2000.

We're all gonna die!

-- (, September 21, 2000.

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