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Sorry, Cliff Harris: Research shows glaciers are shrinking

by Jeffrey E. Bourget
| April 9, 2010 9:00 PM

Last month Cliff Harris reported that the Arctic Ocean and glaciers had melted in 1922. He didn't do research. This led to a column that, had he asked the Inuit, was wrong.

He based his column of March 22 on Robert Felix's beliefs. Felix's credentials are that he is a former architect. Felix thinks that underwater volcanoes, which oceanographers can't find, are the reason for rising sea levels.

A major source for Felix is a front operation for Lyndon LaRouche, tax evader and conspiracy theorist. He thinks that the empirical method "destroys human lives." All sciences depend on careful observation, the empirical process. Felix also quotes John Shroder at the University of Nebraska. Unfortunately, Shroder is not a climate change scientist, he's a geographer specializing in Afghanistan.

Another pair of sources are Jonathan Leake and Chris Hastings. They have published in New World Order Digest, a paranoid magazine that traces the world's ills to a cabal of Jewish bankers. Jonathan Leake has been described as someone that, "fabricates his stories by quote-mining his sources and stovepipes claims from global warming deniers." He also believes that tobacco is harmless. Surely, if true, Felix could find a climatologist or glacier specialist to support his views.

Ian Allison's statement that the Antarctic ice cap is not melting is, at best, problematical. First, the Wilkins Ice Shelf is breaking up. There are going to be 60 to120 mile icebergs breaking off. Second, Dr. Allison wrote in April 2009. By November 2009 the story was different.

According to Jianli Chen at the University of Texas and his colleagues, who studied seven years of ice flow data, East Antarctic ice is melting, specifically in coastal areas. The research team found that, "Acceleration of ice loss over the whole continent is thus indicated. Antarctica may soon be contributing significantly more to global sea level rise." NASA satellites found that 57 billion tons of ice are melting off of the East Antarctic ice cap per year.

Joe D'Aleo is a failed meteorology candidate at New York University. His fundamental premise is that while there is a global warming trend, there is not a strong correlation between CO2 levels and global warming. Since this is not supported by data, it seems that he is running a personal agenda.

Harris claims that, according to a team of scientists in 2005, the Greenland ice cap is not melting. By 2007 the situation was greater than 150 percent of average. In fact, the amount of ice melted from the Greenland ice cap could cover the United States by a factor of two The Special Sensor Microwave Imagers showed that the ice melt on Greenland was over 130 percent of normal.

Harris chooses to quote Dr. Nils-Axel Morner that sea levels are not rising. However he also believes in dowsing and water witching. He, too, is connected with the Lyndon LaRouche organization. He is also tied into the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, which is controlled by energy industry lobbyists.

An article in Skeptical Science magazine reads, "While there are isolated cases of growing glaciers, the overwhelming trend in glaciers is retreat. In fact, the global melt rate has been accelerating since the mid-1970s."

In 2003, the rate of glaciers retreating went from 77 percent to 94 percent according to the World Glacier Monitoring Service. The World Glacier Monitoring Service observes over 100,000 glaciers, which contradicts Harris' belief that an insignificant number of glaciers are being monitored. Over the period 1976 to 2005 glacial melt has quadrupled. The WGMS states glacial changes of historical dimensions "have strong impacts on landscape evolution, fresh water supply, natural hazards and sea level changes."

Harris asserts that Michael Zemp used only 80 glaciers for study, an insignificant amount. That's wrong. Zemp's research covered 5,150 glaciers in the Alps, which lost 50 percent of starting area.

While space does not permit me to provide a complete rebuttal to Harris' claim that glacier growth contradicts global warming, I can point out some errors in Harris' assertions. He cites the Juneau ice fields and Norwegian maritime glaciers growth as disproving global warming. In fact, the warmer waters from global warming send more atmospheric moisture into the air that comes down on the coast as rain and snow. On a glacier this becomes ice. He cites Himalayan glaciers as another anomaly. Unfortunately, the Himalayas are too tall to be affected by global warming.

In short, as an article in Skeptical Science puts it, "When you narrowly focus on a few cherry picked glaciers, you can be misled into an incorrect view of global glacier trends ... globally glaciers are shrinking at an accelerating rate."

Jeffrey E. Bourget is a Coeur d'Alene resident.

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