Glaciers: Going, going, gone? NOT!

Russ Steele

If you have not seen this press release from Sierra College, I am sure that you will soon see it mention in The Union or the radio at KVMR and KNCO.

Presented by: Sierra College Natural History Museum and Sierra College Press, October 26-27, 2012

Rocklin-During the past two centuries, mountain glaciers around the world have shrunk, thinned and, in some cases, disappeared – all at alarming rates.  The Sierra Nevada is among the western mountain systems that have experienced some of the most dramatic loss of glacial ice. Sierra College’s Natural History Museum and the Sierra College Press have collaborated to make two related lectures available that explain glacial systems in the Sierra Nevada, how they were formed, how they sculpted the state’s great granitic spine and how they are currently being affected by climate change.

“Glaciers: Going, going, gone?” is the title of the two-day lecture event scheduled for October 26 and 27 at the Rocklin campus of Sierra College.

It sounds like an interesting lecture series on our Sierra backyard, but I have a problem with this statement.

 California Glaciers is an elegantly rendered farewell that describes the raw power and beauty of luminous icescapes in the Sierra and the irreversible effects of climate change.

What does Tim Palmer mean by “the irreversible effects of climate change?”

Is it possible that Mr Palmer is not aware that the climate in the Sierra has been changing since the mountains rose out to the sea eons ago?  Sierra glaciers have grown and melted for millions of years.  The last time they increased in size was during the Little Ice Age from 1650 to 1850.  The Sierra glaciers stated melting at the end of LIA, and have continued to do so as the earth temperature rebounded from the extensive cold, during a period when the sun spots vanished.

I wrote about the Sierra glaciers on my old blog, NC Media Watch HERE, where I reported on a paper by Scott Stine, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, California State University, Hayward, California examines Sierra Nevada Climate, 1650–1850. Stine points out the Sierra glaciers did not exist prior to the Little Ice Age and they have been declining since about 1850.

Evidence from Sierra Nevada Glaciers
Following thousands of years of little or no glaciation, high elevation cirques of the Sierra Nevada experienced ice accumulation for several centuries prior to 1850 (Clark and Gillespie 1995; Curry 1969). This period of minor glacier advance (typically less than 2 km), first described in the Sierra by Matthes (1939), corresponds to the “Little Ice Age”—a period of cooling over much of the globe that began in the fourteenth or fifteenth century and continued through the middle of the nineteenth century (Grove 1988).

The Sierra glaciers have been in decline long before greenhouse gases became and issue. The Sierra’s have been warming since Little Ice Age, which created the glaciers.


So, the Sierra did not have glaciers prior to the LIA and now they are melting. We are on the cusp of the another cool period, following the modern warm period. This has been the cycle for centuries and the Sierra Glaciers will return, they are not lost to the irreversible effects of climate change.


About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

3 Responses to Glaciers: Going, going, gone? NOT!

  1. gjrebane says:

    Russ, you should request to give a short ‘loyal opposition’ talk just to balance the BS.

  2. Arthur M. Day. says:

    That the Sierra glaciers were from the Little Ice Age was in the backpacker guide books in the ’70s.

    • Interesting how the facts get twisted to fit an agenda. When one takes a long look at the Sierra, those glaciers that everyone is worrying about, are only a temporary artifact from the Little Ice Age.

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