Says the Grauniad. Their not-very-useful article is about a Discussion Paper (as it calls itself) of Himalayan Glaciers, A State-of-Art Review of Glacial Studies, Glacial Retreat and Climate Change by V.K.Raina, Ex. Deputy Director General, Geological Survey of India.
Back? OK then.
0) For the science, they say (I presume correctly) All the glaciers under observation, during the last three decades of 20th century have shown cumulative negative mass balance and although there is a lot more text in the report, there isn’t really any more than that to interest the wide world outside the glacio community. Or another quote, if you like: Glaciers in the Himalayas, barring a few exceptions, here and there, have been reported to be in constant retreat, since when the observations started in midnineteenth century. There are no two views about it. It is an established fact. You could compare this the the std.IPCC view: Whereas glaciers in the Asian high mountains have generally shrunk at varying rates (Su and Shi, 2002; Ren et al., 2004; Solomina et al., 2004; Dyurgerov and Meier, 2005), several high glaciers in the central Karakoram are reported to have advanced and/or thickened at their tongues (Hewitt, 2005), probably due to enhanced precipitation.
1) Having skimmed the thing, it has the look of a whole pile of studies just thrown together without much attempt at synthesis.
2) The exec summary begins Almost a century ago, fears began to be expressed about the possible impact of the rise in atmospheric temperature on mountain glaciers. The fears led to the initiation of concerted scientifi c efforts to identify and examine the fl uctuations along the front-snout of glaciers. It was believed that such studies, over the next century or so, would enable scientists to establish the relationship between the climate change and the glacier fluctuations. That seems wrong to me, and contradicts what I thought I knew of the timeline of climate change concern.
3) The constant emphasis on the “glacier-snout” stuff reads oddly to me; I suspect this is a reflection of battles fought in the glacio community in the 50’s and being re-hashed here to an uncomprehending audience.
4) It is all observations. Observations are very nice – indeed, essential – but unless synthesised by some kind of theory they are hard to make sense of. Hence the rather plaintive text in the final “review” chapter 8 While one may not doubt the fact that the climate, by and large, does appear to be getting warmer; what, however, does tax the mind is the attempted linkage of the glacier retreat in the Himalayas to the global warming. This chap has, as it says in the intro, made epic efforts, which involved several long expeditions to remote glaciers, in trying circumstances and with limited resources, and he knows a lot about Indian glaciers, but unfortunately he hasn’t studied climate change so really he has nothing to say on the subject that everyone is keen to hear about.
5) The Grauniad reports that Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister, released the controversial report in Delhi, saying it would “challenge the conventional wisdom… “My concern is that this comes from western scientists … it is high time India makes an investment in understanding what is happening in the Himalayan ecosystem,” so this may be just yet more tedious nationalism; “western” science isn’t good enough, Indian glaciers must be studied with “Indian” science (you have to read the book for the link).
6) Perhaps following on for that, as an afterthought, I notice that the report is remarkably insular. It doesn’t mention IPCC even once, which is odd for a “state of the art” review (probably they were a bit pissed off with IPCC for having such a short section on Indian glaciers; the quote I gave above is just about it). The list of papers at the back looks very “Indian”, too: westerners only get a brief look-in in the early days (what happened to the likes of “Walker, H. and Pascoe, Sir, E.H. (1907): Notes on certain glaciers in Lahaul”?).
And just like that, without even a hint of a conclusion, the post was over.
[Update: oh no it wasn’t. But late to the party, and with nothing new to say, Nurture appear to have decided to waste their readers time by telling them about it. Odd]