Ice loss minimal in Antarctica, Greenland, and Himalayas

Ice caps and glaciers wax and wane in response to many cycles. In this post I examine recent research on the state of the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps, and glaciers in the Himalayas.


Satellite measurement of glaciers in the Himalayas revealed that these mountains lost only one-tenth the ice between 2003 and 2010 compared to the loss reported in previous estimates. (Source). The Guardian (U.K.) reports that Bristol University glaciologist Prof Jonathan Bamber said: “The very unexpected result was the negligible mass loss from high mountain Asia, which is not significantly different from zero.”

This study period is very short and the results could be an artifact of the variable monsoons. The results could also reflect the difference between extrapolation from a few ground stations and more complete measurement by satellites. Satellite measurement is based on gravity, a method that is capable of giving a detailed picture. Gravity measurements are also used in mineral exploration.


A new surface mass balance (SMB) map of Antarctic shows no significant trend for the period 1979-2010. Note that this is a modeling study, but the authors claim it is in good agreement with 750 surface measuring stations. See full paper and graphics here.



During the mid-2000s, Greenland received much publicity because of the rapid melting of outlet glaciers in the western and southern part of the island. A new study shows that this melting is part of a cycle that produced rapid melting in the 1930s as well. The study authors attribute the melting “with a relatively strong influence of Atlantic water and a lower influence of polar water on the shelf off Greenland, as well as with warm summers and the negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. (Source). The study was based on analysis of sedimentary deposits. Here is their graph of relative melting.

Rutgers University keeps track of snow cover around the world. Their data show as slight, but steadily increasing snow cover in Greenland since 1966. See graphs for the northern hemisphere as a whole here. There is a slightly increasing trend.

Two of the studies cited above give short-term glimpses of what is happening. They do not necessarily reflect long-term trends. But CAGW proponents and the press are quick to cite such studies when the trends go their way. And, even the short-term studies suggest that natural forces easily overwhelm any alleged influence of carbon dioxide emissions.

For the story on Sea ice see Arctic sea ice reaches seasonal low.

See also:

Ice Ages and Glacial Epochs

When Antarctica Freezes Over

Arctic tipping point, will there be an ice-free Arctic



  1. Jon uses the latest NASA/GRACE ice loss data for the Himalayan high glaciers, which is far more comprehensive than the previous estimates drawn from a small sample of the more accessible of the nearly 140,000 Asian glaciers. These new results showed that the estimates for the melting of the high altitude glaciers was around 30% too high. Nevertheless, these glaciers and icecaps accounted for about one quarter of the Global annual ice loss.

    Interestingly, Jon then proceeds to go to other methodologies to infer the melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. The second Greenland study isn’t even about ice loss. It’s a measurement of snow accumulation. The Antarctic study Jon cites is a mass balance study (model results based on 750 test sites). Let’s just keep this apples to apples and look at the NASA data for all three areas. After all Jon’s post is about ice loss, so let’s look at the ice loss data.

    The total global ice mass lost from Greenland, Antarctica and Earth’s glaciers and ice caps during the study period was about 4.3 trillion tons (1,000 cubic miles), adding about 0.5 inches (12 millimeters) to global sea level. That’s enough ice to cover the United States 1.5 feet (0.5 meters) deep. That’s the equivalent of emptying Lake Erie.

    John Wahr, a professor of physics at the University of Colorado and author of the study said in a press release issued by the Boulder campus. “The Earth is losing an incredible amount of ice to the oceans annually, and these new results will help us answer important questions in terms of both sea rise and how the planet’s cold regions are responding to global change.”

    This melted ice added to our oceans is only part of sea level rise. When thermal expansion from increased warming is included, global average sea level rose at an average rate of around 1.7 ± 0.3 mm per year over 1950 to 2009 and at a satellite-measured average rate of about 3.3 ± 0.4 mm per year from 1993 to 2009. An interesting paper on the effects of these two phenomena can be found in Science Magazine, “Sea-Level Sea-Level Rise and Its Impact on Coastal Zones”, 18 June 2010.

    For an interactive map that shows the impact of sea level rise, check here: If I had relatives in Florida, I’d pass it on to them real soon.   JP

  2. Jon, I see your request on the TC homepage under recent comments but not here, so I can’t determine if you have additional requests. Results of the study were published online Feb. 8 in the journal Nature. NASA has released details at: JP

  3. Hysterical.  No, really.

    I was at a presentation today by Tad Pfeffer, one of the authors on the Grace paper you cite. His lecture was on how “skeptics” and news organizations purposely mis-quote, hide, and/or manipulate science to suit their objectives (as DuHamel has done here).

    The bottom line is that anyone with an agenda only needs to sow confusion to achieve their goals. They don’t contribute anything meaningful to our understanding of the earth; instead, they dismiss evidence that proves them wrong while pouncing on things they perceive supports their twisted arguments.

    I cite Jon’s article as proof.

    1. ScienceMercenary, Thanks for the big picture. The one quarter of the GRACE study that supported Jon’s position was useful to him. The 75% that didn’t is omitted. Props. JP

      1. No Jon, it isn’t. You chose to manipulate the data from the GRACE study by citing the High Mountain Glacier data and not reporting the GRACE Greenland and Antarctic data. MS did not manipulate or hide data as you did. His comment may displease you, but it is not an example of what he was “complaining about”. JP

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