The Retreat of the Exit Glacier, and the Picture Worth a Thousand Lies

Recently, Obama visited Alaska to take pictures of and with shrinking glaciers. He plans to use these pictures as visual motivation for the American public to get involved in the fight against global warming or climate change or meteorological macro-fluctuations or whatever:

He reached another post reading “1951,” a marker for the edge of Alaska’s Exit Glacier that year, and gazed up toward where the rock-rutted ice mass has since receded, a quarter mile away.

“This is as good a signpost of what we’re dealing with on climate change as just about anything,” Obama told reporters near the base of the glacier.

It was the signature moment of Obama’s trek to Alaska, aimed at making the world pay heed to the damage already caused by rising seas, and demand global leaders reach a deal in Paris in December to curb climate-changing carbon emissions.

Yeah. Warm earth, melting ice, rising seas, we’ll all be burned to a crisp and then drowned in hypothermia-inducing (and non-potable!) water. So now, after words have had no effect on the public, Obama is resorting to pictures.

“See here. This glacier has melted. That’s what global warming does. This glacier used to be down here in 1951. Now it’s way up there. It’s bad people. Real bad. We’ve gotta get green or the world’s going to end. Like this glacier.”

Well, let’s actually look at the facts here and not just the pictures.

Glacial melt is uneven. It goes in cycles. According to the National Park Service study on the matter, in the years from 1815 to 1999 the Exit Glacier retreated at an average rate of 43 feet per year. But this past year, the Exit Glacier retreated 187 feet. “Oh my!” say the global warming fanatics. “See! That’s global warming.”

Not so fast. The average rate of retreat for the glacier from 1973 to 2013 was just over 30 feet per year. That’s below the average in case you forgot. Global cooling? No one’s mentioned it. Apparently one year of major melt is more meteorologically significant than forty years of below average melting activity. Or, maybe there’s an agenda at work here? No. Couldn’t be.

Glacial melt is actually quite variable. The average rate of melt from 1914 to 1917 was a whopping 302 feet per year. Was global warming particularly aggressive those years, or did humans really overdo it on carbon emissions? Not really. From 1926 to 1950, the retreat averaged a piddling 23 feet per year. Was that because the world dropped its carbon emissions those years, and it saved the glacier from a hasty retreat? No. I’m sure World War II was not the greenest period of world history to say the least.

The fact is that the Exit Glacier has been retreating for, you know, a really long time. Some years, it retreats really fast. Other years, it retreats hardly at all. But it has been retreating, and will apparently continue to retreat unless the climate around it returns to uninhabitable ranges. Apparently, there was a time when the weather was just right (i.e., bitterly, interminably cold) for long enough that the glacier was able to cover a very large distance. Since that ice age, the glacier has done nothing but retreat.

In other words, one of the only ways we could return the glacier to its former glory would be to have another civilization-ending ice age. I don’t think anyone is actually fighting for that. In fact, I thought they were trying to circumvent the end of the world. But why they are promoting lower carbon emissions with a glacier that would retreat no matter what we did seems rather suspect, if not downright mendacious. World carbon emission output has had nothing to do with the retreat of Exit Glacier. As in absolutely no correlation whatsoever from a strictly scientific standpoint. This photo-op for the president is a picture worth a thousand lies.