Are the Himalayan glaciers in full retreat? Will global warming cause them to disappear by 2035? Or is the IPCC basing that alarming factoid on a typographical error?
First, where did this number 2035 (the year when glaciers could vanish) come from?
According to Prof Graham Cogley (Trent University, Ontario), a short article on the future of glaciers by a Russian scientist (Kotlyakov, V.M., 1996, The future of glaciers under the expected climate warming, 61-66, in Kotlyakov, V.M., ed., 1996, Variations of Snow and Ice in the Past and at Present on a Global and Regional Scale, Technical Documents in Hydrology, 1. UNESCO, Paris (IHP-IV Project H-4.1). 78p estimates 2350 as the year for disappearance of glaciers, but the IPCC authors misread 2350 as 2035 in the Official IPCC documents, WGII 2007 p. 493!
Well. Surely we can double-check the relevant citations to find the foundation for this science, yes? Uhh, maybe. A warmist tried that exercise, as did I, with frustrating results.
2007 IPCC report tells us (Chapter 10) that:
Hmm, the IPCC is citing the World Wildlife Fund? I assume they are generous with their grant money but I would think of them as an advocacy group rather than a scientific publication. Let's press on!
Here is the WWF link; they tell us that:
The prediction that “glaciers in the region will vanish within 40 years as a result of global
warming” and that the flow of Himalayan rivers will “eventually diminish, resulting in
widespread water shortages” (New Scientist 1999; 1999, 2003)
Let's note that the WWF cites both the ICSI and the New Scientist. "ICSI" is an acronym that proves scientists have a sense of humor. Or they did - the group is now known as the "International Association of Cryospheric Sciences", or IACS, which hardly summons a smile.
Regardless - the only paper they have at their website from 1999 is this one by a Dr. Hasnain, devoted to Himalayan glaciers but making no mention of 2035 (or 2350) as sell-by dates.
But something certainly happened in 1999 - the ICSI had a July conference on glaciers at the University of Birmingham, which attracted press coverage. Here is an account from the June 5 1999 New Scientist, which presumably inspired the WWF:
MELTING Himalayan glaciers are threatening to unleash a torrent of floods into mountain valleys, and ultimately dry up rivers across South Asia. A new study, due to be presented in July to the International Commission on Snow and Ice (ICSI), predicts that most of the glaciers in the region will vanish within 40 years as a result of global warming.
"All the glaciers in the middle Himalayas are retreating," says Syed Hasnain of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, the chief author of the ICSI report. A typical example is the Gangorti glacier at the head of the River Ganges, which is retreating at a rate of 30 metres per year. Hasnain's four-year study indicates that all the glaciers in the central and eastern Himalayas could disappear by 2035 at their present rate of decline.
So why is that not at the IACS website? Different coverage suggests an answer (my emphasis):
Well. Why does the IPCC cite the WWF and not the underlying study for the 2035 date? Why does the IACS not have the underlying study on its website? A possible answer to both questions is that Hasnain did not formally address that date question in the study he presented.
Instead, in the course of Q&A with reporters or whomever he mentioned other studies, presumably the Kotlyakov study described by Dr. Khandekar, and muddled the dates. The WWF relied on news reports, the IPCC chose to rely on the WWF (Willfully or not? Make the call!) and here we are. By way of support, the New Scientist piece dated as of June precedes the July presentation of the papers; the reporter may have seen a rough draft or simply chatted with Dr. Hasnain.
As to what Kotlyakov wrote, here we go, from a 1996 UNESCO report:
From Nov 5 1999 we have the Christian Science Monitor; the Interpress Service had a story from May 13 which seemed to be a sneak preview of the upcoming Birmingham conference. Both pick up on the 2035 date but give us no source. Both also include this quote:
I can't run that quote down to an original source.
If someone could find the paper cited by the WWF that would fortify the IPCC report from 2007. Surely this is should be easy enough to verify, but I am out of ammunition. Right now, all trails seem to lead to press reports, and the IPCC citation of a WWF paper ought to be a huge red flag.