New Paper: Glacier Melt Rates Were Up To 3 Times Greater, Faster During Early 20th Century

75% Of Total Modern Glacier Melt Occurred Before 1950

“[T]he retreat of the glaciers after about 1925 became rapid.  It was almost entirely during the [pre-1950] twentieth century warming that the Alpine glaciers disappeared from the valley floors up into the mountains.  Similarly great retreats occurred in Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, in the Americas, and on high mountains near the equator.”  — H.H. Lamb  Climate, History, and the Modern World (1982), pg. 248

A new scientific paper indicates that the pronounced warming that occurred during the years stretching from the 1920s to the 1940s melted Northern Iceland glaciers much more extensively and at a far more rapid pace than has been observed in recent decades.

During the 1960s to 1980s, glacier melt rates not only decelerated relative to the 1920s to 1940s, the ice actually advanced in some cases due to decades of cooling.   It has only been since about the mid-1990s that glaciers have consistently begun melting again — but with far less alacrity than they did in the first half of the 20th century.

Fernández-Fernández and co-authors (2017) indicate that the Icelandic glaciers they studied melted by more than 1,000 meters (1,062) on average between the late 1800s and 1946.  But from 1947 to 2005, these same glaciers only retreated by an average of 272 meters more.  In other words, about 75% of the total glacier melt production since the end of the Little Ice Age (the late 19th century) occurred prior to the mid-1940s.

Below are some key points and graphs from the paper.

Fernández-Fernández et al., 2017


The abrupt climatic transition of the early 20th century and the 25-year warm period 1925–1950 triggered the main retreat and volume loss of these glaciers since the end of the ‘Little Ice Age’. Meanwhile, cooling during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s altered the trend, with advances of the glacier snouts. Stötter et al. (1999) indicate that the coldest period after the LIA was from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, when temperatures fell to levels equivalent to the warmest recorded in the 19th century. This cooling is the reason given by Caseldine (1983, 1985a, 1985b, 1988) to explain the advance of the Gljúfurárjökull between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s  … Studies of aerial photographs and satellite images show that the glacier snouts have retreated by more than 1300 m on average since the LIA maximum (considered to be AD 1898 in Gljúfurárjökull and AD 1868 in both Western and Eastern Tungnahryggsjökull), with an altitudinal rise of more than 100 m. The retreat accelerated rapidly (15.3 m yr−1) during the first half of the 20th century.  In the second half of the 20th century, the retreat decelerated considerably, reflected in the lowest values around 1985 (5.2 m yr−1) and a trend shift in 1994, with an advance observed in Gljúfurárjökull. … The retreat rate intensified in the period 2000–2005 compared with 1994–2000, but did not reach the rates recorded before 1946.”

Gljúfurárjökull, West Tungnahryggsjökull, and East Tungnahryggsjökull Glaciers:

1. During the period 1898–1946, the snout of Gljúfurárjökull retreated 635 m, almost two-thirds of the total distance from the LIA maximum (1898–1903) to 2005, at an average rate of 13.2 m yr−1.
2. The trend in Western Tungnahryggsjökull during the first half of the 20th century was a more rapid retreat, showing the highest average rates of the whole period (19.5 m yr−1). By 1946, this glacier had retreated almost 90% of the total recorded between the LIA maximum (1868) and 2005.
3. Just as in the glaciers described above, the retreat of the Eastern Tungnahryggsjökull from its LIA position was more intense during the first half of the 20th century, and in 1946 its snout was only 200 m from its current position. … The 2000 aerial photograph shows that an advance of at least 41 m had taken place since 1985. Nevertheless, between 2000 and 2005, the snout retreated 17 m, even more slowly than Western Tungnahryggsjökull. 

No Net Warming In North Iceland Since 1920s-1940s

Similar Or Less North Iceland (Arctic) Sea Ice During 1920s-1950s

Ran et al., 2010

Holocene Icelandic Climate 4-5°C Warmer, Changing 2-3°C Per Century 

Andersen et al., 2004 

“Our results show that the Nordic Seas circulation system is highly sensitive to the large-scale insolation [surface solar radiation] changes as the general Holocene climate development follows closely the Northern Hemisphere insolation. … Century-scale surface current variability for the Holocene is shown to be 1 – 1.5°C for the Vøring Plateau and East Greenland shelf, and 2.5– 3°C on the North Ice-land shelf. … The first cooling [East Greenland Shelf SSTs] from 2400 to 2000 cal years BP was introduced by a 1.5°C temperature drop starting at 3000 cal years BP which culminated in an SST low around 2100 cal years BP. The second cooling occurred around 300 cal years BP and preceded a rapid warming [during the 1700s A.D.], where SSTs rose with more than 1.5°C within 70 years. The third cooling took place in the second half of the last century. Until the last three centuries, SST variability at this site has been 1°C, while SSTs varied with amplitudes of 1.5– 2°C during the last 300 years.”

Not Just Iceland: Global Glacier Melt Rates More Rapid, Pronounced 1920s-1950s

Gregory et al., 2013

Globally, glaciers melted 69% more rapidly from 1921-1960 (12.5 meters/year) than from 1961-2000 (7.4 meters/year).

Leclercq et al., 2014  A data set of worldwide glacier length fluctuations

“The data set contains the glacier length records for 471 [global] glaciers and it covers the period 1535–2011. There are glacier length records from all continents and at almost all latitudes.   For the observed glaciers, the 20th century retreat was strongest in the first half of the 20th century.”
[T]he retreat is strongest in the period 1921–1960 rather than in the last period 1961–2000, with a median retreat rate of 12.5 m yr in 1921–1960 and 7.4 m yr in the period 1961–2000.”

A Significant Non-Correlation Between CO2 Emissions And Glacier Melt

Advocates of the position that humans exert a profound and dangerous influence on the Earth’s temperatures, glacier melt, sea level rise, extreme weather patterns . . . point to the rapid increase in human CO2 emissions (purple trend line) as the condemnable culprit.

But consider that the trend in anthropogenic CO2 emissions was essentially flat and very low (averaging just 1 gigaton of carbon [GtC] per year) from about 1900 to 1945, when most modern glacier recession occurred.  Also consider that explosive growth in human emissions occurred after 1945, when a significant deceleration in glacier melt (and even decades of advancing glaciers) occurred.  This historical evidence would not appear to support the position that anthropogenic CO2 emissions drive warming, glacier melt, and sea level rise.

81 responses to “New Paper: Glacier Melt Rates Were Up To 3 Times Greater, Faster During Early 20th Century”

  1. Graeme No.3

    How do you homogenise a glacier?

    Pierre try

    for a time series on melting that doesn’t fit AGW theory. Note that the ice when at the mouth of the bay was grinding the bottom so retreat not due to warm sea currents.

    1. toorightmate

      The homogenisers have mastered temperature, sea levels and precipitation.
      Mastering homogenisation of glacier melt rates, gravity, atmospheric pressures and palaeontology shouldn’t be too hard.

  2. sod


  3. SebastianH

    Please finally consider that more than one variable can influence the climate and therefor sea level and glaciers. The early 20th century industry polluted the air with soot … causing glacier melt (among a few other issues). (for a few thausand papers on the topic)

    And something else caused the ice to melt after the last ice age. Do you think the same natural effect is at work today?

  4. Kenneth Richard

    Is it possible that the abrupt increase in solar irradiance from 1900 to 1950 (see link above from Yndestad and Solheim, 2017) could have had quite a bit to do with the abrupt increase in radiative energy melting glaciers during that period? Or, in your opinion, does soot cause more glacier melt than the Sun?
    “We obtained a large historical solar forcing between the Maunder minimum and the present, as well as a significant increase in solar irradiance in the first half of the twentieth-century. Our TSI reconstructions give a value of ∼1 W/m2 per decade [+5 W/m2] for the period 1900–1950.”

    Or even surface solar radiation (heat energy absorbed via variations in albedo) trends for that period could explain the abrupt warming:
    “Global solar irradiance showed a significant fluctuation during the last 90 years. It increased from 1920 to 1940s/1950s, thereafter it decreased toward late 1980s. In early 1990s 75% of the globe indicated the increasing trend of solar irradiance, while the remaining area continued to lose solar radiation. The magnitudes of the variation are estimated at +12 W m 2 [1920-1940s/1950s], – 8 W m 2 [1950s-1980s], and +8 Wm2 [early 1990s-2005], for the first brightening, for the dimming, and the recent brightening periods, respectively.”

    In your opinion, how much did solar forcing contribute to the early 20th century warming relative to soot-forcing?

    1. sod

      This is the graph that you are looking for:

    2. SebastianH
      and your second link do not show the sharp decrease in the 50s.

      Anyway, thank you for your answer. Apparently you do expect a 1.25 W/m² change in the energy budget (5 W/m² devided by 4: sphere to circle area conversion) of the surface has some effect on the climate. The climate sensitivity due to CO2 concentration changes is in the same range and often estimated to be higher.

      Why can’t it be responsible now? Did the solar irriadance change since the 50s? Not much. Did the CO2 forcing change? Yes.

      1. AndyG55

        “Did the solar irriadance change since the 50s?”

        roflmao….. the sebtroll ignorance comes to the fore, yet again

        the latter part of last century was a Grand Solar Maximum.. if you think that TSI is the only solar variable, you are even more of a ignorant goose than even I thought you were.

        There is NO such thing as CO₂ “forcing”, its fake science from the AGW priests.

        You have proven by your INABILITY to produce one single contrary paper, that CO₂ DOES NOT cause warming in a convective atmosphere.

        1. SebastianH

          AndyG55, here is one paper that measured the effect of CO2:

          Also, point an infrared thermometer up at the sky and tell me what it measures. The temperature of space?

          1. AndyG55

            No seb.. the Marty Feldman paper started at the very base of a La Nina and ended at the peak of an El Nino and they still took 5 years to tease out an immeasurable wattage with HUGE error limits. It is a monumental farce.

            And pointing an infrared thermometer measure H₂O radiation NOT CO₂. You are not measuring CO₂ radiation because it does re-emit below about 11km


            Its almost as if you haven’t read ANY of the FACTS put in front of you about what actually happens.

            Your WILFUL IGNORANCE is on display for all to see.

            You have still have been TOTALLY UNABLE to show ONE SINGLE PAPER that shows that CO₂ causes warming in a convective atmosphere.

            You cannot even back-up the most basic LIE of your worthless AGW religion

            And that really is PATHETIC.

          2. AndyG55

            Why did Marty Feldman do a check to2008.. One should always do partial period checks of data (its science, seb.. way beyond you)

            And why did such an important (lol) paper take 5 years from the end data to of publishing…
            (very unusual for a “climate science paper, normally they are rushed through pal-review)

            ..or did their data actually go to 2012, and they had to ignore the last part.

            The immeasurable back-radiation didn’t cause any warming…. the NATURAL warming caused the immeasurable back radiation, probably just a remnant on the wings of the H₂O bands. certainly not CO₂, because as we know, CO₂ DOES NOT re-emit below 11km, so that cannot be what they teased out of the data after 5 years of computing 😉


          3. SebastianH
          4. AndyG55

            Skeptical NONSense.

            roflmao. You really have to up your credibility somehow, oh brain-washed twerp.

            Proves NOTHING except CO₂ absorbs in a certain frequency, which everybody knows.

            Says NOTHING about what happens after that.

            Says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AT ALL about CO₂ warming a convective atmosphere.

            You are STILL batting ZERO from 200+,

            Maybe if you remove your blindfold, it might help !!

            Nah, because you would still have your eyes closed.

          5. SebastianH

            Dear AndyG55,

            what you are saying is that all the energy CO2 absorbs results in warming of the surrounding atmosphere. Where does this energy go?

            You clearly have no clue at all …

          6. AndyG55

            Poor seb.. still flapping around trying IN VAIN to support even the most basic LIE of his baseless AGE religion.

            Still waiting for something , ANYTHING, that proves CO2 causes warming in a convective atmosphere.

            Waiting waiting

            so pathetic of you..

            baseless belief.

            baseless religion.

          7. AndyG55

            Seems poor seb hasn’t got even the most basic clue about gases and how the work

            Did you even get past junior high, you poor ignorant child-mind ????

            Sleb seems to think that energy isn’t immediately shared to the other 99.96% of the atmosphere.

            DUMB, Dumber.. then seb.. the DUMBEST. ..

          8. SebastianH

            You didn’t answer the question …

          9. AndyG55

            You didn’t provide a paper.

            And I have answered the question many times before. You just don’t read or don’t comprehend.

            I CANNOT solve your massive dose of “stupid”

          10. AndyG55

            And really seb, if you are so, so ignorant that you can’t figure out where energy in the atmosphere goes… I don’t think ANYONE can help you.

            Did you even finish primary school !! ???

  5. sod

    “In your opinion, how much did solar forcing contribute to the early 20th century warming relative to soot-forcing?”

    the soot effect on glaciers (melting faster) is different from the soot effect on climate (cooling).

    and soot can both be of natural and human origin.

    The best sum up of forcings still is this IPCC graph:

    1. toorightmate

      Who constructed the IPCC graphs?
      Was it the Happy Day Kindergarten?

    2. AndyG55


      Those temperature graphs from SkS are absolute NONSENSE.

      A total and child-minded FABRICATION, designed only for the most GULLIBLE kool-aiders in the world…..
      ….. no wonder sob got sucked in.

      Their global temp bottom left.. there was NO WARMING from 1980 to 1997 in either satellite record.

      The Global land is even more of a farce.

      There was NO warming from 1980 to 1997 either

  6. Don B

    In a study about drought variability in Montana’s Glacier National Park, and other Rocky Mountain locations, the authors showed that GNP’s Sperry Glacier had shrunk dramatically since 1850. But of the shrinkage from 1850 through 2003, 81% of the shrinkage had occurred by 1945. (figure 6D)

  7. Sunsettommy

    History & Geography of Glacier Bay Park

    “Glacier Bay was first surveyed in detail in 1794 by a team from the H.M.S. Discovery, captained by George Vancouver. At the time the survey produced showed a mere indentation in the shoreline. That massive glacier was more than 4,000 feet thick in places, up to 20 miles wide, and extended more than 100 miles to the St. Elias mountain range.

    By 1879, however, naturalist John Muir discovered that the ice had retreated more than 30 miles forming an actual bay. By 1916, the Grand Pacific Glacier – the main glacier credited with carving the bay – had melted back 60 miles to the head of what is now Tarr Inlet.”

  8. Stosh

    If we can just reduce CO2 back to what it was in 1900, we can crush all those people living in the valleys with advancing glaciers.

    1. AndyG55

      Actually, it would make no difference to glaciers what so ever

      But taking levels back to the dangerously low levels of pre-industrial age would probably cause starvation of 1/4 of the world’s population

      The Green agenda, writ large.

      Atmospheric and ocean CO₂, with H₂O, provides to ONLY food source for ALL LIFE ON THE PLANET

      Current levels need to be pushed higher, certainly not lower.

  9. John F. Hultquist

    I think it would be interesting to take a poll. My answers follow each question.
    Four questions:
    1. Have you ever seen a mountain-valley glacier up close? {Yes.}
    2. Have you ever been at the toe/snout of a glacier during melt season? {Yes}
    2-a.: What other surface does this remind you of? {For me asphalt.}
    3. Have you walked on a glacier? {Yes}
    4. What color do you see when looking into a crack in glacial ice? {Blue.}

  10. Fred

    It might have been earlier than that as well,Zubov noted that the Jacobshavn glacier had receded by 20m (not sure if that is miles or meters)between 1880-1920.Ahlman describes the Spitzebergen glacier retreat as catastrophic. Pages 170-175.

  11. AndyG55


    According to JoNova, Perth has just broken its COLDEST February day since records began around 1900

    and not just by a little bit !!!

    Send some over to the east coast, guys !:-)

    1. sod

      “According to JoNova, Perth has just broken its COLDEST February day since records began around 19002

      yeah. And remember, with UHI problems and station site effects, the real temperature was 10-20°C lower than what the thermometer said.

      Perth most likely will hit absolute zero temperature next year, when the AMO turns negative and la nina hits hard.

      everyone should prepare to be frozen to death any moment. Perhaps we are lucky here and survive the summer..

      1. AndyG55

        Facts yet again, sob.. they REALLY sting you, don’t they.

        The only come-back you have is to up the level of your idiocy.

  12. Green Sand

    If this keeps on is Greenland going to sink! Or possibly even tip over?

    1. SebastianH

      Greenland just recorded record high temperatures:

      1. AndyG55

        Lovely weather they are having….. off you go an enjoy that lovely warm weather. (or remain locked up in your inner city basement with Granny paying the heating bills.)

        No comment about the continued FREEZING over Russia where people actually live, hey seb.

  13. sod

    Kenneth, please take a look at what is happening right now.

    arctic regions are 20°C warmer than the average.

    berlin is colder than parts of the arctic!

    There are huge changes coming, please do not ignore them!

    1. P Gosselin

      Sod, you’re succumbing to another fit of silliness and hysteria. It’s what informed people call “weather”. Perhaps a dose of valium would help with your panic attack.

      1. sod

        “Sod, you’re succumbing to another fit of silliness and hysteria. ”

        can you please give me the source for your information?

        This is temperature so far this year (40 days!)

        and the end of the last year looks horrible. Temperature up there are completely out of norm. this is not weather, if you scroll back some years!!

        1. P Gosselin
    2. AndyG55

      “There are huge changes coming, please do not ignore them! – See more at: http://notrickszone.”

      Yep sob, this is the same WEATHER pattern as when the Wisconsin Ice Sheet formed.

      Arctic over the Kara sea, a bit warmer than usual, what a blessing that must be in the middle of winter….

      ….while its FREEZING over northern Russia, Europe, Alaska and Canada, where millions of people live and will suffer hardship.

  14. AndyG55

    OT.. Greenie EnvironMENTALists looking after the environment in their normal fashion

    your friends, seb, sob. Environmental vandals.

  15. Sunsettommy

    Ha ha ha,

    I see that Sod and Sebastian,have no case to maintain their “CO2 did it” delusion. It is hilarious that a trace gas with a trace increase in the air, suddenly become a threat to the world. This mentally ill stuff that warmists push relentlessly,despite the long known utter predictive failures.

    Meanwhile Kenneth post a lot of published science papers,highlights relevant passages to make his case,ask reasonable questions.

    The replies have been deflection,obfuscation and plain dumb avoidance of the obvious.

    This is a main reason why I come here,is to see a rational man (Kenneth) calmly,civilly tear apart shallow,dodging replies with published science that quickly exposes the unconvincing,often religious based replies,from warmist bigots.

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