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Glaciers (Europe) -- Summary
Most European glaciers, according to Hall and Denton (2002), experienced significant expansion and advance during the Little Ice Age (LIA).  Subsequently, however, many have experienced significant retreat.  But this behavior is not uniform.

A typical example is described by D'Orefice et al. (2000), who assembled and analyzed a wealth of historical data to derive a history of post-LIA shrinkage of the surface area of the southernmost glacier of Europe, Ghiacciaio del Calderone.  From the first available information on the glacier's surface area in 1794, there was a very slow ice wastage that lasted until 1884, whereupon the glacier began to experience a more rapid area reduction that continued, with some irregularities, to 1990, resulting in a loss of just over half the glacier's LIA surface area.

Not all European glaciers, however, have experienced continuous declines since the end of the Little Ice Age.  Hormes et al. (2001), for example, report that glaciers in the Central Swiss Alps experienced two periods of readvancement, one around 1920 and another as recent as 1980.  In addition, Braithwaite (2002) reports that for the period 1980-1995, "Scandinavian glaciers [have been] growing, and glaciers in the Caucasus are close to equilibrium," while "there is no obvious common or global trend of increasing glacier melt."

Fifty years of mass balance data from the storied Storglaciaren of northwestern Sweden also demonstrate a trend reversal in the late 20th Century.  According to Braithwaite and Zhang (2000), there has been a significant upward trend in the mass balance of this glacier over the past 30-40 years, and it has been in a state of mass accumulation for at least the past decade.

Additional evidence for post-LIA glacial expansion is provided by the history of the Solheimajokull outlet glacier on the southern coast of Iceland.  In a review of its length over the past 300 years, Mackintosh et al. (2002) report a post-LIA minimum of 13.8 km in 1970, whereupon the glacier began to expand, growing to a length of about 14.3 km by 1995.  The minimum length of 13.8 km observed in 1970 also did not eclipse an earlier minimum in which the glacier had decreased from a 300-year maximum length of 15.2 km in 1740 to a 300-year minimum of 13.2 km in 1783.

The advances and retreats of glaciers are often interpreted as signs of climate change; and teams of glaciologists have been working for years to provide an assessment of the state of the world's many glaciers to help decipher global climate trends.  Although this effort has only scratched the surface of what must ultimately be done, climate alarmists have already concluded there has been a massive and widespread retreat of glaciers over the past century, which they predict will only intensify under continued CO2-induced global warming.  In considering the results of the studies summarized above, however, it would appear that several European glaciers are marching to the beat of a different drummer: holding their own -- or actually advancing -- over the past quarter century, a period of time in which climate alarmists claim the earth has warmed to its highest temperature of the past thousand years.

Braithwaite, R.J.  2002.  Glacier mass balance: the first 50 years of international monitoring.  Progress in Physical Geography 26: 76-95.

Braithwaite, R.J. and Zhang, Y.  2000.  Relationships between interannual variability of glacier mass balance and climate.  Journal of Glaciology 45: 456-462.

D'Orefice, M., Pecci, M., Smiraglia, C. and Ventura, R.  2000.  Retreat of Mediterranean glaciers since the Little Ice Age: Case study of Ghiacciaio del Calderone, central Apennines, Italy.  Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 32: 197-201.

Hall, B.L. and Denton, G.H.  2002.  Holocene history of the Wilson Piedmont Glacier along the southern Scott Coast, Antarctica.  The Holocene 12: 619-627.

Hormes, A., Müller, B.U. and Schlüchter, C.  2001.  The Alps with little ice: evidence for eight Holocene phases of reduced glacier extent in the Central Swiss Alps.  The Holocene 11: 255-265.

Mackintosh, A.N., Dugmore, A.J. and Hubbard, A.L.  2002.  Holocene climatic changes in Iceland: evidence from modeling glacier length fluctuations at Solheimajokull.  Quaternary International 91: 39-52.