Category:Observations: Glaciers, Sea Ice, Precipitation, and Sea Level

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) alleges that “recent decreases in ice mass are correlated with rising surface air temperatures,” and more specifically that “the late 20th-century glacier wastage likely has been a response to post-1970 warming. Strongest mass losses per unit area have been observed in Patagonia, Alaska and northwest USA and southwest Canada. Because of the corresponding large areas, the largest contributions to sea level rise came from Alaska, the Arctic and the Asian high mountains. Taken together, the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica have very likely been contributing to sea level rise over 1993 to 2003 [italics in the original]” (IPCC, 2007-I, p. 339).

It should be obvious, but apparently is not, that such facts as melting glaciers and disappearing Arctic sea ice, while interesting, are entirely irrelevant to illuminating the causes of warming. Any significant warming, whether anthropogenic or natural, will melt ice—often quite slowly. Therefore, claims that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is occurring that are backed by such accounts are simply confusing the consequences of warming with the causes—a common logical error. In addition, fluctuations of glacier mass, sea ice, precipitation, and sea level depend on many factors other than temperature and are poor measuring devices for global warming.

This chapter summarizes the extensive scientific literature on glaciers, sea ice, precipitation, and sea level rise that frequently contradicts and rarely reinforces the IPCC’s claims quoted above. Glaciers around the world are continuously advancing and retreating, with no evidence of a trend that can be linked to CO2 concentrations in the air. The same is largely true of sea ice, precipitation patterns, and sea levels: all fluctuate in response to processes that are unrelated to CO2, and therefore cannot be taken either as signs of anthropogenic global warming or of climate disasters that may be yet to come.

The following pages are taken from Climate Change Reconsidered and can be used as a guide to get you through the basics of this category:


Precipitation trends

Sea ice

Sea-level rise



IPCC. 2007-I. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Solomon, S., Qin, D., Manning, M., Chen, Z., Marquis, M., Averyt, K.B., Tignor, M. and Miller, H.L. (Eds.) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

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