Glacier’s and Montana’s Climate

Judith Curry posted “Something frightening poses a perceived risk. Something dangerous poses a real risk.” – Swedish physician Hans Rosling.  It seems a significant distinction, regardless of which side of the arguments about climate change you support.

My home is a little above 3,000 feet elevation, and a little below the 49th parallel.  My views on the risk of climate change would probably be a bit different if my home were in Paramaribo, at 5 degrees north and 10 feet above sea level. 

A couple months ago, Dr. Curry responded to Reilly Neill, a writer and marginally successful politician out of Livingston in an article posted at Glacier saga: Climate Etc.  It’s worth reading just for the data about Montana’s climate and weather – and here are some teasers to get you to click the link:

“The total area of Glacier National Park covered by glaciers shrank 70% from the1850s to 2015, according to US Geological Survey. Melting began at the end of the Little Ice Age (circa 1850) when scientists believe 146 glaciers covered the region, as opposed to 26 in 2019.”

“Looking much further back, Glacier National Park was virtually ice free 11,000 years ago.  Glaciers have been present within the boundaries of present-day Glacier National Park since about 6,500 years ago. [link]  These glaciers have varied in size, tracking climatic variations, but did not grow to their recent maximum size until the end of the Little Ice Age, around 1850. An 80-year period (~1770-1840) of cool, wet summers and above-average winter snowfall led to a rapid growth of glaciers just prior to the end of the Little Ice Age.  So, the recent loss of glacier mass must be understood in light of the fact the glaciers reached their largest mass for the past 11,000 years during the 19th century. [link]”

“Now consider summertime temperatures.  Shown here are Montana state averages from the NOAA State Climate Summary for Montana (2022).[link] While the two decades in the 21st century have overall been the warmest for Montana since 1900, there has been no trend in extreme summer temperatures.  Montana’s warmest summer temperatures were in the 1930s.

The number of very hot days (≥95 oF) and warm nights (≥70 oF) was highest in the 1930s.”

“The “greed” part of Reilly Neill’s twitter rant seems to have something to do with fossil fuels. If there is ever a place you might want to be kept warm by fossil fuels (or nuclear), Montana during winter is it.  Montana is one of the coldest states in the U.S.   Of particular concern are wintertime “Arctic outbreaks,” which occur multiple times each winter with varying magnitudes and durations. “Arctic outbreaks” periodically bring exceptionally cold temperatures to large regions of the continental U.S., even in this era of global warming.”

The whole article is worth reading.  Checking her webpage every couple of months is worth doing. 

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