Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Surprising discovery? Or just good science?

... taking into account the data recorded for the level of solar radiation, the scientists made a surprising discovery: in the 1940s and in the summer of 1947 especially, the glaciers lost the most ice since measurements commenced in 1914. This is in spite of the fact that temperatures were lower than in the past two decades. "The surprising thing is that this paradox can be explained relatively easily with radiation," says Huss, who was recently appointed to the post of senior lecturer at the Department of Geosciences at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.

On the basis of their calculations, the researchers have concluded that the high level of short-wave radiation in the summer months is responsible for the fast pace of glacier melt. In the 1940s, the level was 8% higher than the long-term average and 18 Watts per square metres above the levels of the past ten years. Calculated over the entire decade of the 1940s, this resulted in 4% more snow and ice melt compared with the past ten years.

Furthermore, the below-average melt rates at the measurement points during periods in which the glacier snouts were even advancing correlate with a phase of global dimming, between the 1950s and the 1980s.

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