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« Let me explain | Main | Greens trashing the environment part 624 »

The Royal Society does glacier melt

About a fifth of the world's population relies on this glacier fed water every year for their drinking water, for sanitation, for irrigation for crops and for hydroelectric power. That's countries like India, China, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan.

Prof Neil Glasser of the University of Aberystwyth.

Professor Glasser was speaking in a video promoting the Royal Society's Summer Exhibition.

Unfortunately he seems unaware of the meteorological phenomenon known as "the monsoon". This confusion among glaciologists as to where precisely people in India get their water from has been apparent for some time now. This four-year old article refers to "creeping hyperbole" on the subject and even features Peter Gleick referring to "misinformation". Another scientist featured in that article was quoted as follows:

[Glaciologist Jeff La Frenniere] agreed that overstatements about the impacts are rampant in the Himalayas as well, saying, "The idea that 1.4 billion people are going to be without water when the glaciers melt is just not the case. It's a local problem; it's a local question. There are places that are going to be more impacted than other places."

Those aren't messages that environmental activists will likely find easy to hear.

Environmental activists? Misinformation? Do you think they could be referring to the Royal Society?

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Reader Comments (26)

A Glacier is a natural dam that if it is melting is releasing the water early, when it all gone the water will no longer stop temporarily in the Glacier but be fed direct, there will still be a water supply.

And by retreating it does not mean its melting but could just not being fed by new snow at the top as Kilimanjaro, in which case the only reduction in water supply is the lower snowfall.

Jun 22, 2015 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

I do get fed up thinking that my hard-earned tax is going to pay hubristic people like "Professor" Glasser, who are obviously either gormless or dishonest.

Jun 22, 2015 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

If the Royal Society had any self awareness they would realise that they are going to look pretty ridiculous in the not too distant future. It's like listening to someone who can't sing - we've stopped jeering them to get off and now we are all too busy laughing at the ridiculousness of it all!

Jun 22, 2015 at 2:57 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

The good professor's grasp of geography is a trifle loose. How does he think that the people in Central and South India get water from the Himalayan glaciers?

Jun 22, 2015 at 3:29 PM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

Royal Society for the Prostitution of Science.

They will do or say anything, if the money is right. To hell with the consequences

Jun 22, 2015 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

When glaciers grow where do they get their water from?

Jun 22, 2015 at 4:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterson of mulder

"They" being users of water not the glaciers (I really must proof read more).

Jun 22, 2015 at 4:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterson of mulder

When glaciers grow where do they get their water from?

Jun 22, 2015 at 4:45 PM | son of mulder

There is always breakaway at the base and melting underneath due to the pressure, but when they are growing from cold weather the rate of water production is lower, so, as your question was eluding to, its cold weather they need to be worrying about not warm.

Jun 22, 2015 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

It is true that the headwaters of several mighty Asian rivers including Ganges, Mekong, Yangtze are glacier fed. It is obviously also true that most of the water feeding them in their respective catchment basins is not glacial, but simple rainfall. Prof. Glasser is geography challenged, echoing a truly stupid AR4 mistake much larger than the retracted Himalayan glaciers gone by 2035 goof. As stupid as asserting that all the water in the Mississippi river originates in Minnesota, ignoring downstream contributions from the Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, and Missouri River basins.

Jun 22, 2015 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

Rud Istvan:

The Minnesota Greens claim that all the water in the Mississippi river comes from Minnesota, and want the State Government to damn the river to stop the flow. They look to Professor Glasser for a comment of approval. sarc off/

I think Glasser would make a great candidate for Pointman's Climate Prat of the Year when voting starts soon.

Jun 22, 2015 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

Himalayan glaciers are becoming a bit of a graveyard for glaciologists and their skientific predictions.

If the glaciers do melt, they will leave behind a moronic moraine.

Jun 22, 2015 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I've said it before, that, pretty much the hydrological cycle; evaporation, transportation, condensation, precipitation and by varying methods, of permeation, percolation into the upper catchment basin stream flow and onto, via gravity to the sea and all over again - is the model. That, some of it freezes and forms mountain glaciers is rather redundant in the over all cycle.

Glasser and probably deliberately does not attempt to see the bigger picture, no surprise then.

Jun 22, 2015 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Does anyone really think Prof Neil Glasser of the University of Aberystwyth hasn't heard of the monsoon?
Does anyone really think he believes four mighty rivers are all fed by glacier melt alone?
Does anyone really think he's entirely unqualified for his position?

The University of Aberystwyth isn't that bad.

Or are we just being polite about his integrity?

Jun 22, 2015 at 6:28 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney
WATT about this one then.............

Jun 22, 2015 at 6:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterMagnum

Glasser should join Peter (the Arctic will be ice free in 2014) Wadhams in the climate scientists hall of shame. Both completely scientifically illiterate.

Jun 22, 2015 at 7:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Henceforth to be known to the world as Professor Neil "Voodoo Science" Glasser.

VS for short.

Mind you don't trip over the moronic moraine (nice one, GC) on your way out.

Jun 22, 2015 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJerryM

Golf Charlie,
The moronic moraine in this case has preceded the glacier.

Jun 22, 2015 at 8:10 PM | Unregistered Commentertoorightmate

As a child, I was fascinated by the RS' history.

I read about Newton, Wren, Hooke and marvelled at their intellects.

Science is hard, really hard. It requires intelligence, insight, logic and training.

Too much for modern day RS members. Opinions are far easier to form than theories and can never be disproved; you just alter the "facts" accordingly.

It's so sad that current advocates of this twaddle are setting an example to the scientists of tomorrow. Don't learn anything except how to brown nose to those in positions of influence and then just keep on shouting until the dollars roll in.

Jun 22, 2015 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld John Miller


I recently calibrated a hydrological model of the Mekong. The model was realistic and included snow melt. The average contribution to flow of snow melt was 49 cubic metres per second. The average flow of the Mekong at the China/ Thailand border is 2714 cubic metres per second. In Cambodia, upstream of the confluence with the flow from the Tonle Sap wetland, the average flow of the Mekong is 14045 cubic metres per second. I admit that snow melt is not quite the same as glacier melt but it contributes about 0.3% of the flow.

I would imagine that similar proportion would apply for othe similar rivers.

Jun 22, 2015 at 8:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterRon

I have never understood the glacier argument.

If the glacier is growing/advancing then it means that some of the rainfall or water from upstream is being frozen and never makes it downstream where people collect water for their drinking needs.

If the glacier is receding, it means that more rain or water from upstream is finding its way down stream to where people collect the water for drinking.

Accordingly, expanding glaciers lead to downstream water shortage and hence cause problems for people who rely on this for their drinking water, whereas receding glaciers lead to greater quantities of available water for drinking.

It seems to me that these guys fail to understand that a glacier is a water lock. It is beneficial to live in the flood plains/down stream area of a glacier that is slowly receding, and a problem if the glacier is growing/advancing.

Jun 22, 2015 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

The Cryosphere is a very well known journal among glaciologists. This paper, which is not new, already shows that total contribution of Himalayan glaciers to stream flow is about 4%. Why some insist in exaggerating the glacier contribution is beyond my understanding.

Jun 22, 2015 at 9:01 PM | Registered CommenterPatagon

Jun 22, 2015 at 1:54 PM | Breath of Fresh Air

As you and many others point out a glacier is just a dam you can't control. If you want to control a river for low flow and flooding conditions you might want a real dam.

Jun 22, 2015 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

This is an interesting concept - 1.4 billion people depend upon glacier melt, so when the glacier melts, providing for those 1.4 billion people, this guy complains.

He's got it all wrong. The people are dependent upon precipitation AND catchment. A glacier is a rather fickle mechanism for modern people to be depending on for catchment and it should never be considered a water source. That is what precipitation is. Same with reservoirs. They and glaciers, along with rivers, are part of the delivery system, not a source mechanism. Not sure what can be done about ensuring precipitation - maybe California will work it out. They're pretty deep into populations exceeding resources issues. Given how many dams the Chinese are building in the valleys at the top of the world, they probably have a good understanding of the problem, too.

Maybe the problem is the precipitation the people depend upon was never adequate or stable enough to support a population of 1.4 billion and growing thirsty humans.

Jun 22, 2015 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterdp

From the Aberystwyth uni website - some snippets on the prof -
Professor Neil Glasser
Director of the Institute of Geography, History, Politics and Psychology
DGES Projects

Glacial history of the NE Antarctic Peninsula region over centennial to millennial timescales
MAGIC-DML: MAGIC-DML is a new Swedish-UK-US-Norwegian-German project that will look at past vertical ice thicknesses in the Dronning Maud Land (DML) area of Antarctica.
Additional Interests

Antarctic Peninsula glacier recession ‘unprecedented’
The Cairngorm glacier controversy: where now?
Glaciers in Chile 'melt at fastest rate in 350 years'
Welsh boffins make history in Antarctic

I may have the wrong guy, but would quess not - the usual CV where people think they can expound outside expertise - Politics and Psychology !!!

Jun 23, 2015 at 12:04 AM | Unregistered Commenterdougieh

The Scots used to rely on water from the glaciers in Scotland for drinking water, sanitation and irrigation of their crops (when the Scottish monsoon failed).

They seem to do alright now their glaciers have all gone. (only recently according to Professor Glasser - see link)

Jun 23, 2015 at 12:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

When does the Aberystwyth monsoon start. Prospective students need to know so as to avoid it.

Jun 29, 2015 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave

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