This is how an ice age starts

Articles about snow dumps that have not yet melted concern me more than ISIS and the Caliphate, some mornings at least.

The National Post today shows that the snow piled up  from last winter has not yet melted at the municipal snow dump in Winnipeg. Bulldozers are spreading it around to expose it to the sun. Nor is this unusual: a snow dump close by  a highway in Quebec’s Eastern Townships is still black and shrinking slowly on August 14th.

Winnipeg's Kenaston snow dump


In a microcosm, this is how an ice age starts. Somewhere, high on a mountain, or on a plateau, last winter’s snow fails to melt completely in spring. The next winter’s snow lands on top. The vegetation dies. The snow turns to ice under pressure. The ice piles up and spreads. In central Labrador, during the last Little Ice Age (1350-1850), there is still an area which can be seen from satellite imagining where the snow had started to accumulate into ice.(source: a geologist friend whose specialization was satellite imaging.)  It is not pretty; the effect is as ugly as the dirty snow pile in the Winnipeg snow dump.

Remember, the average temperature of the world’s oceans – all of them, even in the tropics – is 3C. The world’s surface temperature (to the extent one can talk meaningfully of an average world temperature) has risen 0.6C since 1900, which has had no effect on ocean temperatures.

This is from a Wikipedia article on the retreat of ice since 1850.

The Little Ice Age was a period from about 1550 to 1850 when the world experienced relatively cooler temperatures compared to the present. Subsequently, until about 1940, glaciers around the world retreated as the climate warmed substantially. Glacial retreat slowed and even reversed temporarily, in many cases, between 1950 and 1980 as global temperatures cooled slightly.[3] Since 1980, a significant global warming has led to glacier retreat becoming increasingly rapid and ubiquitous, so much so that some glaciers have disappeared altogether, and the existence of a great number of the remaining glaciers of the world is threatened. In locations such as the Andes of South America and Himalayas in Asia, the demise of glaciers in these regions will have potential impact on water supplies. The retreat of mountain glaciers, notably in western North America, Asia, the Alps, Indonesia and Africa, and tropical and subtropical regions of South America, has been used to provide qualitative evidence for the rise in global temperatures since the late 19th century.[4] The recent substantial retreat and an acceleration of the rate of retreat since 1995 of a number of key outlet glaciers of the Greenland and West Antarcticice sheets, may foreshadow a rise in sea level, having a potentially dramatic effect on coastal regions worldwide.

The last ice age ended  about 11,000 years ago. In southern Canada it ended nine thousand years ago. In another article in Wikipedia, “Last Glacial Period”, we read:

The last glacial period is sometimes colloquially referred to as the “last ice age”, though this use is incorrect because an ice age is a longer period of cold temperature in which ice sheets cover large parts of the Earth, such as Antarctica. Glacials, on the other hand, refer to colder phases within an ice age that separate interglacials. Thus, the end of the last glacial period is not the end of the last ice age. The end of the last glacial period was about 10,500 BCE, while the end of the last ice age has not yet come: little evidence points to a stop of the glacial-interglacial cycle of the last million years.

Feeling better?

The grey areas in the map below are ice sheets; the areas below are taiga (northern coniferous forest), which in the case of North America reached the Gulf of Mexico.




Maybe I obsess about ice and cold the same way some obsess about pit bulls or unfairness of child custody laws. I plead as my excuse that it is August already, and summer is in retreat.


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Al in Cranbrook

5000 years ago the Columbia Icefields didn’t even exist.

Quote: “Will the Athabasca Glacier melt away altogether? It’s
possible. Some 5000 years ago, during a period not much
warmer than the present, the middle of the Columbia Icefield
was forest, not ice.”

By circa 1300 AD, following the Medieval Warm Period, the Columbia Glacier had retreated much further than it currently has.

All cyclical, and most of these clowns damn well know it, too! There’s nothing whatsoever unusual about global climate, happened before…a lot of it much worse…and it will keep on happening in the future.


There are several snow dumps around the city of Winnipeg.
Just before the spring melt, they were huge.
The one on McPhillips was so massive that it made the tractors on it look like Tonka trucks.
There was more snow this year than in any other winter in my experience.
It’s not unusual for there still to be snow there in July even after mild winters.

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