Dedicated to the balanced discussion of global warming
Reuters – June 7, 2007
You will see different versions of this article floating around the internet. This article discusses the major impact and hardship that will befall the people of Bolivia due to the melting of their small glaciers that are in the Andean mountains. These glaciers are melting, so the story claims, because of global warming.
If you have read this site for any length of time, you know that some people believe a myriad of evils has been delivered on us (or will be delivered) due to climate change. I have written of several examples of this (here and here and here). I don’t discount that these glaciers may be melting since the article gives us data to support that claim. I also do not refute that this will cause these people harm – in fact, my heart goes out to them in their plight.
While I am well aware that there are many causes to glacier change, the article seems to blame global warming. I am also aware that the weather has a bit of chaotic mechanism in that a butterfly could flap its wings in Australia causing a thunderstorm in Finland three years later (no – I do not have a source for this nor am I totally serious that butterflies are causing storms). However, the article says that this change is because it is getting warmer, humans are causing this change, and at least implies that the cause is that it is getting warmer in Bolivia. This piqued my curiosity – is it getting warmer in Bolivia (wow- the name of this site)?
The internet is great. We can go to NOAA and they will gladly give us the temperature record for La Paz, Bolivia (the area discussed in the article). The data is pretty good covering 1918 to 1990. There are three ways to crunch these numbers (by averages, median and by vector math) and I have done all three of them. Averages/median are typically unreliable for multiple locations since they don’t take into account the different thermodynamic tendencies of different parts of the world but since we are talking about one location, we should be able to conclude that these are the same for all time periods.
You can download my Excel document here and check my work to see if I made any mistakes. All three methods say that La Paz is currently getting cooler! One way (averages) says that the temperature has dropped over 1.1 degrees C, using median values says that it is getting cooler by about 1.6 deg C and vector mathematics says that the temperature has dropped over 4 degrees C. So maybe the headline for the article should have been:
Why are the Andean glaciers melting towards oblivion? (because the data doesn’t conclude that it is getting warmer!)
Global warming will melt most Andean glaciers in the next 30 years, scientists say, threatening the livelihood of millions of people who depend on them for drinking water, farming and power generation.
Small glaciers are scattered across the Andes and have for long been a crucial source of fresh water in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, thawing in summer months and replenishing themselves in winter. But global warming has driven them into retreat.
But the glacier is now only 10 feet thick on average, down from 49 feet in 1998, and glaciologist Edson Ramirez says it will disappear this year or next.
Oscar Paz, the head of the Bolivian Climate Change Panel, a government task force: “At least 35 percent of the drinking water comes from melting glaciers, and about 40 percent of the electricity.”
About 80 percent of the Andean glaciers are similar in size to Chacaltaya at under 1 square kilometer, and experts say they are similarly doomed.
Paz said rich countries should create a global fund to compensate poor nations for the effects of global warming.
Did you know that you can have these articles emailed to you? Click on the “Subscribe to email” link in the upper right corner, fill out the details, and you are set. No one will see your email address and you won’t get more spam by doing