“Historical” Research Discovers 1930’s Greenland Glacier Summer Party

Golden Gate Long Exposure

photo credit

Right now, the 40th annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union is taking place in San Francisco. The Fall meeting consists of around 15,000 researchers from around the world descending upon the bay area to nerd it up on issues covering nearly every facet of earth and ocean sciences.  Alas, I couldn’t make the trip – but there is some p r e t t y cool stuff going on down south this year (geek on: here, here, and especially here since it most likely fundamentally changes the way we do this; geek off).

Given that I’ve gone through 4 cases of bottled water this past week since my tap water still isn’t exactly potable (I still see silt), I know where I’d rather be…

Nevertheless, some cool stuff is being reported from the meeting – both liveblogged and reported by various online science news groups/sites/etc. This brings me to, “Was there a 1930’s meltdown in the Greenland Glacier?” reported by these guys.

Greenland Aerial

photo credit

This is very cool, primarily because it answers a hot-button question as of late – i.e. whether the recent loss of ice from Greenland is: a) unprecedented; and b) has any basis in current climate science (for all the hardcore skeptics out there). SO in short: yes and ditto.

But that isn’t what peaked my interest. I’ve been intrigued by the history of science for years – when someone said to me, “we are standing on the shoulders of giants” I wondered, “whose shoulders we really standing on?”. In short, in order to solve the current paradigms in a given field, must one have a thorough knowledge of previous paradigms?

To me, the answer was simple – Yes. How do we go about doing this? Become an historian:

Mining The Ohio State University Libraries, this work compiles historical observations of glacier front positions and surface velocities from maps, photographs and other documentary evidence from mid 19th century Arctic expeditions. Of the glaciers reviewed, an acceleration and retreat indeed occurred between 1920 and 1940.

Related Topics


Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice: davidsemeniuk.com