Anchorage Daily News: Bad weather was good for Alaska glaciers which grew in mass

From: Anchorage Daily News

Two hundred years of glacial shrinkage in Alaska, and then came the winter and summer of 2007-2008.

Unusually large amounts of winter snow were followed by unusually chill temperatures in June, July and August. …

Never before in the history of a research project dating back to 1946 had the Juneau Icefield witnessed the kind of snow buildup that came this year. It was similar on a lot of other glaciers too.

It’s been a long time on most glaciers where they’ve actually had positive mass balance,” Molnia said.

That’s the way a scientist says the glaciers got thicker in the middle. …

During the Little Ice Age — roughly the 16th century to the 19th — Muir Glacier filled Glacier Bay and the people of Europe struggled to survive because of difficult conditions for agriculture. Some of them fled for America in the first wave of white immigration.

The Pilgrims established the Plymouth Colony in December 1620. By spring, a bitterly cold winter had played a key role in helping kill half of them. Hindered by a chilly climate, the white colonization of North America through the 1600s and 1700s was slow. …

The difference in temperature between the Little Ice Age and these heady days of American expansion?

About three or four degrees, Molnia said.

The difference in temperature between this summer in Anchorage — the third coldest on record — and the norm?

About three degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

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