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Long Term Changes On The Grindelwald Glacier

March 28, 2021

.By Paul Homewood

Charles Wardrop mentioned the retreating Grindelwald Glacier, a delightful spot up in the Bernese Alps.

Because of its low altitude, it has records and drawings going back hundreds of years, which give us an idea of how the glacier has changed.



The Upper & Lower Grindelwald Glaciers in 1774 by Caspar Wolf

HH Lamb’s Climate, History and The Modern World tells us much about the history of Alpine glaciers. For instance, how they advanced rapidly between 800 and 400 BC. They then retreated before advancing again between AD 600 and AD 850, when they may have even reached Little Ice Age maximum extents.

We are probably all familiar with the terrifying glacier advances, which began in the 17thC, following centuries of a much warmer climate. These were catastrophic for anybody living nearby, as farming land was wiped out, and even the land that escaped being overrun was far too cold to farm. As a result, famine was rife in Switzerland and elsewhere, even in cities which relied on the countryside for food.

People living in those days would have been dumfounded to hear that there are some now who are worried that glaciers are getting smaller.


A paper by Zumbuhl et al, published in 2006, offers a detailed history of the Lower Grindelwald glacier, as well as the Mer de Glace in the Mont Blanc region:




The summary below describes how the Grindelwald reached maximum extent in 1820, but then peaked again in 1855. It then began a very rapid retreat between 1860 and 1880. Note the chart, which shows the most rapid rate of retreat was 1860 to 1880, and then another sharp retreat from 1920 to 1980. Since then the extent has stabilised. (Remember this is data to 2003).






It is abundantly clear that current glacial retreat in the Alps is part of a much longer sequence of natural cycles.

  1. March 28, 2021 8:17 pm

    Hi Paul

    Very nice piece.

    You might find this relevant.

    See section 4 and the diagram where I calculated Glacier movements using a variety of sources including Laduries classic book “Times of Feast times of Famine” and work from Hubert Lamb and others.. It was written after a visit to the Grindewald glacier to see for myself, and a trip to the local museum to look at the archives

    What people don’t seem to get is that Glaciers were smaller 2000 years ago , they increased substantially during the Little Ice Age and as would be expected they are melting from that glacier high point- which in itself was unusual- during the current warm period..


    • March 29, 2021 7:03 pm

      ” Glaciers were smaller 2000 years ago”

      Not to mention, 750 – 1250 yrs ago.

  2. Pancho Plail permalink
    March 28, 2021 9:24 pm

    Whilst looking at info about the Little Ice Age I saw the Wikipedia section on the Medieval Warm Period. I notice there is an attempt to rename it the Medieval Climatic Anomaly to hide the reference to warming. It is laughable.

    • Lee Scott permalink
      March 28, 2021 9:52 pm

      As we know, they are attempting to erase it from the historical record entirely. They minimize it by claiming it wasn’t global and was limited to northern Europe, despite ample evidence to the contrary. And anyway, Mann’s hockey stick temperature reconstruction shows it never, ever happened. It was just a local anomaly.

      • Duker permalink
        March 29, 2021 4:38 am

        My weather service has a daily record of the temp high- lows-rainfall, for the last 30 days and also what they call ‘historical average’. History is now only 10 years back. Nows that I would call erasing an Inconvenient Truth, history no longer even reaches past the millenium.
        I tried using the Wayback machine to find when history became so small but it seems even that has been tampered with as daily- monthly data from then for various locations is save but the ‘historical’ tab has been wiped

  3. ThinkingScientist permalink
    March 29, 2021 9:09 am

    Nussbaumer et al 2007 is 184 pages of historical documentation of glacial retreat – photos, paintings etc. Very well researched.

    Nussbaumer & Zumbuhl 2012 has excellent glacial retreat data for 4 glaciers in the European Alps, including the Mer de Galce. The onset is clearly around 1850 and there are 4 distinct phases of retreat/pause right up to present day for the Glacier des Bossons.

  4. Gamecock permalink
    March 29, 2021 12:18 pm

    ‘People living in those days would have been dumfounded to hear that there are some now who are worried that glaciers are getting smaller.’

    I am dumbfounded by people TODAY who wish the Arctic Ocean to be covered with ice.

  5. Gerry, England permalink
    March 29, 2021 4:00 pm

    People need to understand ice should only ever extend as far as alarmists say it should. They will be limiting glaciers by putting up signs and putting buoys in the Arctic saying no ice allowed outside this ring.

    Is it ironic, an oxymoron or just stupidity that believers in ‘climate change’ can never understand that we have a changing climate and that there is no set point for anything.

  6. March 29, 2021 6:55 pm

    Thanks Paul.

    This is always educational to watch:

    Advance and retreat of the Alpine glaciers during the last glacial cycle.

    Don’t miss the 200 mi+ advance of the Adriatic Sea, towards future home of Venice, beginning in about 12,500 yrs ago.

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