Tahoe Glacier Making a Comeback?

“The idea that Tahoe glacier might make a comeback should not surprise Californians. Indeed, they should expect it.” – Robert Felix

Tahoe Glacier Making a Comeback?

By Robert Felix

This is not as far-fetched as you may think. In fact, if history is any guide it is inevitable. Not only inevitable, the process may have already begun.

California’s Squaw Valley ski resort, just west of Lake Tahoe, has been buried beneath more than 58 feet of snowfall this season. That’s enough snow to completely cover a five-story building.

With such copious amounts of snow, Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth announced last week that some ski trails may stay open all summer and into next season.

In other words, the snow may not entirely melt this summer.

I don’t know if Mr. Wirth fully understood the import of his words, but readers of this website ( iceagenow.info ) certainly do.

“Isn’t this how glaciers are formed?” asked one reader. “Snow in one year still existing the following year?”  

“Golly! Wouldn’t that start a glacier?” asked another.

“Ski all Summer thru Fall? That’s called a glacier,” exclaimed yet another reader. “Glaciation of the Sierras.”

Those readers are correct. That is indeed how glaciers form.

That is also how ice ages begin – not because some huge ice sheet starts grinding southward (or northward if coming from the bottom of the globe), but because the more the snow accumulates, the less chance it has to melt.

And even though it may take years to create a full-fledged glacier, when the previous season’s snowfall doesn’t entirely melt away, the glaciation process has begun.

Once the snow reaches about 100 feet (30 meters) deep, the bottom layers begin compressing into ice. If the snow keeps piling on, year after year after year, well, you get the picture.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that temperatures plummet, mind you, just that more and more precipitation falls in the winter as snow.

The idea that Tahoe glacier might make a comeback should not surprise Californians. Indeed, they should expect it.

During the Quaternary Period (the last 2.6 million years) the Sierra Nevada mountains experienced more than 60 – You read that right, more than 60! – periods of glacial expansion interrupted by briefer periods of warmth. We are enjoying such a period of warmth right now.

From Yosemite Park north, these glacial episodes were typified by large, thick, upland ice fields. The ice fields completely covered the mountains except for a few nunataks; jagged peaks poking up through the ice like lonely glacial islands.

Cirque – Courtesy Wikipedia

From Sequoia Park south, the glacial episodes were typified by smaller glaciers mostly contained within their cirques and canyons.

A cirque (French, from the Latin word circus) is an amphitheater-like valley gouged out by a glacier. Dana Glacier on the eastern border of Yosemite National Park is located in such a cirque.

Evidence of Sierra glaciation abounds throughout the Tahoe region. Fallen Leaf Lake and Cascade Lakes were formed when piles of rock and debris (terminal moraines) piled up in front of a glacier and were bulldozed forward, thereby building the dam that created the lakes.

Cirque lake – Courtesy Wikipedia

Many examples of glacially-formed lakes and cirques can be found in Desolation Wilderness in the Lake Tahoe Basin. These include, Half Moon, Ralston, and Eagle Lakes. Lake Tahoe, on the other hand, was created by the rise and fall of the landscape due to faulting.

There were many glaciers in the Sierra including Tahoe glacier, South Fork trunk glacier, Big Creek glacier, Kaiser Creek glacier, Tenaya glacier and Tioga glacier, to name just a few.

Say goodbye to so-called “global warming.” If the huge amounts of snowfall that buried the Sierra this past winter continue, we will soon witness the comeback of Tahoe glacier.

Robert W. Felix is author of Not by Fire but by Ice and publisher of iceagenow.info.  Robert can be reached at: rwfelix@juno.com


13 thoughts on “Tahoe Glacier Making a Comeback?”

  1. I live in the Owens Valley, the deepest valley in North America, bordered by the great Sierra Nevada Mts. to the west and the White and Inyo Mts. to the east. The sheer wall of the eastern Sierra is currently buried in snow. It will be interesting to see how the dozens of small pocket glaciers that exist between Mammoth and Mt. Whitney develop this summer. My view is that if global warming is as bad as they say it is then these very small pocket glaciers should have disappeared a long time ago.

  2. “This doesn’t necessarily mean that temperatures plummet” But at some point the temperature must plummet though, right? We see the temperature drop in the records at the end of every interglacial. So we get a one-two punch with massive snow forming glaciers first, and then the cold comes.

  3. Sadly, Say goodbye to Incline Village NV. then there’s all those Montana Retreats too. Perhaps it will be like watching Dots {glaciers ] appear first, then fill in the Dots with Montana Wyoming et al. over the coming years

  4. Here in western Arkansas we are projected to reach a low mid 40deg f for at least another week warming during the day between the 50s and 70s.
    Most unusual. Those that have set tomatoes already can expect to have stunted vines and lower production and probably disease in the lower valley areas. Not easy for larger seeds to germinate with the soil being so cool unless one invests in material for hot bedding.
    Looks like one probably needs to invest in colder region fruits and vegetables for this region again.

  5. One good winter of snow for the Sierras doesn’t mean we’re going to suddenly get glaciers back. If people forgot the past 5 winters were HORRENDOUS and this season was record breaking in precipitation albeit not in snowfall. We would’ve needed the precip to be more snow and less rain. Let’s talk once we get decades of deep snowfall like this season.

    • Alex,

      You’re absolutely right; however, the precipitation of rain on top of snowpack makes it much denser, which compacts the snow at the bottom even more, making it more resistant to melting. The other thing is keeping perspective about snowfall in general for a place like California, long known for it’s wide swings from deluge to drought. But wouldn’t it behoove climatologists to devote some time towards how the return of ice ages actually begins? We hear all the time about doom-and-gloom scenarios of melting glaciers, ice caps, warming oceans, etc. but absolutely nothing about which mechanisms switch from warming to cooling. Trends in precipitation amidst a warming atmosphere likely portends of a viable explanation, i.e. a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor that precipitates out as snow at higher latitudes, which leads to less melt due to higher albedo and inherent inertia, which can be added to over time by even more snowfall. Over time, reglaciation can and does take place. It only makes sense to devote some time and space online to describing those mechanisms, and postulate a theory which could be tested through direct observation, unlike typical global temperature modeling.

      • H.B, You’re absolutely right. If one thinks about it, how on earth did those massive ice sheets happen without massive snowfall?

      • ‘tested through direct observation’, yes, the real scientific method which somehow the warmists manage to forget.

    • the issue, Alex, is that is doesn’t take decades of record snowfall for the glaciers to form. It can happen in as little as 3 years. With the decrease in the solar wind, increase in cosmic rays this will result in a significant increase in cloud formation – followed by lots of rain and snow. It is the clouds -blocking the sun from heating the oceans – that cool the atmosphere. And that doesn’t take into account any volcanos going off during this period. History shows that the end of interglacials or entering into mini iceages occurs rapidly.

    • Hi Kenneth,
      This Grand Solar Minimum was predicted by Landscheidt, and further worked by Geoff Sharp via landscheidt.info and via his paper:
      This Modern GSM is predicted to last two Solar Cycles, this one SC24 and the much lower energy output SC25.
      The following Solar Warm period will commence during Sc26 as a series of four cycles referred to as a Gleissberg cool period and then move into a series of high energy cycles separated by a single APM affected cycle similar to SC20 at around 2155. The following three cycles will be high output cycles.
      The next warm period will equal or be slightly lower in head line temperature to the previous modern cycle which ended in 2008 and the Medieval Warm period. This following warm period will end like this one with another Grand Solar Minimum forecast to start in 2188.
      Yes we will get glacial advances until 2056 and then they will recede as the Gleissberg cycle very slows warm up the climate over five following cycles. This is the same path that Dalton followed, as have other GSMs such as the LILIA on each side of the disturbed orbital period which covered the Little Ice age from Oort and ended with Dalton.
      You might have to wait another 1000 years until the orbital and solar parameters, and possibly a major geological kicker to start the next major Glaciation advance of this 2.5 million year continuing Ice Age, we are in to restart. This warmish Interglacial is coming to an end, but not yet, I have things to see, places to go, before my bucket list is complete over the next 15 years or so.

  6. It will be very interesting to see how this new jet stream with its huge waves affects the growing season.

    Piers Corbyn made a video about 6 years ago stating that when the solar wind decreases then the jet stream gets wobbly allowing cold and warm to infiltrate south and north respectively.
    It seems this is happening now.

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