Upsala Glacier: Greenpeace's Newest Fraud

According to Greenpeace, "global warming" is responsible for the retreat of the Upsala glacier, in the Glaciers National Park. Analyzing scientific facts, it looks as this is nothing but another of Greenpeace's clumsy attempts to push its green agenda.

by Eduardo Ferreyra
President of FAEC - February, 20, 2004

“The Sky is falling, the sky is falling!,” cries Chicken Little when an acorn hits him on the head. Chicken Little spreads the alarm to Henny Penny, Turkey Lurkey, and others, who accompany him to tell the King. On the way, they meet up with Foxy Loxy. In the guise of showing them a short cut to take them straight to King, Foxy leads them right into his cave – and into his dinner pot. So ends the original story of the traditional children’s story.

Had even one inhabitant of this storybook kingdom asked Chicken Little for some scientific evidence, the fox would not have had such a magnificent meal. Thus began the book by Roger Maduro and Ralph Schauerhammer, back in 1993, “The Holes in the Ozone Scare”. They kept advising their readers to ask always for “scientific evidence”. Is the sky really falling? Is the ozone layer really being depleted by CFCs? Are glaciers around the world, especially those in Patagonia, melting because global warming? – or are we victims of a sophisticated Foxy Greenpeace Loxy?

About warming, this website is full of scientific evidences proving that those claims about the catastrophic warming of the planet are as false as eleven dollar bills. This website is also full with material giving evidence that the solar activity is an almost excluding factor in climate shaping, and the quite poor capacity of CO2 for affecting the climate by retaining heat – role reserved almost exclusively for water vapour. Thus, we are going to limit ourselves to look only in the specific case of the Upsala Glacier in Patagonia, and the absurd and fraudulent alarm set by Chicken Little scientists and advanced to the media by Loxy Greenpeace.

The Fraud in the Media

The fraud starts with the usual "press release" by Greenpeace - an organization that practices, in a religious way, the "Science by press release", preferred meal by the “mainstream media” – that quickly spread to newspapers, radios, TV news and the internet. It was taken by an official Argentinean government website, that showed it this way:

Because the increase in world's temperatures
A glacier in Patagonia was reduced by 13,4 km2 in the last 7 years

It is the Upsala, in Santa Cruz. According to Greenpeace, several more are losing ice.

La Nación October 20, 2003

Ice Fields are Melting

A paper published in Science show that the largest thinnings afected Glacier 12 and, in the Southern Ice Fields, Jorge Montt glacier.

According to the team of Chilean and US scientists, the main cause for glacier retreat in Patagonia would be changes in the climate, although the swiftness of this process
cannot be explained by the atmospheric warming alone, nor by the decrease in precipitations.

Only a few number of glaciars have presented stability and three of them have actually advanced: the Perito Moreno, the Trinidad, and the Pío XI. However, if the present trend continues, it is expected an important loss of mass and glacier retreat, that could possibly mean the soon disappearance of smaller glaciers, a phenomenon occurring in other parts of the world.

But,  what is happening with the Upsala glacier?

In order to know the answer, we must read some scientific works - the serious ones - as the paper published in a Japanese website, dedicated to the study of glaciers:

Thinning and retreating of Glaciar Upsala,
and an estimate of annual ablation changes in southern Patagonia

(R. Naruse, P. Skvarca and Y. Takeuchi)

Glaciar Upsala, a fresh-water calving glacier in southern Patagonia, has been retreating since 1978, and after a drastic recession of about 700 m/a in 1994 the retreat seems to have stopped in 1995. A large ice-thinning rate of 11 m/a was obtained between 1990 and 1993, by surveying surface elevations near the terminus of Glaciar Upsala. In 1993-1994, the thinning was estimated at about 20 m/a near the lateral margin. Some possible causes of the thinning behavior are considered.

In the ablation area of Glaciar Perito Moreno, 50 km south of Glaciar Upsala, ablation rates were measured during 110 d in summer 1993-94, and air temperature was continuously recorded throughout 1994. Using a degree-day method with temperature data at the nearest meteorological station, Calafate, annual ablation during the last 30 years was estimated to fluctuate from about 12 +- 2 m/a to 16 +- 2 m/a in ice thickness, with a mean of 14 +- 2 m/a. Thus, the temperature anomaly alone cannot elucidate the thinning of 11 m/a at Glaciar Upsala.

As a possible mechanism of the ice-thinning, it is suggested that the considerable retreat due to calving may have resulted in reduction of longitudinal compressive stress exerted from bedrock rises and islands near the glacier front, causing a considerable decrease in the emergence flow. Thus, the ice may have thinned at a rate close to the annual ablation rate.

(Annals of Glaciology, Vol. 24, 1997)

In other paper published in the same webiste, (Dynamic features of glaciers in Patagonia, by R. Naruse), its is repeated that temperature (global or regional warming) it is not the causal factor for the retreat of the Upsala glacier between 1978 y 1994, but there are more notorious causes as

Mechanisms of large shrinkage of Glaciar Upsala were discussed. Based on measured ablation rates with temperature data at Calafate, annual ablation thickness near the front of Glaciar Upsala was estimated to fluctuate from 14 m/a to 18 m/a (1962-94). The range (4 m/a) of year-to-year variations in annual ablation is much smaller than the mean thinning rate of 11 m/a. Thus, temperature change alone could not elucidate the ice thinning phenomenon. Measurements of water depth were made in 1994 and 1997 at the proglacial lake, and a large bump of about 250 m high was found on the bed near the glacier terminus. From a continuity analysis, it was revealed that the normal stresses from the bump and islands near the terminus play an important role to the dynamics of Glaciar Upsala. A possible mechanism may be such a feedback as: frontal retreat - reduction in longitudinal compressive stress - decrease in emergence flow - ice thinning - frontal retreat.

(2nd International Symposium on Arctic and Antarctic Issues; Punta Arenas, Chile; November 1998)

How can be read: scientists made no mention of temperature.

Glaciars and Temperatures

As it has been reported in an article in another website (World Glacier's behaviour contradicts Global Warming Hypothesis), glaciers around the world are very poor indicators of global warming. The most important thing to remember, is that the response time for glaciers varies according to their sizes - even for the smaller ones, this delayed response to changes in air temperature can take 100 years or more . Quoting a part of the article: "For example, it would take from 10,000 to 100,000 years for a Polar ice pack to respond  to any warming happening now. For a big mountain glacier it would take about 1,000 to 10,000 years for responding to a present warming, while for small mountain glaciers it would take about a 100 to 1,000 years response to the change. Thus, the explanation for the present retreat of some glaciers is: they are responding to a natural warming that occurred, during the Medieval Warm period, in the 11th Century, or to an even warmer period that happened 6.000 years ago.

What Greenpeace denounce is the response to a warming happened between 1,000 and 6,000 years ago, and this tell us a few things: If Greenpeace has real scientists (as it claims), they cannot ignore proved scientific facts – like the aforementioned studies on the Upsala glacier made by glaciologists R. Naruse, P. Skvarca and Y. Takeuchi, simply because they are too well known by all glaciologists. Then, we must asume two things:

1. Greenpeace has no capable scientists advising them, or

    2. Scientists advising Greenpeace, knowing about these studies, are as dishonest as Greenpeace directorstell me with whom you mingle, I will tell you the kind of crook you are...

Any of both possibilities is shaking, because the consequences of any actions based in ignorance or dishonesty is highly detrimental for the people - and may worsen the precarious economic situation of many nations in the poorest parts of the world - as Argentina and big regions of Latin America.

Glaciers in Southern Patagonia

Greenpeace has been very careful not to mention some things that are well known to glaciologists, as the fact that big glaciers in Patagonia are in advance, while medium and small sized are retreating or in a stable condition. No one throw stones against his own roof. Those who design fund raising campaigns for Greenpeace would be quite stupid if they told the truth, even in some part of their claims. Nobody would believe glaciers are "melting", as Greenpeace claims, if they said, for instance: 1) "Upsala glacier has strongly retreated since 1978 until 1995, but it seems that temperature has nothing to do no with it. Glacier dynamics seem to be responsible.".

2) Or if they said "Global warming will cause horrible environmental catastrophes, but those are computerized model predictions that cannot even predict, with some degree of accuracy, the weather we'll have next week."

3) Or maybe, "Though the Upsala glacier has retreated a great deal, Pio XI glacier, in the Chilean side of Patagonia, across the Andes, is growing at an amazing rate – Thanks God!"

With these arguments, telling the truth, they wouldn't raise a penny - and we all know Greenpeace is not in the environmental business just for the protection of the environment or for "saving the planet", but for the green color of money. Eco-business is nowadays the Mother of All Frauds. And Greenpeace is a master at practicing it.


In order to understand some things, it is important  to see them quite clear. So let us see the Abstract in M. Aniya, S. Park, A. S. Dhakal and R. Naruse's paper, "Variations of Patagonian Glaciers, South America, using Radarsat and Landsat Images", in the same website as before:
Combining Radarsat images taken in 1997 with Landsat TM data of 1986, variations of major glaciers of the Southern Patagonia Icefield (area, 13000 km2) were studied. These include the four largest outlet glaciers of the icefield, Pio XI, Viedma, Upsala and O'Higgins, and three medium to small glaciers, Ameghino, Perito Moreno and Tyndall, where we conducted field work since 1990.

Of these, Pio XI Glacier, the largest in South America, showed a net advance, gaining a total area of 4.38 km2. Two Radarsat images taken in January and April 1997 revealed a surge-like very rapid glacier advance. O'Higgins Glacier, which retreated more than 14 km during 1945-86, stagnated between 1986 and 1997. Two Radarsat images taken in January and May 1997 for Upsala Glacier, the third largest, revealed that the proglacial lake was choked with icebergs, indicating very active calving in a short period of time and a large scale retreat at the western half of the glacier, during which it lost an area of 2.71 km2. Such large scale retreats accompanied by choking icebergs were observed in 1981-82, 1990-93 and 1993-95.

Other glaciers, Viedma, Tyndall, and Ameghino have continued to retreat with the similar trend as before, losing an area ranging from 0.52 to 6.48 km2. Perito Moreno Glacier, which had a net advance between 1944 and 1986, also lost a small area in 1986-97; however, this is probably a phase in the frequent oscillation of the snout position observed since 1944.

(Submitted to "Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing"; 1999)

Unanswered questions

While in the same region in Patagonia, either in the Argentinean or Chilean sides, there are small glaciers on retreat, there are other medium sized glaciers in stable condition, and really big glaciers growing at record speed and volume. This does not seems to make sense for common people, because they tend to believe that heat necessarilly melts ice. Although this is absolutely true, what we must verify is if the warmth recorded in the region is enough to melt the ice - at the fast rate the Upsala have been retreating. Because compared with 40º C below zero, minus 5º C could really be considered "heat" – but still, it is not enough for melting ice.

The Upsala glacier retreat was not caused by melting of the ice by an (unexistent) warming, but to dynamic conditions of glaciers, as glaciologists told us above. The retreat is caused by "calving", that is, the come out of big chunks of ice from the glacier face (as it happens every four or five years in the famus perito Moreno glacier), due to the pressure of the advancing glaciars. This is what glaciologists mean by "calving", or "iceberg come-off". It happens in Antarctica, even though it has been cooling for the last 35 years, and where average temperature is about minus 40º C. It happens in the Perito Moreno glacier, it happens in the Upsala glacier, and also in the Pío XI, in Chile and, in spite of such calving, the biggest glacier in South America keeps on growing at an amazing rate.

Gentlemen at Greenpeace:

Why the Upsala is retreating, while the Pío XI grows? Is that the Chilean side has cooled and the Argentinean side has warmed? Then, the warming you claim is global? Or simply local? Why the Upsala is retreating while the Perito Moreno, at just 50 km away is advancing fast? 50 kilometres, makes a big difference for your global warming? If so, why a warming in the Northern Hemisphere affects glaciars in the Southern Hemisfere? Or perhaps there is more cold in the Perito Moreno glacier? ¿Yes or No?

I am sure that "scientists" at Greenpeace cannot give us the answeres to all those questions, because I don't think they even dare to acknowledge that they have the obligation to answer those questions. Greenpeace is cheating on the public, and authorities should step in once and for all, and demand that statements and claims about environmental dangers and impending catastrophes - on which their raising of sweet money are based - be founded on sound and undisputed scientifc facts.

Greenpeace's commercial activity must be severly controlled. Argentina must follow Norway, Canada and the US example, that took away from Greenpeace its "non profit" and "charitable organization" status, forcing it to pay taxes on its now commercial activities and fund raising. Its new status also means that donations and contributions cannot longer be discounted from taxes.

But more than the tax side of the matter, Argentinean authorities must set their eyes on the anti-Argentinean activities Greenpeace Argentina is embarked, opposing all kind of technological advances and industrial development that could result in the benefit of the people of Argentina. Greenpeace actions aim to obstruct and slow down the country's industrialization and development, as the notorius example of his opposition to the nuclear treaty with Australia, and the development of the advanced nuclear technology shown by the state-owned company Invap.

Leaders of other more "alert" countries, that have discovered what's the game of the organization known for its Green Paranoia, have begun to cut its wings by reaching where it hurts most: its wallet. It is time for Argentineans to hold the bull by the horns and decide if we want progress and a jump forward, or if we are going to allow Greenpeace to sabotage all our attemps of developing our productive activities, in behalf of our people and our future generations.

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Sergio Elguezábal, conductor of the cable TV program, "TN Ecology"
Juan Casavelos, reciting the Green Litany - Greenpeace's dogma.

Scientific Facts

Greenpeace's Juan Casavelos, proposes the same old absurdity of implementing wind power technologies, in spite of knowing it is economically inviable, which was the reason behind Denmark's cancelling all subsidies to wind power, causing the steep fall of share prices in the industry manufacturing wind turbines and equipment. This will most probably cause the inevitable death of that technology in Denmark – pioneer and world leader in wind power. As kids in high school say: "It was…"

On his part, Dr. Jorge Ravassa, from the CONICET, uses the opportunity to "carry water to his own mill", asking more money for research – from where it takes the bread for his family table. Nothing wrong with it. But research money must be used with precaution, in order to know what's really happening and why, and not for "demonstrating" a theory that already has its con-clusions written - before starting the research.

The CONICET would be wise to check Dr. Ravassa's statements and compare them with studies already performed on the Upsala glacier by other respected glaciologists (see further on), and evaluate if the money already spent in Ravassa's studies has not been squandered. But, above all, if the money Ravassa suggest to spend wouldn't be better invested in other research more useful for the country. Research money is hard to get in Argentina, a country that cannot permit itself the "luxury" of researching a field that is overexploited by richer and more technologically advan-ced countries - that have no undernourished people.

Dr. Jorge Ravassa, researcher at the CONICET, supporting Greenpeace's misinformation.

Actually, Greenpeace took the idea of the glacier retreat from a paper published in Science, that had widespread diffusion in the media around the world. New about catastrophes sell weel.

The matter can be summarized as follows

It took only two images to focus on the drastic consequences that global warming is already triggering in the planet..

One of the photos was taken in 1928, and the other, in January. Comparing both, it becomes evident the ice loss suffered by the Upsala glacier in Santa Cruz. And, in an expedition last month, it was confirmed that its front had retreated 13,4 km2 between 1997 and 2003.

The change was recorded by Greenpeace, that tries to warn that the increasing average temperatures on Earth is already treansforming lanscapes like the Upsala and the majority of glaciers in Argentina and Chile. And it demands political decisions.
Strong retreat. Comparative photos of the Upsala glacier, in the Los Alrces National Park. The one on top was taken in 1928; the one on the bottom, this year.
Photo: Salesian Musueum / Greenpeace
Juan Casavelos, from the non-governmental organization, told Clarín: "At national level, we demand that the government impulse the generation of renewable energies, like wind power, for replacing the use of oil, gas and carbon, that increased carbon dioxide". Jorge Rabassa, a researcher form the Conicet that went along with the environmentalists in their January campaign in Patagonia, said that "funds are needed for research in detail the human influence in state of the glaciers".

At an international level, Greenpeace demands the full implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 and already ratified by 119 países (Argentina, among others), that aims to lower greenhouse gases emissiones. "We want the United Staes to ratify it", said Casavelos "Russia also is refusing to ratify it."

Beyond the demands, the alert by Greenpeace also pointed to the retreat of glaciers in the Cuyo region, recorded by experts from the Conicet in Mendoza. He reminded that the US Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted glaciers could disappear in 20 years, jeopardizing productive activities.

FIRST: Greenpeace discovered nothing, recorded nothing. It only read a paper in Science dealing with the subject. The Upsala retreat has been recorded for years by scientists in the World Monitoring Service, in Switzerland, attributing it to dynamic causes not related with air temperatures.

Greenpeace's press releases try to show the organization as alert to impending environmental catastrophes, and present its members as heroic Sir Galahads in rescue of beautiful Lady Gaia, Mother Nature. It is a ludicrous and disgusting show.