Giant Antarctic glacier melting unstoppably
The Pine Island Glacier in the Antarctic is melting irreversibly according to a study. Scientists expect that sea level will rise enormously because of the melting of this glacier. […] International scientists from the University of Grenoble expect the shrinking glacier could allow the sea level to rise 1 centimeter in 20 years. The shrinking of the glacier is ‘irreversible’. The glacier is located in western Antarctica. Since the beginning of this century it has gotten about 10 km shorter, the scientists of the Institute for Glacier Research and Geophysics write. The melting has accelerated over the last decades. On average for the years 1992 to 2011 20 billion tonnes of ice have melted. In total until today the western Antarctic ice sheet has reduced about 20 percent.”
All of course this sounds quite dramatic and alarming.
But unfortunately, the media neglect to mention another study appearing in the Journal of Geophysical Research. In it a team of scientists led by L.H. Beem of the University of California in Santa Cruz studied another Western Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) glacier: the Whillans ice stream Ice Plain. Much to their surprise, the scientists discovered that the melting of the glacier actually had decelerated over the last 50 years.
Die Welt also could have checked another study from the Geophysical Research Letters from October 2013 titled: “A 308 year record of climate variability in West Antarctica”. The study’s authors discovered that the warming rate seen at the Pine island Glacier since 1950 was nothing different from what had been observed in the 18th and 19th centuries. Elizabeth Thomas told the press:
“The new record captures climate variability in this globally important region and suggests that the warming observed here since the 1950s is not the largest in the past 300 years.”
The abstract states:
The record shows that this region has warmed since the late 1950s, at a similar magnitude to that observed in the Antarctic Peninsula and central West Antarctica; however, this warming trend is not unique. More dramatic isotopic warming (and cooling) trends occurred in the mid-nineteenth and eighteenth centuries, suggesting that at present, the effect of anthropogenic climate drivers at this location has not exceeded the natural range of climate variability in the context of the past ~300 years.”
In February 2014 yet another study led by Alexandra Witus of Rice University appearing in the Quaternary Science Reviews found three episodes where ice had melted rapidly at the Pine Island Glacier over the last 10,000 years. In summary: the melt that has taken place over the last decades at the WAIS is nothing new, and it even now appears to be decelerating.
So what does all this say about the wild claims made by Die Welt that a “dramatic” ice melt is taking place at the Pine Island Glacier, i.e. 20 billion cubic meters per year resulting in a 20% ice mass reduction? Die kalte Sonne checks the numbers, which I’ve corrected using figures from Wikipedia:
1) West Antarctica Ice Shelf (WAIS) has an estimated volume of 2.2 million cubic kilometers.
3) When 20 billion tonnes has melted every year over the last 20 years, it means a total of 400 billion cubic meters (400 cubic kilometers) has melted.
3) So what percent is 400 cubic km from the total of 2.2 million? It’s certainly not 20% – rather it is only 0.0182%. Less than the concentration of trace gas CO2 in our atmosphere!
We know that alarmists love to announce exaggerated disasters, but Die Welt really overdid it this time. Die Welt exaggerated the ice melt by a factor of 1100!