Antarctica Has Not Warmed In Over A Century
Natural Variability – Not Humans – Drives Ice Melt
The most recent mass media contribution to the canon of climate alarmism referenced a study claiming that “climate change” (i.e., human-caused deep ocean warming) was responsible for the Amundsen Sea’s (West Antarctica) “rapid melting” of the Thwaites Glacier.
Image Source: New York Times
A few months ago, however, scientists (Jenkins et al., 2018) reported that the Amundsen Sea sector – where Thwaites glacier is located – has been in a cooling phase since 2009-’11.
Furthermore, the ocean in this region warms and cools in accordance with decadal-scale cycles. Consequently, the authors conclude that the “accelerated mass loss from the Amundsen Sea sector of the [West Antarctic Ice Sheet, WAIS] has not resulted from progressive ocean warming or unstable ice retreat.”
This would appear to contradict the claim that rapidly and linearly rising anthropogenic CO2 emissions are what lies behind the ocean warming and/or ice sheet melt for this region.
Image Source: Jenkins et al., 2018
Antarctic ice melt, temperature, sea ice…driven by natural variability
It is well documented in the scientific literature that climatic trends in and around Antarctica are predominantly controlled by natural mechanisms and internal variability, not greenhouse gas emissions.
A newly published paper (Scott et al., 2019), for example, identifies the forcing mechanisms behind the ice melt in the Amundsen Sea region of the WAIS during 1979-2017. Neither anthropogenic influences or greenhouse gas concentrations are mentioned anywhere in the paper as factors in Antarctic ice melt trends.
“Understanding the drivers of surface melting in West Antarctica is crucial for understanding future ice loss and global sea level rise. This study identifies atmospheric drivers of surface melt on West Antarctic ice shelves and ice sheet margins and relationships with tropical Pacific and high-latitude climate forcing using multidecadal reanalysis and satellite datasets. Physical drivers of ice melt are diagnosed by comparing satellite-observed melt patterns to anomalies of reanalysis near-surface air temperature, winds, and satellite-derived cloud cover, radiative fluxes, and sea ice concentration based on an Antarctic summer synoptic climatology spanning 1979–2017. Summer warming in West Antarctica is favored by Amundsen Sea (AS) blocking activity and a negative phase of the southern annular mode (SAM), which both correlate with El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Extensive melt events on the Ross–Amundsen sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) are linked to persistent, intense AS blocking anticyclones, which force intrusions of marine air over the ice sheet. Surface melting is primarily driven by enhanced downwelling longwave radiation from clouds and a warm, moist atmosphere and by turbulent mixing of sensible heat to the surface by föhn winds. Since the late 1990s, concurrent with ocean-driven WAIS mass loss, summer surface melt occurrence has increased from the Amundsen Sea Embayment to the eastern Ross Ice Shelf. We link this change to increasing anticyclonic advection of marine air into West Antarctica, amplified by increasing air–sea fluxes associated with declining sea ice concentration in the coastal Ross–Amundsen Seas.” (Scott et al., 2019)
In a comprehensive analysis of the surface climate in and around Antarctica during 1979-2014 – including the cooling Southern Ocean – 25 scientists (Jones et al., 2016) assert that climate models predicated on anthropogenic forcing “are not compatible with the observed trends”, and that “natural variability overwhelms the forced [anthropogenic] response in the observations”.
Image Source: Jones et al., 2016
Scientists: Antarctica hasn’t warmed in over a century
Recent climate trends for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet have not offset the long-term cooling trend. The region was actually much warmer than modern for most of the last 2000 years.
Image Source: Stenni et al., 2017
In fact, recent paleoclimate evidence suggests (Stenni et al., 2017) that “no continent-scale warming of Antarctica is evident in the last century.”
Image Source: Stenni et al., 2017
The Antarctic Peninsula warmed rapidly, but the rest of the continent cooled over the last century
An earlier (2008) continent-wide climate data compilation revealed that although models of anthropogenic forcing simulated a climate warming of +0.75°C, Antarctica as a whole warmed by “only 0.2°C” over the last century.
Most of the continent has cooled since the early 1900s.
The Antarctic Peninsula, which warmed by “several degrees”, drove the net continental temperature trend into positive territory, compensating for the cooling throughout East Antarctica.
Image Source: Newton, 2008
The Antarctic Peninsula has rapidly (-0.47°C per decade) cooled since the late 1990s
As mentioned, the Antarctic Peninsula was the only anomalously warming sector of an otherwise-cooling Antarctic continent over the last several decades to century. It warmed by a rapid +0.32°C per decade from 1979-1997.
Then, beginning in about 1998-’99, the Peninsula began cooling even more rapidly than it had been warming. By 2014, all of the warming since 1979 had been offset, revealing an overall non-warming trend (Turner et al., 2016).
Image Source: Turner et al., 2016
The northern-most portion of the Antarctic Peninsula cooled by -1.98°C between 2008-2014.
Image Source: Fernandoy et al., 2018
The Larsen Ice Shelf station has been cooling at a rate of -1.8°C per decade since 1995.
Image Source: Mörner et al., 2018
Surface mass balance gains for Antarctic Peninsula glaciers since 2009
“Two small glaciers on James Ross Island, the north-eastern Antarctic Peninsula, experienced surface mass gain between 2009 and 2015 as revealed by field measurements. A positive cumulative surface mass balance of 0.57 ± 0.67 and 0.11 ± 0.37 m w.e. was observed during the 2009–2015 period on Whisky Glacier and Davies Dome, respectively. … Ambrožová and Láska (2016) reported a significant decrease (0.03–0.15°C a−1 [-0.3 to -1.5°C per decade]) in the temperature along the AP [Antarctic Peninsula] over the 2005–15 period with the most prominent cooling at the Bibby Hill station on JRI [James Ross Island]. … The cumulative mass gain of the glaciers around the northern AP [Antarctic Peninsula] indicates a regional change from a predominantly negative surface mass balance in the first decade of the 21st century to a positive balance over the 2009–15 period. The change in the glacier mass balance follows a significant decrease in the warming rates reported from the northern AP [Antarctic Peninsula] since the end of the 20th century. The mass gain is also consistent with the regional trend of climate cooling on the eastern side of the AP [Antarctic Peninsula].” (Engel et al., 2018)
Image Source: Engel et al., 2018
Eastern and southern Antarctica have also been cooling during the last decade(s)
Image Source: Herbacek et al., 2018
Image Source: Ramesh and Soni, 2018
The overall non-warming/cooling trend for Antarctica may extend back to the 1960s and 1970s
Image Source: Goursaud et al., 2018
Image Source: Doran et al., 2002
An alternative mechanism underlying the Thwaite Glacier’s recent retreat
It is widely accepted that geothermal heat flux (volcanic activity) beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet – and Thwaites Glacier – is a “critical factor” in the active melting for the region.
Image Source: Schroeder et al., 2014
Image Source: Dziadek et al., 2019
An attribution reassessment is needed
Considering the pervasive modeling failures in trend simulation for Antarctica, perhaps there should be a reassessment of the factors and mechanisms underpinning the continent’s variable climate and ice sheet melt.
The assumption that humans are driving the changes in Antarctica is not compatible with observations.
24 responses to “Scientists: W. Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier Is NOT Melting Due To A Progressively Warming Climate”
It would very much help the mainstream climate change community to acknowledge such details whenever journalists spread panic. It’s rather convenient for them to stay quiet and then, whenever skeptics claim this or that prediction was proven wrong, just state, that it wasn’t a prediction made by scientists. I can however imagine scientists jumping on the bandwagon en masse if a certain prediction was proven to be correct. As an old saying states “success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan”.
I also wholeheartedly agree with the assesment of Dr Curry, that there’s a crisis of overconfidence in climate science. Attributing certain phenomena directly to climate change is a major symptom of such crisis.
So since there’s so much research clearly showing New York Times is, speaking losely, full of crap, I would expect reputable scientific journals to refute such misinformation. Not expecting much of that though.
“ I would expect reputable scientific journals to refute such misinformation.”
I will guess that scientific journals (that is, the editors thereof) do not consider it their job to respond to articles by journalists or to letters to the New Your Times or the 100s of others papers.
Researchers respond to previously published research, as knowledge advances.
Yes. Not their job to dispute. That’s what reviewers are for. And, as you write, other researchers are the ones who have to counter published errors that get by the reviewers.
Sadly, the editors are activists, and reviewers are selected for activism, so they only reject skeptics’ papers, regardless of merit, and pass warmist papers that are often pure nonsense.
ASIDE: How’s this for a short essay on why Trump won?
Funny, but when I first read it, it occurred to me that could be a good argument as to why warmists are wrong, …IF we used the same “logic” as they do.
It might even be a good checklist for Europeans to start thinking about what’s wrong on their end.
For all those people that do not get how huge Antarctica is here’s some comparisons for you …
Here is all of the USA overlayed on the Antarctic.
And here is Europe (including the UK) overlayed on Antarctica.
Note that the Antarctic’s warming Western Peninsular is about the size of Great Britain. 🙂
Thanks, tom0. I knew it was big, but hadn’t realized it to be THAT big.
It came as a shock to me when I first saw it.
That Western Antarctic peninsular is about the same length as mainland UK (England and Scotland), or longer than Florida USA.
And here’s Antarctica compared to Australia & New Zealand (according to the Australian Government, hopefully BOM was not involved with it production 🙂 ) …
Also helps illustrate how YUGE Australia is. Wow.
And the one that freaks everyone out is that mainland USA, or Europe, or Australia fits INSIDE Antarctica but Antarctica fits inside Africa with lots of room to spare!
Now I’ve adjusted your perspective, why would the UN’s ‘New World Order’ want to control Africa, and have it dance to its tune? Why would the IMF and the World Bank want many of African countries to stay in debt? More land, huge natural resources, and relatively low population density.
The temp on Antarctica a few days ago was -26 C. The sun is shining 24/7 there.
Cold outside again today. It gets unbearable when you are too cold and can’t warm yourself. Heat is necessary if you want to stay alive. Just how it is, nobody will change that. Not even the holier-than-thou global warming enthusiasts, can’t do it.
If humans can warm the climates on earth, they need to do it now because cold rules today. If they all go stand outside for a few hours and let their body heat warm the air, it might be at least 0.2 degrees warmer. You might start to freeze some, but you can take it, you’re warming the air. You have a responsibility to do your part, especially if you are a cAGW true believer. You have a moral obligation to warm the earth like it needs to be. Get busy. lol
Summertime and the livin’ is easy. Old Man Winter does make your life completely miserable from time to time.
People can go back to hunting sperm whales for the clean burning oil from sperm whales. It’s expensive, so you’ll have to have less of it.
Crude oil can be nixed from the energy mix and whales can fill the gap.
Nature abhors a vacuum, whales are the next revisit for a source of oil.
You cannot exist and live your current lifestyle without natural gas, oil, coal, fossil fuels. Your life will change and not for the better. You can exist without them, but your life will be shorter by a country mile. Chopping wood and hauling water takes its toll.
No fossil fuels, no postmodern life and living standard.
It will not happen.
236,000 whales will not be enough.
Crude oil saved the whales. Abandoning crude oil use will make whales very nervous and they can get mean.
I note that these reports mesh well with Dr. Don Easterbrook’s testimony to the US Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee (in 2014?).
“Antarctica consists of a continent with a huge ice sheet… the ice sheet is about 15,000 feet thick at it’s thickest point… There’s a little arm right here, called the West Antarctic peninsular, it has warm water around it which has been melting some of the floating ice there, in recent years and causing some glacial melt but this is a miniscule part of the total volume ice that occurs on the continent of Antarctica. And the reason for this is that average daily temperature at Antarctica is -58°F …
… The other thing about Antarctica is that because of the situation at the pole and continental area, it makes it’s own weather, and there is a strong weather gyre that goes all the way around Antarctica. And The Antarctic icecap has not disappeared in 15 million years, despite temperatures considerably warmer than we have today. Antarctic icecap is not melting, we have ice-core through the icecap that shows us that there are no gaps in the ice record. If the Antarctic icecap had melted before, when temperatures were warmer, we’d have gaps. We don’t have them. Which means that the Antarctic icecap is exceptionally stable, it’s much more stable than temperate glaciers, it’s not going anywhere.”
Nearly all the alarmism about the Antarctic is about the glaciers, particularly the Thwaites Glacier, and the cracks that appear on ice floating but still attached to the land around the West Antarctic peninsular (a volcanic and seismic active area), a place known for it’s closeness to warm ocean currents. Note so much of the ice that calves from this area is already floating on the sea, so how much can this floating ice raise the global sea-levels?
Huybrechts and Oerlemans, 1990
“According to this mass balance model, the amount of accumulation over the entire ice sheet is presently 24.06 x 1011 m3 of ice, and no runoff takes place. A 1°C uniform warming is then calculated to increase the overall mass balance by an amount of 1.43 1011 m3 of ice, corresponding to a lowering of sea level with 0.36 mm/yr. A temperature increase of 5.3° C is needed for the increase in ablation to become more important than the increase in accumulation and the temperature would have to rise by 11.4°C to produce a zero surface mass balance. Imposing the Bellagio-scenario and accumulating changes in mass balance forward in time (static response) would then lower global sea level by 9 cm by 2100 AD.”
“Grounding line retreat sets in along the East Antarctic coast and in the Antarctic Peninsula if the warming exceeds 5-6°C. Imposing a temperature rise twice as much as the Bellagio-scenario would then result in a positive contribution to global sea level after the year 2100. … A stepwise 1 m/yr increase in the melting rate beneath ice shelves, all other things being equal would cause a sea-level rise of only 5 cm in 200 years, and 30 cm in 500 years.”
It would be interesting to see how the cAGW advocates get CO2’s ‘back radiation’ to warm the Antarctic to such a level when there is so little water vapor there. 🙂
Reply or not to reply … on the off chance this gets through:
1) Kenneth, Antarctica is losing a lot of ice mass now, so what is the point of arguing with a 1990 paper that came to the conclusion that Antartica would need to warm up by 5.3°C in order to contribute to sea level rise when we completely ignore runoffs? Apparently accumulation can’t match runoffs even while Antarctica is cooling (so you say).
2) tomOmason, since the CO2 back radiation isn’t a source of energy but merely a mechanism to insulate the surface regarding radiative heat transfer towards space, you rightfully question how a local GHE could ever warm Antarctica to levels that are “dangerous”. Antartica is so cold that often enough the stratosphere is warmer than the surface, so the GHE effect becomes negative. You’ve probably heard of the mechanism that transports heat from the equator towards the poles, right? That’s how Antartica warms. But as written in 1), Antartica is already losing ice mass …
Define “a lot”. 0.34 of a centimeter of ice mass loss contribution to sea level rise during 1958-2014 isn’t “a lot” in my view. And some estimates have the gains greater than the losses – even for recent decades.
The models used to estimate SMB contributions to sea level rise are highly uncertain with satellite monitoring, with uncertainty reaching +/- 0.6 mm/yr-1. The uncertainty for the measurement of long-term SMB changes is even worse, of course. For example, the models said the WWII planes that landed on Greenland in 1942 would be buried under a handful of meters of ice by the 1980s. They were buried under 82 meters of ice when Glacier Girl was recovered 1992. Since 1992 (to 2018), Greenland has had a net gain of another 22 meters of ice on its interior.
“Moreover, although modern altimetry and gravimetric technologies are strongly improving the possibilities for mass balance detection, the SMB uncertainty is estimated to be more than 10 % (equivalent to nearly 0.6 mm yr−1 of sea level rise), which is at least equal to the ice discharge uncertainty (Frezzotti et al., 2007; Magand et al., 2007).”
Not only that, but if we look at the long-term context instead of the little short-term/a few decades periods that you obviously prefer (due to your beliefs), the snow and ice accumulation over the 20th century may still override the mass losses.
“The Amundsen Sea sector of the West Antarctic ice sheet has been losing mass in recent decades; however, long records of snow accumulation are needed to place the recent changes in context. Here we present 300 year records of snow accumulation from two ice cores drilled in Ellsworth Land, West Antarctica. The records show a dramatic increase in snow accumulation during the twentieth century, linked to a deepening of the Amundsen Sea Low (ASL), tropical sea surface temperatures, and large-scale atmospheric circulation. The observed increase in snow accumulation and interannual variability during the late twentieth century is unprecedented in the context of the past 300 years and evidence that the recent deepening of the ASL is part of a longer trend.”
“Accumulation increase results in up to 45 m extra ice thickness over 155 years … Antarctic Peninsula (AP) ice core records indicate significant accumulation increase since 1855, and any resultant ice mass increase has the potential to contribute substantially to present-day Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA). We derive empirical orthogonal functions from climate model output to infer typical spatial patterns of accumulation over the AP and, by combining with ice core records, estimate annual accumulation for the period 1855-2010. In response to this accumulation history, high resolution ice-sheet modeling predicts ice thickness increases of up to 45 m, with the greatest thickening in the northern and western AP. Whilst this thickening is predicted to affect GRACE estimates by no more than 6.2 Gt/yr, it may contribute up to -7 mm/yr to the present-day GIA uplift rate, depending on the chosen Earth model, with a strong east-west gradient across the AP. Its consideration is therefore critical to the interpretation of observed GPS velocities in the AP.”
A doubling in snow accumulation in the western Antarctic Peninsula since 1850 … We present results from a new medium depth (136 metres) ice core drilled in a high accumulation site (73.59°S, 70.36°W) on the south-western Antarctic Peninsula during 2007. The Gomez record reveals a doubling of accumulation since the 1850s, from a decadal average of 0.49 mweq y−1 in 1855–1864 to 1.10 mweq y−1 in 1997–2006, with acceleration in recent decades. Comparison with published accumulation records indicates that this rapid increase is the largest observed across the region. Evaluation of the relationships between Gomez accumulation and the primary modes of atmospheric circulation variability reveals a strong, temporally stable and positive relationship with the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). Furthermore, the SAM is demonstrated to be a primary factor in governing decadal variability of accumulation at the core site (r = 0.66).”
“Our SMB reconstructions indicate that the SMB changes over most of Antarctica are statistically negligible and that the current SMB is not exceptionally high compared to the last 800 yr. High-accumulation periods have occurred in the past, specifically during the 1370s and 1610s. However, a clear increase in accumulation of more than 10 % has occurred in high SMB coastal regions and over the highest part of the East Antarctic ice divide since the 1960s.”
I’m guessing it would probably kill him if he ever had to give a credible reference for any of his inane assertions.
Well, I’m unconvinced that you understand.
Know of – yes; understand – no.
Indeed. It’s called surface solar radiation via natural decadal-scale changes in albedo (i.e., cloud radiative forcing).
“It is widely assumed that variations in Earth’s radiative energy budget at large time and space scales are small. We present new evidence from a compilation of over two decades of accurate satellite data that the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) tropical radiative energy budget is much more dynamic and variable than previously thought. Results indicate that the radiation budget changes are caused by changes in tropical mean cloudiness.”
“We will show that changes of relative humidity or low cloud cover explain the major changes in the global mean temperature. We will present the evidence of this argument using the observed relative humidity between years 1970 and 2011 and the observed low cloud cover between years 1983 and 2008. One percent increase in relative humidity or in low cloud cover decreases the temperature by 0.15 °C and 0.11 °C, respectively. In the time periods mentioned before the contribution of the CO2 increase was less than 10% to the total temperature change.”
“The analysis showed that the main atmospheric parameters that affect the amount of global radiation received on earth’s surface are cloud cover and relative humidity. Global radiation correlates negatively with both variables. Linear models are excellent approximations for the relationship between atmospheric parameters and global radiation. A linear model with the predictors total cloud cover, relative humidity, and extraterrestrial radiation is able to explain around 98% of the variability in global radiation.”
“[T]he measured increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to the most recent computations, would not be enough to have any measurable climatic effect. Rasool and Schneider (1971) conclude that an increase in the carbon dioxide content of eight times the present level would produce an increase in surface temperature of less than 2°C, and that if the concentration were to increase from the present level of 320 parts per million to about 400 by the year 2000, the predicted increase in surface global temperature would be about 0.1°C.”
The negative Greenhouse effect!
It makes, let me get that right, the Antarctic WARMER!
Ok this means, the normal Greenhause effect, w.w.wwwait for it, makes the rest of the world COLDER.
Now who would have thought that logic can defeat the beast.
It killed itself, just right in front of us!
No, increasing CO2 over Antarctica is claimed to cause cooling. Everywhere else it’s supposed to cause warming, with less amplified warming the further one goes from the tropics. In other words, the opposite of “polar amplification”. In the Arctic, the forcing from CO2 is also “comparatively weak”.
“Increasing CO2 has a rather small direct effect on the Antarctic climate. It even tends to cool the Earth-atmosphere system of the Antarctic plateau.” There is a “weak absorption of solar radiation by CO2. Over Antarctica, this sums up to 0.5 W m-2 for the autumn, winter, and spring, and up to 1 W m-2 in summer.”
“Over Greenland, the greenhouse effect for CO2 is also comparatively weak.”
The dreaded law of energy conservation in action.
But it’s even worse than that!
Warm water transports energy to the poles, where the temperature of that cold dry air is raised more than it would have been if it had been warmer and wetter. That greater increase of temperature creates the warmists’ desired illusion that the world is warming, because the average temperature of the world then becomes greater, even though the total energy in they system hasn’t increased.
And then they have the nerve to tell us it’s because of our CO2 emissions.
One way you can tell the world isn’t warming is that the increased temps at the poles occur in winter, NOT in summer, where they have recently been consistently below normal. While the rest of the planet is at or below average, the poles elevated temps create the false impression that the planet is warming.
Joe Bastardi explains it here.
A deeper “analysis of Joe Bastardi’s Comments on AGW”: By Nasif S. Nahle.
So, either warmists are making a fundamental blunder or they know that what they are telling us isn’t true. Either they are incompetent fools, or they are liars. Doesn’t speak well for them either way you slice it.
But but but but Seb says it makes it warmer.
But if he wants to be right, then the GHE cannot have the effect he claims it has.
I’d go with the blunder. Cant think of them knowing what they are saying when the arguments logically starting falling apart.
The question is not why Antarctica’s western ice sheet is melting, but why is it still there.
““I didn’t see how we could have that amount of heat and still have ice on top of it,” Seroussi said in a statement.”
That’s because it gets too much chaotic weather, which is not understandable, and not enough climate, which is.
LOL – 🙂