Scientists: W. Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier Is NOT Melting Due To A Progressively Warming Climate

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 locatedhas 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”

  1. Sidian

    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.

    1. John F. Hultquist

      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.

      1. Yonason

        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.

  2. tom0mason

    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. 🙂

    1. Yonason

      Thanks, tom0. I knew it was big, but hadn’t realized it to be THAT big.

      1. tom0mason

        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 🙂 ) …

        1. Yonason

          Also helps illustrate how YUGE Australia is. Wow.

      2. tom0mason

        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!×844.jpg

        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.

  3. sasquatch

    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.

  4. tom0mason

    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?

  5. Yonason

    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.”

    1. tom0mason


      That’s because it gets too much chaotic weather, which is not understandable, and not enough climate, which is.

      1. Yonason

        LOL – 🙂

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