Ecocentric

Antarctica: It’s Getting Hot at the Bottom of the Planet

A new study shows that temperatures in West Antarctica—which has enough ice to raise sea levels by 10 ft.—are rising nearly twice as fast as scientists had believed.

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Penguins in Antarctica. Credit; Simon Bottomley

One of the big environmental stories of 2012 was the record melting of sea ice in the Arctic, which reached its smallest extent this summer since satellite data began being kept in the late 1970s. But it’s not the Arctic alone that’s reacting to manmade climate change by transforming into a large puddle. On the other end of the Earth, the continent of Antarctica contains enough ice to swamp just about every coastal city on the planet were it all to melt. The Arctic is transforming before our eyes, but it’s changes in Antarctica that could make Waterworld into a documentary.

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That day is still in the distant future—in fact, sea ice in Antarctica has actually increased in recent years, as more powerful northward winds refreeze ice on the continent. But as a new study published in Nature Geoscience shows, temperatures are on the increase in the massive West Antarctica Ice Sheet (WAIS)—and so is melting.

Using data from Byrd Station, a scientific outpost in West Antarctica, researchers from Ohio State University and other institutions have report that average annual temperatures in the region have risen by 2.4 C (4.3 F) since 1958. That’s nearly twice as much warming as had been previously estimated, and the data shows for the first time an increase in warming trends during the summer. The timing of the temperature increase is particularly alarming because while temperatures in Antarctica remain well below freezing for nearly the entire year, the Antarctic summer is when any melting is likely to occur—just as it does in the Arctic.

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As lead author David Bromwich put it in a statement:

Our record suggests that continued summer warming in West Antarctica could upset the surface mass balance of the ice sheet, so that the region could make an even bigger contribution to sea level rise than it already does.

Even without generating significant mass loss directly, surface melting on the WAIS  could contribute to sea level indirectly, by weakening the West Antarctic ice shelves that restrain the region’s natural ice flow into the ocean.

Today melting from the WAIS adds only a few millimeters to the ongoing global sea level rise. But there is potential for much, much more—if all the ice in the 10 million sq. mile WAIS were to melt, it would be enough to add 3.05 m (10 ft.) to sea levels. To put that in perspective, all the warming the world has experienced since the Industrial Revolution has cause sea levels to rise by a few inches. That’s scary, world-changing stuff.

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Fortunately, even though West Antarctica now seems to be one of the fast warming spots on the planet, it’s still very, very, very cold, so the melting that’s happening today remains minimal. That means major melting in the WAIS—and the major sea level rise that would go along with it—is still decades into the future, if not much longer. But as this new study shows, that day could come sooner than we think. Happy holidays!

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305 comments
Frangula
Frangula

De la Mare said in his 1997 paper (https://data.aad.gov.au/analysis/crc/eceawiki/files/delamare1997.pdf), "A decline in Antarctic sea-ice extent is a commonly predicted effect of a warming climate." This has not happened. In fact, the article was written to find proof of sea-ice extent retreat from whaling records, since sattelite imagery from 1973-1993 showed relatively stable extent. Because we have no evidence to back up that specific prediction, he had to go through whaling records to craft a narratve that supports it. Despite the questionable use of whale catches as ice edge proxy to arrive at his conclusions, they were good enough evidence to cause two British scientists to comment about the increasing evidence globally supporting such rapid changes in climate... And so the hyperbole begins, or rather continues.

Frangula
Frangula

This is absolutely correct (that the Arctic sea ice shrank much more than Antarctic grew). But the interesting part about the Antarctic ice sheet extent maximum to me is that it goes against predictions. The IPCC predicted with a high degree of certainty in 2001 that the Antarctic sea ice would retreat by 2 degrees latitude(http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg2/index.php?idp=593). Given the fact that predictions and scientific modeling are often used to validate alarmist articles such as the one above, I think it's important to recognize when they are wrong.

JoyanneJeffery
JoyanneJeffery

There are Great Waves of Change being experienced around our planet, and we all need to wake up and become prepared so we can navigate the times to come. We will have to have more compassion and unite to preserve a changing world. Great Waves of Change by Marshall Vian Summers, tells what we will be facing as a Race in the next 20 years, It gives a guideline to navigating our changing World. It is a Warning, a Protection and a Preparation. A very Great and empowering Read. 

jay.clemons
jay.clemons

Many of the global warming skeptics who have commented on this article have ignored the main point of the article to focus on the casual mention that "in fact, sea ice in Antarctica has actually increased in recent years.." But that also ignores the very first sentence of the article:

"One of the big environmental stories of 2012 was the record melting of sea ice in the Arctic, which reached its smallest extent this summer since satellite data began being kept in the late 1970s."

As it turns out, Arctic sea ice is shrinking more than Antarctic sea ice is growing, making for a net loss of polar sea ice. So says NASA: 

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/arctic-antarctic-ice.html

This will not affect sea level like the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet will; but it will speed up global warming slightly by reducing the reflection of sunlight back into space. 

BrentHill
BrentHill

"To put that in perspective, all the warming the world has experienced since the Industrial Revolution has cause sea levels to rise by a few inches. That’s scary, world-changing stuff."

You are ignoring the changes in sea level that has occurred naturally due to the last 3 ice ages and their eventual retreat.

Comparing everything to the last 200 years is simpleminded and does nothing to illustrate the fact that this has all occurred before and will occur again whether we as humanity are here to witness it or not.

Mother earth will wipe us out sooner or later, it has to.


jay.clemons
jay.clemons

While it would be lovely to find out that the planet is not slowly frying, the evidence continues to pour in, even from the coldest parts of the planet, that the earth is indeed warming very rapidly (in historical terms.) But the appearance of every new tree causes the forest deniers to bark at the sun. It has even been suggested among these comments that "it's as likely that the next ice age has started as it is that warming will resume." Maybe concerted planetary action can respond to the warnings of the warming to avoid the worst effects - we can hope so, and all do our part to address this menacing trend. Meanwhile, a primer:

http://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/files/2012/06/19014_cvtx_R1.pdf

CptWayne
CptWayne

Jay.Clemons: Thanks for your assistance.

CptWayne
CptWayne

Jay, here is another site "Cooling of Atmosphere Due to CO2 Emission"
G. V. CHILINGAR,1L. F. KHILYUK,1, and O. G. SOROKHTIN21
Rudolf W. Gunnerman Energy and Environment Laboratory, University of
Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA2
Institute of Oceanology of Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

dank111
dank111

Does anyone know of any testing done to confirm that excess CO2 in the atmosphere really leads to increased temperatures and how much it does?  I do not want a computer model but an actual test along the lines of creating an artificial atmosphere in a controlled environment then increasing the CO2 concentration to test temperature rise.

I cannot find any information on a test done like this so I have to assume that all of the facts presented are actually just guesses using computer models which are notoriously wrong.  Just look at the computer modeling of something like the NYSE to see just how bad models can be for predicting future behavior.

Also does anyone know of models from 15-20 years ago that predicted what the temperature would be today with any accuracy?



Joeyard73
Joeyard73

The new Communist Manifesto. Global warming. Let's take money from people who make it and give it to some spear chucker in Africa. You people are all the same.

CptWayne
CptWayne

I forgot to add the Isotope issue: "The dropping proportion of 13C has been taken by warmists to indicate that the atmospheric CO2 rise is of human origin. See for instance Tamino:It's a Gas. Carbon-14 was formed during atomic bomb tests; carbon-13 is not the preferred plant uptake either now or in coal; carbon-12 is the common carbon isotope. 14C, 13C and 12C measurements all seem to support NATURAL CO2 (see Segalstad). Now this has been verified further by Tom Quirke in Energy and Environment, Volume 20, pages 103-119. Also, 
"The results suggest that El Nino and the Southern Oscillation events produce major changes in the carbon isotope ratio in the atmosphere. This does not favour the continuous increase of CO2 from the use of fossil fuels as the source of isotope ratio changes. The constancy of seasonal variations in CO2 and the lack of time delays between the hemispheres suggest that fossil fuel derived CO2 is almost totally absorbed locally in the year it is emitted. This implies that natural variability of the climate is the prime cause of increasing CO2, not the emissions of CO2 from the use of fossil fuels" From Reconsidering Science, same reference as before.

artycohn
artycohn

1) Is the planet getting warmer as a first order function? --Yes




2) If so, is it being caused chiefly by human emissions of greenhouse gases?--No! There is no real evidence that CO2 is the cause.


3) If not, what is the most interesting alternative explanation for global warming that you have come across?--- The same phenomena that allowed Human habitation and farming in Greenland from  1000 to 1500 CE.


CptWayne
CptWayne

Also see this article for the reference for the previous data:  

How Much Will We Cool the Planet?
Filed Under : Politics + Religion,Science by Aractus

CptWayne
CptWayne

Also, here are the numbers: 

The atmosphere is 78.08% Nitrogen, 20.8% O2, 0-4% Water Vapour (Average 1%), 0.93% Argon, 0.036% CO2, 0.0018% Ne, 0.0005% He, 0.00017% Methane, 0.00005% H2, 0.00003% N2O, and… finally… .000004% O3.


Out of the minor GHG’s (greenhouse gasses) about 99.5% of our GHG emissions are CO2.   96.7% of CO2 emissions are natural, and 3.3% are the product of burning fossil fuels and deforestation (in other words, caused by mankind). 

If the entire 100ppm of atmospheric CO2 increase was caused by humans and that increase in CO2 was linear,  its greenhouse effect would make us responsible for 0.01% of the total amount of CO2 since the early 1800’s.  Obviously,  even those who believe in man-made climate change would know with certainty that any measures taken now to limit CO2 emissions is purely political and will not affect the climate in any meaningful way.





MattHargrave
MattHargrave

Must be hell heating up for the rich narcissistic American Republicans and the murderers around the world

Uli2001
Uli2001

Wait a minute. "Manmade" global warming is far from an established fact. The Earth has been warming up since the end of the 1700s, at the end of the "little ice age" (look it up) way before there was any significant amount of carbon in the atmosphere contributed by mankind.

verytas.1
verytas.1

Most of you reading this are "retarded" and this article is badly written. 

The public is very dumb, misinformed, gullible, and has terribly misguided principles (hence "retarded"). 

Apparently, climate change is not an enough important story to get an adequate journalist to write about it properly. This article also minimizes the significance of the subject matter, even if it has a little zinger "world changing-stuff" ... wow, how insightful. 

FYI: global climate change is real and it is already here - it is not coming in the future in decades time.

connergaryl
connergaryl

In considering these matters it is helpful to be informed. First, CO2 represents only 5% of the greenhouse gases (water vapor is almost 80%). Of all the CO2, only 5% is created by the activities of mankind. So manmade CO2 represents 0.25% of the greenhouse gases. It is definitely no established that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are causing global warming. Second, the average worldwide temperature since 1998 is lower than the worldwide temperature in 1998. The 1998 temperature has never been exceeded. So in truth, although worldwide temperatures are slightly elevated from historic norms (but not much different than the 1930s), for the past 14 years, during the time of the most manmade CO2, there has been no global warming. The article states that in actuality the ice at Antarctica has actually increased in recent years. Let us not be intemperate in our responses to one another. What will matter in the long run is how well we love, even those we cannot love.

tedlintner
tedlintner

so who decided, north was up, and south was down?

Lockgod
Lockgod

The Muslim Brotherhood passed their constitution returning Egypt to the 5th century.  Iran is building nukes.  Syrian slaughtering people.  Business as usual.  Humanity deserves its self.  Merry Christmas.

CptWayne
CptWayne

badger85: I appreciate your comment.  Sadly, you may be correct. I do worry that there is an unknown factor kicking around that will push us over the edge.  However, I believe that if we can get together and attack one or two aspects of these issues, the others will naturally fall in line. Take air pollution, there is a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that Alzheimer like brain lesions may come strictly from polluted air. Also, the oceans are being polluted or fished out. Dead zones need to be cleaned up.  More needs to be done in both these areas.  They are real.  

blakeNaustin
blakeNaustin

Selective news reporting from the far left, for the sole purpose of advancing their dangerous agenda.  That facts are that most of Antarctic is actually getting colder.

CptWayne
CptWayne

My earlier comment was based on data now several years old.  For instance, some now quote the WAIS as 10% ot the total ice in Antarctica. Also, in fairness, I checked a more recent article.  I quote: " The scientists say that the rise in temperatures has been caused by changes in winds and weather patterns coming from the Pacific Ocean. ...We're seeing a more dynamic impact that's due to climate change that's occurring elsewhere on the globe translating down and increasing the heat transportation to the WAIS." said Dr Monaghan.
But he was unable to say with certainty that the greater warming his team found was due to human activities.

Check this article: West Antarctic Ice Sheet warming Twice Earlier Estimate By Matt McGrath

CptWayne
CptWayne

The real world crises, especially for Americans, is our financial system's impending collapse.  This climate thingy, is just a diversion. What Americans need is to fix our finances and stop worrying or wasting billions of dollars on programs that provide no fruitful solutions to anything.  The West Antarctic Ice Shelf represents only about 17% of the ice cap.  It is melting due to a change in ocean currents, not rising CO2 levels.  CO2's ability to transport heat is 1/160th that of water vapor. America needs to get a grip and fix our finances, not worry about the iffy effects of CO2.  


Joey252000
Joey252000

ice cap in the Antarctica has been growing at record pace.