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.

(PHOTOS: The Best Satellite Views of the Earth)

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.

(LIST: Top 10 Green Stories of 2012)

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.

(MORE: Why Seeing Is Believing—Usually—When It Comes to Climate Change)

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!

MORE: Global Warming: An Exclusive Look at James Hansen’s Scary New Math

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286 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?



jay.clemons
jay.clemons

@Frangula - It seems like you are grasping at straws. In the face of an avalanche of evidence of global warming, you imagine that a current lack of Antarctic sea-ice decline, what, disproves global warming? Did you hear that in the US, 2012 was the hottest year ever measured? Even hotter than 1998, the previous hottest year, by more than a full degree F? 

jay.clemons
jay.clemons

@Frangula - As usual, the cherry-pickin' denier has taken this IPCC prediction out of context. Here is what the IPCC prediction from 2001 actually says:

"Antarctic sea-ice volume is predicted to decrease by 25% or more for a doubling of CO2, with sea ice retreating about 2 degrees of latitude.****" 

So while it is true that the four asterisks signify "a fairly high confidence", and not "a high degree of certainty"; it is also true that that degree of confidence pertains to "a doubling of CO2", which for the purpose of the IPCC report means a doubling over pre-Industrial values. But of course, Frangula, we have not yet had a doubling of CO2; the fraction has gone from 275ish to about 390, a 40% increase. So it is incorrect and curiously misleading to state that the IPCC prediction is wrong. Check back with us if the % of CO2 actually doubles, to 550 PPM, and let's see if the IPCC got it right. You sure didn't....

jay.clemons
jay.clemons

@BrentHill - Actually, you are wrong: it has never occurred before that humans have put billions of tons of greenhouses gases into the atmosphere and oceans in such a short period of time as to cause global warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, etc. Never happened. 

Time scales do matter. For example, if you plan to be retired for 30 weeks, you will behave differently than if you plan to be retired for 30 years. You yourself will eventually die; but that's no reason to hasten the inevitable by just getting it over with and killing yourself later today! So while the human species may indeed go extinct in the long run, that's no reason to hasten the eventuality by ingnoring serious threats to our ecosphere.

allison.aa
allison.aa

This is simply not true. The evidence, even from the coldest parts of the planet, is that while the earth is indeed warm by historical standards, it hasn't increased in temperature for 16 years, a fact acknowleged by the leading proponents of AGW who, after arguing that the 10 years prior to 1997 represented irrefutable proof of AGW, are reduced to arguing that 16 years isn't long enough to establish a trend.

jay.clemons
jay.clemons

@allison.aa - American Thinker?!?! Puh-leeze. I know that's where I want to get my climate science! The whole sad notion of "Climategate" reminds me of how the evolution deniers (there's a nest of them at American Thinker, BTW) believe that the Piltdown Man hoax disproves evolution. 

The American Thinker "environment editor" (the author of the linked AT article) is a "business owner and software developer". Nothing wrong with being a business owner and software developer, but I just have to wonder why he is considered any kind of authority on environmental issues....And it goes without saying that the American Thinker is an ultra-conservative echo chamber. And it goes without saying that the American Thinker is an ultra-conservative echo chamber. And it ...

jay.clemons
jay.clemons

@allison.aa - Thanks for the data sets!

Two conclusions I draw from the data:

1) The last decade has been the hottest decade in a long, long time!

2) By any measure of the actual data, it sure is hotter now than it was 16 years ago!

jay.clemons
jay.clemons

@CptWayne - Not a link. One thing I know is that the atmosphere is not, on balance, cooling; so I'm not going to put out a bunch of extra effort here for little likely benefit....

jay.clemons
jay.clemons

@CptWayne -  Bogus link. When I click on this, I get directed to the g-mail sign up page. Wattsupwiththat?

no1der
no1der

@CptWayne Leads in circles... website to website, and not a single bit of proper, peer-reviewed science to be found. BTW do you have any idea of the identity and qualifications of the author?

Look at the 'In a Nutshell" page from that site, where "nearly all the top scientific organizations" are accused of a "travesty of science". NAS? AGU??! Or, try the 'Primer' page where there are 7 accusations of 'fraud' by scientists, another 7 of 'lies', and 51 citations of 'Monckton' - (who might be deserving of those two terms). 

There's too little time left, to be spending it down rabbit-holes. Here's a much better use of your time and interest in the topic:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

CptWayne
CptWayne

@dank111 I came across one such model, done by a chemist.  He predicted the global temps within 1/10000 of a degree based on global rainfall.  Neat job too.  Unfortunately, I did not have the smarts to understand what I had found.  It was from a 60 year old book on ice ages. All I remember is if annual global rainfall falls below 650 mm, we are in deep trouble.

no1der
no1der

@dank111 Warming from increased atmospheric CO2 is well-founded in basic 19th century physics, and potential problems from industrial-scale burning of fossil fuels were noted by the very first physicists to measure the IR absorption spectrum of CO2. See for example Svante Arrhenius (1896) 'On the influence of Carbonic Acid in the air upon the Temperature of the Ground'. His 1896 calculated magnitude of temperature rise with atmospheric CO2 does not differ greatly from that of the best current models. Computer models have added a great deal of detail and sophistication to the modeling of climate change, but unlike your NYSE example, the models are driven by basic physics, and tested against a an increasingly detailed paleoclimate database. 

Models of atmospheric temperature change have performed well, but models of the consequences have had many dismal failures - for example, the IPCC 2007 report predicted collapse of Arctic sea ice by mid-century or later, but in actuality this will happen within the next few years. 

Frangula
Frangula

@jay.clemons @Frangula

It wasn't my intention to mislead.  I did provide a link for context.  Here are some more.  The Turner paper is about CMIP, which is relied on heavily by ICPP.  Holland of the BAS and Kwok of NASA said "climate models have failed to reproduce the overall increase in sea ice." (http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v5/n12/full/ngeo1627.html)  These are not so-called deniers writing these articles, BTW.  Maybe it hasn't become a religion after all.

Frangula
Frangula

@jay.clemons @Frangula

It is true the specific retreat prediction is for double CO2, but the trend over the last thirty years is not in agreement with the majority of models' predictions. Climate scientists say so. Dr. Rob Massom, Australian researcher, according to The Australian "said the most authoritative climate change models . . . did not indicate the present expansion" (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/antarctic-ice-expands-against-odds/story-e6frg8y6-1226489479585).

jay.clemons
jay.clemons

@allison.aa - Let's don't argue about 16 years. Let's argue about a trend that has lasted at least 54 years, (that we know of!) Let's address the finding that was reported in the article here in Time magazine, that the average temperature readings in Western Antarctica, the coldest part of the planet, have increased by 4.3 degrees F between 1958 and present day! I haven't seen you address that finding AT ALL in your numerous postings to this thread. Do you dispute the data? Do you dispute the relevance to the issue of global warming? Why have you nothing to say about this finding?

allison.aa
allison.aa

None so blind. The data (which, incidentally, is accepted as accurate by climate fraudster-in-chief Jones) clearly show that is, on average, no hotter today than it was 16-years ago. Something else which they show is that the current 16-year and counting hiatus was preceeded by 30 years of rising temperatures, preceeded by 30 years of falling temperatures, preceeded by 35 years of rising temperatures. A rational observer would probably want to wait for the current downward trend to change direction before claiming that the present hiatus will end soon. It's especially noteworthy that CO2 has bee rising more rapidly than ever before during the 16 years. The obvious disconnect between CO2 and global temperature has the so-called "climate scientists" scrathing their heads. I suggest that you get yous out of . . . . the sand.

jay.clemons
jay.clemons

@no1der @CptWayne - Thanks, no1der! I was going to say that Green World Trust strikes me as the Discovery Institute of climate science; pseudo-science in the service of the "free market". Not too reliable for actual facts about climate issues...

CptWayne
CptWayne

@no1der @dank111 I believe you might look again at Arrhenius's 1896 calculations.  He did not know about the Steffman-Boltzmann effect.  When he looked into it, he recalulated the effect of atmospheric CO2.  It was some what less than before.  That was in 1905.  Check it out.  

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

@allison.aa Please conduct the following experiment.  On a hot summer day, place a plastic bag over your head.  Secure it around your neck.  Notice that each time you exhale, the amount of carbon dioxide increases.  Further notice that as the CO2 level increases so does the temperature in the bag.

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

@allison.aa Artic summer sea ice cover is 50% less then it was 20 years ago.  Please explain why.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

 Brent you seem to ignore the dumping of gigatons of material into the atmosphere as being on the order of a super volcano eruption.


Mankind via the use of fossil fuels is capable of creating the environmental change of a super-volcano which if you are less dense than you peers you would know can and has impacted the environment... You cling to you citation of Ice Ages ignoring that the mass burning of fossil fuels has never happened in the history of the planet.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@allison.aa 

Between the data pilo and other have posted and just us pigeons... I'd shut up now because it is you instead whom seem to be creating data as the wish it to be.

Incapable of reading the implications of actual science is something you guys and the GOP seem to be good at... Between this and your magic fairies creating life rather than it evolving you dont seem to be able to see the crock of shit you are standing in.

jay.clemons
jay.clemons

@BrentHill @jay.clemons @allison.aa - What happened millions of years ago, or even tens of thousands of years ago, is pretty irrelevant to what we are facing today. After all, that was before humans existed, or at least before settled human civilization existed. I do not deny what has happened in the past; I just deny the relevance to the current predicament; whereas you, it seems, deny that there is a clear and present danger from current, dangerous global warming caused by human activity. Check out this list of likely dangers, and get back to me:

http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/sciencetech/5-deadliest-effects-of-global-warming/276



BrentHill
BrentHill

@jay.clemons @allison.aa 

Your insistence on being so narrowed minded in the time frame that you are looking at completely ignores the last ice ages that have come and gone without mans input.

Do you deny that this has all happened in the past and will happen with or without mankind's presence??

allison.aa
allison.aa

You see only what you want to see (like a clearly stepped time series being a trend). Look at the annual averages from 1977-97 and from 1997 to date; compare and contrast with CO2 concentrations. QED.

jay.clemons
jay.clemons

@allison.aa - NOT MY CLAIM!! THE MAJOR POINT OF THE ARTICLE YOU ARE COMMENTING ON!! FACTUAL, MEASURED DATA!! Thank you for apparently agreeing that the planet is warmer than it was 54 years ago! And that includes Antarctica, apparently! Yes there is a trend! Two episodes of dramatic warming, and two episodes of slight cooling, add up to a trend! If 100 years of WAY UP isn't a trend, why is 16 years of slightly up any kind of trend?!

One for time for the slow learners: 

"Smoothed" global temp anomaly for 2011, per the HADCRUT data = 0.436 C                         "Smoothed" global temp anomaly for 1995 = 0.260 C                                           Conclusion: It is hotter today than it was 16 years ago!!


"Raw" global temp anomaly for 2012 = 0.448 C                                                          "Raw" global temp anomaly for 1996 = 0.177 C                                                                        Conclusion: It is hotter today than it was 16 years ago!!

Jeez, allison; it doesn't get much clearer than that! What is your problem?! Is it the arithmetic? Are we looking at the same data?! How can I explain it to myself that you call 436 a smaller number than 260?! What gives?! What makes you agree that it is hotter now than it was 54 years ago? And why does not the same logic make you agree that it is hotter now than it was 16 years ago? It's all right here in YOUR data!




allison.aa
allison.aa

The issue of global warming is fully addressed in the Met's temperature history, a link to which I posted. Contrary to your claim,, there is no 54 year trend. During the past 110 years there have been two episodes of warming and two of slight cooling, one of which is ongoing. I do not argue that the globe is not warmer than it was in 1958, simply that despite the accelerating increase in atmospheric CO2, it is no warmer than it was in 1996!

jay.clemons
jay.clemons

@allison.aa - Lessee:

"Smoothed" global temp anomaly for 2011, per the HADCRUT data = 0.436 C                        "Smoothed" global temp anomaly for 1995 = 0.260 C                                                              Conclusion: It is hotter today than it was 16 years ago!!

"Raw" global temp anomaly for 2012 = 0.448 C                                                                            "Raw" global temp anomaly for 1996 = 0.177 C                                                                       Conclusion: It is hotter today than it was 16 years ago!!

Jeez, allison; it doesn't get much clearer than that! What is your problem?! Is it the arithmetic? Are we looking at the same data?! How can I explain it to myself that you call 436 a smaller number than 260?! What gives?!

CptWayne
CptWayne

@no1der @CptWayne Yes it is.  It also means the bottom water is warming enough to release the methane clathrates.  Like I said before, just try and  tackle one aspect of the problem, all the others will fall in line.  SAVE THE METHANE CALTHRATES!  Sounds good to me.

no1der
no1der

@CptWayne Very good! I'd be pleased if one of my students responded so. 

Arrhenius' two calculations do somewhat bracket the likely real value of warming from CO2 doubling. The point remains that this is basic physics, and accessible to very primitive models of more than a hundred years ago.