Monday, February 25, 2008

Antarctic Glaciers "Surging"

I forget...if we are worried about Anthropogenic Global Warming (TM) weren't we supposed to be expecting glacial melting? Antarctic glaciers surge to ocean

UK scientists working in Antarctica have found some of the clearest evidence yet of instabilities in the ice of part of West Antarctica.

If the trend continues, they say, it could lead to a significant rise in global sea level.

The new evidence comes from a group of glaciers covering an area the size of Texas, in a remote and seldom visited part of West Antarctica.

The "rivers of ice" have surged sharply in speed towards the ocean.

Now, as we have been told numerous times, any retrograde movement in glaciers is seen as a clear indication of global warming. Now, we are told, any forward movement (one is tempted to use the word "growth") is also a sign of something sinister. But what??

David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey, explained: "It has been called the weak underbelly of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and the reason for that is that this is the area where the bed beneath the ice sheet dips down steepest towards the interior.

"If there is a feedback mechanism to make the ice sheet unstable, it will be most unstable in this region."

There is good reason to be concerned.

Satellite measurements have shown that three huge glaciers here have been speeding up for more than a decade.

The biggest of the glaciers, the Pine Island Glacier, is causing the most concern.

They have been growing for more than a decade? Why wasn't Al Gore informed?

Julian Scott has just returned from there. He told the BBC: "This is a very important glacier; it's putting more ice into the sea than any other glacier in Antarctica.

"It's a couple of kilometres thick, its 30km wide and it's moving at 3.5km per year, so it's putting a lot of ice into the ocean."

So...we were told (by Al Gore among others) that the "problem" in Antarctica is glaciers that are over land will melt, dumping the newly released water into the oceans. Now, we are being told the problem is glaciers that are getting larger because of a "feedback mechanism to make the ice sheet unstable" (hmmm...could that be because much of Antarctica has been getting colder?)

I'm not an expert on glaciers by any stretch of anyone's imagination, but go read all of the BBC article and tell me if it doesn't seem "carefully worded." One basic question that the article leaves unasked and unanswered is if the glaciers are getting bigger (i.e. growing) or if they are simply sliding around. Call me a cynic, but I get the feeling the reporter is trying everything in his power to not say the glaciers are growing when they obviously are. AGW believers would probably see that as a heroic effort of self censorship for a higher cause.

I see it as crappy journalism.

10 comments:

Geekster said...

Two things. First of all, snowfall is increasing over much of Antarctica which can be independent of temperature and has more to do with wind currents than anything else.

Also, temperatures over the interior are decreasing but again, that can be due more to wind currents than anything else.

What some have tried to speculate is that glacial melting can provide a layer of water at the ice/earth interface and act as a lubricant so the ice moves faster. Nobody has shown this to be the case, though.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Oh absolutely, but you see the corner they have painted themselves into? If "surging" glaciers can be the result of all these other factors (differences in wind current, precipitation patterns etc.) then you would have to say receeding glaciers might be affected by the exact same forces. And that contradicts the equation "melting glaciers = anthropogenic global warming"

John M Reynolds said...

They seem to me to be suggesting that it is volcanic activity that has caused the instability thus speeding up the rivers of ice toward the ocean. The trouble with this is that AGW does not take a part in this scenario either. Most likely, it is a combination of the two: volcanic activity and thickening glaciers. Your guess is as good as mine to determine which is more important.

Jimmie said...

I'm genuinely confused by this article. Are the glaciers growing at an accelerated rate or are the glaciers themselves moving? If they are moving, then why doesn't the article even hazard a good guess about what is moving them so fast?

There is a world of difference between the ice sheet slipping down the slope faster because the ice behind it is unstable due to global warming and it's acceleration due to the ground underneath it shifting and pushing it faster. As I read the article, it could well be either one. Or neither.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

John said: They seem to me to be suggesting that it is volcanic activity that has caused the instability thus speeding up the rivers of ice toward the ocean.

Agreed. But if that is what is happening couldn't (some would say "wouldn't") the article have been clearer? As written the wording gets a little dodgy, like Roger Clemons before Congress.

Jimmie said: I'm genuinely confused by this article. Are the glaciers growing at an accelerated rate or are the glaciers themselves moving? If they are moving, then why doesn't the article even hazard a good guess about what is moving them so fast?

There is a world of difference between the ice sheet slipping down the slope faster because the ice behind it is unstable due to global warming and it's acceleration due to the ground underneath it shifting and pushing it faster.


Glaciers, as I understand them, are not static things, so they will move anyway. If the entire glacier is simply sliding down a mountainside, and NOT getting larger, then I think the article should say so.

If, on the other hand, the glacier is simply growing quickly larger, then come right out and say THAT.

I get the feeling that the author simply didn't WANT to say the latter...so he didn't.

Plumb Bob said...

The obfuscation I'm seeing lies in the apparent claim that more ice into the ocean equals ocean levels rising. Previously we were told that ice sheet melting equals ocean levels rising.

So, now I'm thinking about that clever little illustration in "An Inconvenient Truth" in which Mr. Gore claims (incorrectly) that if you fill a glass with ice and the ice melts, the glass will overflow.

I do understand that interior ice making its way into the ocean produces a little upward pressure on ocean levels. I'm just amused that the narrative seems to be, "No matter what happens, whether the ice cap is getting bigger or smaller, thicker or thinner, the ocean will rise."

Pretty entertaining, actually.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

So, now I'm thinking about that clever little illustration in "An Inconvenient Truth" in which Mr. Gore claims (incorrectly) that if you fill a glass with ice and the ice melts, the glass will overflow.

Actually, the thing with the ice cubes in the film is correct, just awkwardly presented. If you just have ice floating in a glass the level will not rise, but if you had ice going all the way to the bottom of the glass with other ice cubes resting upon one another rising all the way out of the glass, then yes when it melts it will raise the level.

So that is true...but it isn't really illustrative of Gore's point, which is that glaciers or ice sheets OVER LAND would raise ocean levels if they melted.

Your larger point is, I think, dead on. The catastrophists have an ever increasing tendency to claim to be proven correct no matter what actually happens. Which is the same as saying their claims are nonsense.

Anonymous said...

You know what I like to call all this crap about "global warming"...or the new buzz phrase "climet change"?

Weather! Been happening since the beginning of time and will continue with or without us.

Anonymous said...

Ooops I meant "climate" change. I work in an industry that uses particle counters called "Climets".

fvv said...

Maybe we can just consider there is heavier snow and ice causing the glacier to advance. Maybe it is too cold to melt it all. That is the way Glaciers have advanced for thousand of years. One thing we do not want is a glacial age or we starve. Hooray for global warming I say