Latest posts by H. Sterling Burnett (see all)
The Arctic, Antarctica, Greenland: They all feature prominently in the climate change scare stories. According to the dominant alarmist meme, human greenhouse gases are causing unusual global warming which is (or should be at least) causing the polar ice caps to melt, dramatically raising sea levels. There are multiple problems with this narrative of which I want to address three specific to claims about the ice in the Artic, Antarctica, and Greenland. First, sea levels are not rising at an unusual rate. Sea levels always rise between ice ages, sea level rise did not accelerate during the 20th century, and indeed, according to NASA, in the last two years they have actually fallen.
Antarctica continues to add tens of thousands of tons of ice each year despite the fear mongering promoted when a large ice berg broke free from the Larsen C ice shelf a few weeks ago. Recent papers in the journals Cryosphere and Geophysical Research Letters show the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), which is 1,000 percent larger than the West Antarctic Ice sheet which as been declining, has been adding ice, and new research appears to show it is stable and will likely remain so regardless of greenhouse gas emissions for hundreds of years.
A NASA study in 2015 indicated EAIS was adding more ice annually than WAIS was losing. Two new papers confirm, contrary to climate models, East Antarctica’s glaciers are adding ice, have been stable for an estimated 600 years, and are likely to remain stable for at least 500 years more, reducing the rate of sea level rise in the process.
A paper in the May 2017 issue of The Cryosphere examines the ice mass balance of the Blåskimen Island in Dronning Maud Land in East Antarctica. The study’s authors found the ice mass on the island’s peaks, which control the ice mass balance for the whole, has thickened by 0.07 to 0.35 meters annually over the past decade and the ice balance has been relatively stable for at least 600 years.
A second paper, in the June 16 Geophysical Research Letters, found the Lambert-Amery glacial system in East Antarctica will remain stable also for the next 500 years and possibly even grow in mass. Observational data show the Lambert-Amery glacial system has been stable in recent decades. Modelling a range of future extreme warming and climate scenarios, the researchers found such scenarios would not trigger rapid mass loss. Indeed, the researchers found Lambert-Amery will likely gain ice and remain stable for the next 500 years, mitigating the equivalent of as much as of 117.5 mm in global sea level rise over the time period.
But what about that huge breakway ice berg you ask? The cause was entirely natural, not human caused climate change according to the researcher who’s led the team studying the Larsen C since the rift was discovered.
Adrian Luckman, professor of glaciology and remote sensing at Swansea University, who leads a team studying the decline of the Larsen C ice shelf, writes the Delaware-sized iceberg that recently separated from the Larsen C, the fourth biggest ice shelf in Antarctica, didn’t break off due to climate change.
Luckman described the breakaway as “a rare but natural occurrence … not a warning of imminent sea level rise.”
Satellite images from the 1980s show the rift where the iceberg broke free was a long-established feature of Larsen C, predating any recent atmospheric warming. In addition, Luckman said atmospheric warming “is not felt deep enough within the ice shelf” to cause the rift and ultimate break, and any recent ocean warming “is an unlikely source of change given that most of Larsen C has recently been thickening.”
Luckman also notes the calving does not signal an imminent collapse of the remaining part of Larsen C shelf. Luckman writes, “even if … [Larsen C] were to eventually collapse, many years into the future, the potential sea level rise is quite modest. Taking into account only the catchments of glaciers flowing into Larsen C, the total, even after decades, will probably be less than a centimeter”—which is less than half an inch.
Temperatures and ice extent, both historically and in the present, also continue to confound and refute the eminent climate demise narrative. Greenland is actually far cooler than normal at present and adding ice at a record pace. Despite an ongoing rise in carbon dioxide emissions, Vencore Weather reports, “Independence Day on July 4th, Summit Station in Greenland may have experienced the coldest July temperature ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere at -33°C. Much of Greenland has been colder-than-normal for the year so far and has experienced record or near record levels of accumulated snow and ice since the fall of last year.” The typical daily maximum temperatures at Summit Station are around -35°C in winter (January) and -10°C in summer (July), meaning this July 4th’s low temperature was closer to temperatures expected in the middle of winter than during the summer, and the still-accumulating snow and ice on Greenland is running at near record levels in 2017.
And multiple studies published in recent months show Greenland has been both warmer in the relatively recent past, than at present, and ice extent was much lower. For instance, the authors of this Climate of the Past article use 60 sets of proxy data to reconstruct historic summer temperatures in the Arctic and subarctic northern regions including Greenland. They find current high temperatures are not unprecedented. “The reconstruction shows a pronounced Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA), from approximately 960 to 1060 in the common era (CE), characterized by a sequence of extremely warm decades over the entire area.” According to the researchers, “The medieval warming was followed by a gradual cooling into the Little Ice Age, with 1580–1680 CE as the longest centennial-scale cold period, culminating between 1812 and 1822 CE. … At the same time there is evidence for a drastic reduction in sea-ice on the Greenland shelf, which is reflected by rather high summer temperatures over Greenland and Baffin Island during that decade.”
In short, the research shows during the MCA summer temperatures were as high as in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. And Greenland warmed considerably again, and ice declined sharply, for a decade-long period more than 120 years before humans began to add significant greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
Other studies confirm and expand upon this finding.
One paper in Scientific Reports shows Greenland has been cooling since 2005, with volcanic activity being a significant driver of centennial- to millennial-scale temperature.
Research published in The Holocene examining deposits of certain shallow-water marine mollusks found Norway’s Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean was warmer than the present during at least three periods of time between 10,000 and 4,000 years ago, when carbon dioxide concentrations were approximately 150 ppm lower than they are now. In particular, August temperatures on Svalbard were 6°C warmer from 10,200 to 9,200 years ago than they are now; warmed again around 8,200 years ago when the researchers estimate Svalbard was 4°C warmer than present for a period lasting for more than 2,000 years; and warmed again for a short time period during the Medieval Warm Period 900 years ago.
What does it all mean. The majority of the anticipated sea level rise due to human caused global warming is supposed to result from the melting of the ice in Antarctica and Greenland, yet history shows what is going on in these regions is not unusual historically and, especially in Antarctica, ice and snow coverage is actually growing. As a result, we have time to get the science right, and carefully weight our economic and policy options. If we do so, we will find now is not the time to abandon the coasts or to impoverish current and future generations by ending fossil fuel use prematurely.