Antarctic ice models “not correct”, sea level rise “complicated”

There’s some surprising reaction to the press release we covered on WUWT recently.

Here’s some excerpts:

Knowing how the massive ice sheets atop  Antarctica and Greenland work is key to
predicting how global warming could raise sea  levels and flood coastal cities. But a new study  upends what scientists thought they knew. It  turns out it’s not just ancient snow that makes  up the ice sheets, but water deep under the  sheets also thaws and refreezes over time.

To put it in non-scientific terms, lead scientist  Robin Bell told msnbc.com, the study
redefines “how squishy” the base of ice sheets can be. “This matters to how fast ice will flow and how fast ice sheets will change.”

“It also means that ice sheet models are not correct,” she said, comparing it to “trying to
figure out how a car will drive but forgetting to  add the tires. The performance will be very
different if you are driving on the rims.”

Reporting in this week’s issue of the peer-reviewed journal Science, Bell and his team
described how ice-penetrating radar peeled  back two miles of ice a million years old in the
center of Antarctica.

 

This radar image shows part of the East Antarctic ice sheet (top), a bulge of refrozen ice (center), and the profile of a mountain range buried deep below (outlined in red).

Full story plus an interactive tool here

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89 Responses to Antarctic ice models “not correct”, sea level rise “complicated”

  1. Steve Keohane says:

    “In the depths, water remains liquid even when it is below the normal freezing point, due to pressure exerted on it. But once moved up to an area of less pressure, such supercooled water can freeze almost instantly.”
    Under two miles of ice, nothing is going to move quickly, and therefore “almost instantly” is a totally inappropriate descriptor.

  2. Wade says:

    It is always something, ain’t it? No matter what, these alarmists always find come up with something so that they can say “No, you are wrong. There is a problem and humans are to blame.” It is like playing a game with a child when the rules are always changing and, conveniently enough, always benefit the child. Dirty ice, squishy ice. What will be next? Maybe “the ice not compacted enough so that ice extent is larger but actual ice amounts are much much less”.

  3. PJB says:

    You mean it’s (worse, better, different, less certain…etc.) than we thought?

  4. View from the Solent says:

    What’s the SI unit of squishiness?

  5. Patrick Davis says:

    Computer animations again.

  6. GaryP says:

    “What’s the SI unit of squishiness?….
    =Meters/Pascal

  7. Pull My Finger says:

    Sounds like squishy science to me. At least they didn’t claim “it’s worse than we thought!”.

  8. wws says:

    Obviously this PROVES that global warming is real. I don’t know how, that doesn’t matter. It just does. There, see? The science is settled!!!

  9. John Marshall says:

    I was under the impression that Greenland at least the ice sat in a depression caused by the weight of ice so could not flow out. This does not matter at the moment as ice is building up on Greenland.
    I still ask the question about geothermal heat buildup at the ice ground interface which happens under glaciers. Water here either flows downhill so exit at the snout of the glacier or remains as a fluid. It does not refreeze because of the geothermal heat, between 10 -30 w/sqm. Under the Greenland ice sheet this water will pool.
    I also thought that the Russians had found a large lake under the Antarctic ice and were drilling into it. What happened to that?

  10. Robert L says:

    Squishyness = bulk modulus, the pressure needed to give a unit decrease in volume, unit is the Pascal (SI), or psi if you are from Liberia, Myanmar or America.

  11. Simon Wood says:

    So they used outputs from a climate model (whose outputs were based on modelled temperatures) to feed into a ice flow model to come up with their initial conclusion, but it turned out one of the models was wrong.

    But don’t worry, once they fix it, the whole merry model chain will be re-established and the scaremongering can continue.

  12. rbateman says:

    Well that about sums up the AGW story: driving on the rims.
    First the right front Global Warming tire blew out and peeled off, followed by the left front Climate Change tire, then the right rear Climate Disruption tire, and now that the last tire is going flat, the steering is problematic at best.
    It’s a good thing somebody remembered to bring the emergency mountain bike, to enable backpeddling.

  13. MangoChutney says:

    Richard Black’s laughable take on this:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12687272

    /Mango

  14. So, is it: Turtles all the way down? Models all the way down? or Squishy ice all the way down? Inquiring minds need to know.

    I presume all hithertofore rock-solid, science-settled peer-reviewed models factored in the squishy-ice effect properly?

  15. JohnWho says:

    Ah,

    if you gaze into the ice hole, the ice hole gazes also into you.

    I know, someone probably said that before,

    but it does seem to be a “nitch, key” phrase, does it not?

  16. mycroft says:

    Maybe the reason why Larsen ice shelves let go a few years ago is in this!
    Any thoughts from those in the know?

  17. Mike McMillan says:

    The glacial flow in the radar profile image is from left to right. This forces the big blog of refrozen ice up and over the mountain peaks. On the right side of the blog, you can see the downstream turbulence it creates.

    Hard to imagine turbulence in something moving as slowly as the Antarctic ice sheet, but there it is.

  18. Bob Shapiro says:

    Is there any way that they would have/could have taken this Radar Picture from ground level? That seems inconceivable to me, so I expect it was an “image” from a satellite.

    That being the case, then how in the world can they produce a picture in profile?!!

    Please, tell me this is not just a hoax that made it past the Peer Review Process.

  19. Mark Adams says:

    More rotten ice?

  20. Glen Shevlin says:

    The temperature at which water changes phase does actually depend on the pressure . Your car’s cooling system is an example of that, the idea that a layer of water could exist underneath a few thousand metres of ice is not out of the question. the question would be how much lubrication that layer of ice would provide. The idea that ice would be “squishy” will take some time to figure out, the technical terms that get posted sometimes confuse me. The idea that ice could turn flexible under a high pressure load is interesting and it should be testable under labratory conditions… NOTE LABORATORY EXPERIMENT NOT COMPUTER SIMULATION. It should not be very difficult to set up and run and it would solve any controversy.

  21. james says:

    I guess that settles it, the models are wrong.

  22. James Sexton says:

    Antarctic ice models “not correct”, sea level rise “complicated”
    ==========================================

    lol, now those are headlines!! But this is because while we can identify “squishiness”, we haven’t defined the functions of squishiness nor the dynamics of the inversion of squishiness. Prolly has to do with the ratio phi.

  23. AleaJactaEst says:

    and the BBC peddles more doom and misery for our Antarctic and Greenland glaciers:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12687272

    but with a link to the actual paper:

    http://www.agu.org/news/press/pr_archives/2010/2010-07.shtml

    which mentions the Antarctic only twice (funny that), is full of contradictions regarding what is happening and why (e.g. increased glacial flow from central Greenland)

    The required leap of “faith” by the BBC.

  24. jmrSudbury says:

    So… As the ice melts or sublimates, thus thinning the ice sheets, the reduction in verticle pressure of ice reduces the amount of water underneath causing the ice sheet to move more slowly over time. This sounds like good news to me. — John M Reynolds

  25. Janice says:

    Bob Shapiro says: “Is there any way that they would have/could have taken this Radar Picture from ground level? That seems inconceivable to me, so I expect it was an “image” from a satellite. That being the case, then how in the world can they produce a picture in profile?!! Please, tell me this is not just a hoax that made it past the Peer Review Process.”

    I believe the process is called stereoscopic photographs. It was used by early airplanes for aiding mapmakers in making 3-D maps, and is used by satellites such as Cartosat-1. It is also being employed by the satellites that are near Mars. The pictures can be quite stunning, and really give you a feel for what the three-dimensional terrain looks like. It is not a hoax.

  26. red432 says:

    The modelers have no idea how large amounts of ice behave. The models are hacked up to reflect known behavior. If you ask the modelers privately they will probably admit as such. I saw one admit it publicly, something like: “you plug in the equations and pile up the ice and then it just sits there — so you have to hack the code to make it move, because we know it does move…”

  27. oldsaedog says:

    They’ve been learning from Scotrail.
    It’s the wrong sort of ice.

  28. tty says:

    What makes them think that this re-frozen ice would be more “squishy”? The Vostok ice-cores actually go down into such re-frozen ice from Lake Vostok (this refrozen layer is about 200 meters thick). One of the things that distinguished it from ordinary glacier ice was that the ice crystals were vey large (10-100 cm). That doesn’t sound very squishy to me. Conductivity was also much lower than in glacier ice which means less contaminants which is also likely to make it less “squishy”, not more.

    The ground-radar image tells the same story. The ordinary glacier ice is obviously forced to flow up and over the refrozen ice, which seems to behave more like rock than ice.

  29. Paul Maynard says:

    Some help please from some of our more erudite readers.

    ?supercooled water?

    Does water not freeze at 0C even if under pressure?

    Cheers

    Paul

  30. Olen says:

    Global warming could. Their research is good in that it furthers the understanding of ice sheets and bad in that they are hanging their research on predicting the outcome of ice sheets moving and melting as a result of global warming. The problem is global warming being called a truth by these scientists while it is an unproven theory. And where sea levels are concerned there is a lot to be considered when and if the weight and area of the ice changes over a time not known.

    The research itself should be called into question when the global warming hook is invoked as a truth and the reason for the scientific research. The problem is with conflict of interest where the researcher needs the grant money which is allocated often times by politicians who need the research findings tied to global warming to gain public support in regulations and taxes for a political agenda.

  31. Larry Geiger says:

    Ok. I’m no scientist and I understand very little of the technicalities of this. However, if true, and if the radar image above is correct, how does that affect all of these ice cores they have been taking. Do the ice core analysis take into account this refreezing?

  32. tty says:

    A further thought. This big blob of refrozen ice apparently sits right on top of the Gamburtsev subglacial mountains. Now, the Gamburtsev mountains have always been a big mystery since they sit right in the middle of of the East Antarctic precambrian shield. Ordinarily mountains just don’t occur in shield areas. One (rare) exception is intra-shield hotspot volcanoes. The Tibesti mountains of Africa is perhaps the best example. If the Gamburtsev Mountains is a volcanic range then there is an obvious mechanism both for melting and up-doming of the ice-sheet. It is known that volcanic eruptions and even whole volcanoes can occur under an ice-sheet, without necessarily breaching it.

  33. pat says:

    “Given already known melt in Greenland and parts of Antarctica, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier estimated sea levels will rise between seven inches and two feet this century.”

    The article spends a great deal of time discussing sea level rise in spite of the fact that the findings reported suggest that the sea rise models are entirely wrong. The article also fails to note that a sea level rise of 7″ would be consistent with the last 300 years. But is very inconsistent with recent measures that show virtually no sea level rise for the last 80 years. All of the article is a bit confusing, as the author continuously interjects his vast ignorance on climate science throughout piece, as if he were the researcher.

  34. tty says:

    “Larry Geiger says:
    March 9, 2011 at 8:45 am
    Ok. I’m no scientist and I understand very little of the technicalities of this. However, if true, and if the radar image above is correct, how does that affect all of these ice cores they have been taking. Do the ice core analysis take into account this refreezing?”

    It should not be much of a problem. The Vostok ice-core actually penetrated some distance into refrozen ice above Lake Vostok. Both the refrozen ice and a shear-layer above it were pretty obivious. However if this is wide-spread phenomenon (which is far from certain) it might not be possible to find sites with really old undisturbed ice, even in East Antarctica.

  35. ShrNfr says:

    @Wade The name of the game is Calvinball

  36. tty says:

    “Paul Maynard says:
    March 9, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Does water not freeze at 0C even if under pressure?”

    No, up to a point the freezing temperature does go down as the pressure goes up, to a minimum of about -20 C. However pressure never gets that high even in a very thick ice-cap. Water has an incredibly complex phase diagram with several different types of ice. Here is a phase diagram:

    http://pruffle.mit.edu/3.00/Lecture_29_web/img20.gif

  37. R. Gates says:

    Pull My Finger says:
    March 9, 2011 at 5:13 am
    Sounds like squishy science to me. At least they didn’t claim “it’s worse than we thought!”.

    ____
    Actually, they are about the claim that…see:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12687272

    Antarctica and Greenland melting even faster than IPCC predictions, probably leading to a greater than predicted sea level rise by 2100. This is no different than the surprize arctic sea ice loss (greater than models predicted) in 2007 and continuing now. Things are happening faster than models predicted because these linear models can’t accurately describe the nonlinear chaotic nature of the climate undergoing rapid change with multiple interacting feedback processes.

  38. DonS says:

    @Glen Shevlin

    Been done and done and done. Don’t nobody read nothin anymore (before we pay for transporting a radar set to the south pole)? http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002AGUFMMR71A..06D

  39. Hilary Barnes says:

    A Greenland Curiosity.

    I happened to pick out a book from my shelves the other day that I did not even know I possessed. It is a 1975 publication from Greenland’s Julianehaab Museum (Julianehaab is now known as Qaqortok’) celebrating the 200th anniversary of this Greenland town.

    Written before the world was gripped by global waming frenzy, it has a graph showing 780 years of temperature variations in West Greenland from and a guess about the future trend, which appears to have been influenced by view prevailing at that time that the world was entering a global cooling period.

    The graph is « based on » the work of W. Damsgaard, which can only refer to Professor Willi Damsgaard, the father of Greenland ice core analysis, who died in January this year at the age of 88.

    What struck me about the text was the way in which it takes for granted that the temperature in Greenland is marked by regularchanges between periods that are somewhat warmer and periods which are somewhat colder. The graph show 6 periods with significant warming and 3 other with a little warming, and 5 cooling period (and «3 small dips)

    « The edges of the glaciers and inland ice move backwards and forwards in step with the changes in temperature and in precipitation. The concenttration of sea ice also varies in these periods, » it said (I am translating this from a Danish text).

    There is a striking contrast between this atttitude and the attitude that has gained hold since to the effect that there is something exceptional about the (possibly – not for nothing that I read WUWT regularly) warmer period over the past 30 years and the fluctuations in sea ice.

    The caption to the graph read (again translatred from the Danish):

    « Climate curves for the past 780 years….. We see the regularity with which cold and warm periods follow each other. The dotted line at the top shows the most-probable climate trend over the coming decasdes. We shall first see a warm period again, such as we experienced at the beginning of the 20th century, in about a hundred years time. »

  40. D. King says:

    “It turns out it’s not just ancient snow that makes up the ice sheets, but water deep under the sheets also thaws and refreezes over time.”

    What does that do to the sampling and proxies?

  41. ferd berple says:

    From what I read, this study could indicate that ice loss is not nearly as great as estimated, because the assumption in the models is that once the ice melts it runs into the ocean. This study says that quite a bit refreezes underneath.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12619342

    Liquid water at the base of the sheet has long been recognised to be a “lubricant” for movement, but the latest data adds a whole new dimension to our understanding, said Professor Bell.

    “We’ve known there’s been melting under ice sheets from a long time – since the 1960s,” she explained.

    “Then it was demonstrated this water could move, it could slosh around; but I think we still had this idea that it just spilled into the ocean.

    “Well, now we can show these hydrologic systems are modifying the fundamental stratigraphy of the ice sheet.”

  42. Ralph says:

    >> Mike
    >>Hard to imagine turbulence in something moving as slowly as the
    >>Antarctic ice sheet, but there it is.

    Looks exactly like a wave-cap cloud on a mountain. I daresay it behaves exactly the same too – just slower.

    I which case, it may be a permanent feature even though itnis moving – continuously forming and reforming, just like a cap cloud does.

    Nice cross section. Interesting dynamics. But the science was already settled before we knew this.

    .

  43. Sun Spot says:

    @D. King says: March 9, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I concur, what does that do to ice-core proxies ???

  44. Jeff Carlson says:

    but the science is settled ??? what … so are they saying that they actually went out an observed the ice caps and found out that their PHD’s are based on incomplete and possibly faulty information ? i.e. what they don’t know about the field that they are considered an “expert” in is actually greater than what they do know about their field …
    observe first then come up with theories and models instead on coming up with theories and models and THEN observing nature …
    these researchers just became actual scientists as opposed to previously when they were simply academic theorists …

  45. Ann In L.A. says:

    I don’t suppose anyone can explain to me how a mountain range can be *underground*?

  46. Ralph says:

    >>Paul
    >>Does water not freeze at 0C even if under pressure

    Sometimes it does not freexe even at reduced temperature – if it is not disturbed too much. Small cloud droplets can remain liquid down to -40oc, if you do not disturb them.

    This is the main iceing problem for high flying aircraft, because the supercooled liquid droplets will freeze as soon as they his an aircraft.

    .

  47. sky says:

    View from the Solent says:
    March 9, 2011 at 4:47 am

    “What’s the SI unit of squishiness?”

    In honor of the most salient example, I would propose the CRU.

  48. D. King says:

    The radar image is fascinating, not just for the melt water, but for the compression of the layers above. It’s obvious that the under ice topography will need to be considered when examining ice cores. This is like …well…science.

  49. Tain says:

    Small error in the article (which has been corrected now at msnbc.com) that is affecting your excerpt. It should read “Bell and her team” not “his team.”

  50. Duster says:

    Bob Shapiro says:
    March 9, 2011 at 6:29 am

    Is there any way that they would have/could have taken this Radar Picture from ground level? That seems inconceivable to me, so I expect it was an “image” from a satellite.

    That being the case, then how in the world can they produce a picture in profile?!!

    Please, tell me this is not just a hoax that made it past the Peer Review Process.

    Bob, if you take a transect on foot across a landscape and record ascent a descent you have the data for a profile. If you fly a plane over head with look-down radar you can record the same profile without wearing out boot leather. If you traverse the same terrain in a truck with a seismic rig you can use the rig to map subsurface geological features. Similarly, employing ground penetrating radar, you can achieve similar results. If you fly over head and use some of the more specialized kinds of radar such as SAR you can tune the beam to penetrate surface material, but it will reflect off discontinuities beneath the surface, providing a profile of the buried discontinuity. The same methods have been used to map buried river channels in the Sahara. So, there is no reason that it would be a hoax, nor is there any reason to think such a report would not pass peer review, unless of course it contradicted contemporary wisdom and indicated that the participants in “consensus science” would need to go and learn something.

  51. Duster says:

    #
    #
    Ann In L.A. says:
    March 9, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I don’t suppose anyone can explain to me how a mountain range can be *underground*?

    It isn’t. It is under ice.

  52. M White says:

    “Antarctic ice sheet built ‘bottom-up

    ‘By Jonathan Amos
    Science correspondent, BBC News”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12619342

    “Polar ice loss quickens, raising seas

    By Richard Black
    Environment correspondent, BBC News”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12687272

    “Ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland has accelerated over the last 20 years, research shows, and will soon become the biggest driver of sea level rise.”

    Sea level rise accelerating

    http://sealevel.colorado.edu/current/sl_noib_global.jpg

  53. Mike says:

    “Bell said the study did not look at what kind of impact the refreezing would have. “We are not sure if it will make them go faster or slower,” she said of ice sheets flowing into the ocean and thus raising sea levels.”
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41869926/ns/us_news-environment/

    No one claims to have accurate models of ice sheet flow.

  54. Beesaman says:

    Not to worry normal service has been resumed over here (in the UK), we are all about to die again! Or at least get a tad wet near the coast, not that we’d think about maybe moving away from the rushing water as it speeds in at 3mm a year. Still, annoyingly enough, the nearest coast is still were I left it over forty years ago. In fact it’s a tad further away in truth, but don’t let that inconvienient truth spoil a good story.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12687272

    Richard Black to the rescue….

    And there was me thinking ice cover in both Arctic and Antarctic look like they are on, if not a recovering trend, then at least not a terminal one, ie the death spiral isn’t, wasn’t and won’t be!

    Damnit you’d think it was getting warmer because we are at THE END OF AN ICE AGE and waiting for the next one to start. The clue there is, end of ice age….

    But maybe folks, like Richard, need to get these things in before good old mother nature shows them up to be the doom mongering bloggers (he is no journalist he is too gullible in my humble opinion) that they really are.

    Ah you can’t beat a good rant….

  55. Rational Debate says:

    re post by: tty says: March 9, 2011 at 8:53 am

    A further thought. This big blob of refrozen ice apparently sits right on top of the Gamburtsev subglacial mountains. Now, the Gamburtsev mountains have always been a big mystery since they sit right in the middle of of the East Antarctic precambrian shield. Ordinarily mountains just don’t occur in shield areas. One (rare) exception is intra-shield hotspot volcanoes. The Tibesti mountains of Africa is perhaps the best example. If the Gamburtsev Mountains is a volcanic range then there is an obvious mechanism both for melting and up-doming of the ice-sheet. It is known that volcanic eruptions and even whole volcanoes can occur under an ice-sheet, without necessarily breaching it.

    Excellent point.

    Not knowing all the available technology myself, but it seems that there must be a way to image that exact same area for heat… if warm/hot relatively to other areas, that would sure answer the question, by addressing what seems to me to be a very plausible confounding factor to their hypothesis of how the formation was actually caused. Even if now cold, it still wouldn’t mean that volcanic activity wasn’t the culprit, unless they can show growth/changes continuing while there is no thermal activity.

    Regardless, I’d think that they’d have to figure out some way to determine if the cause is pressure and supercooled water hydrolics, or if instead the cause was vulcanism or differences in geothermal emissions — or if it’s perhaps a mixture of both geothermal and ice/water mechanics.

  56. Rational Debate says:

    according to one of the BBC articles about this:

    But if the water is forced up valley sides to locations of lower pressure, or into ponds in places away from retained heat in rocks, then it will rapidly turn to ice – and can stick to the bottom of the sheet above.

    The survey data reveals that this add-on ice makes up 24% of the ice sheet base around Dome A, a 4.2km-high plateau of ice that represents the greatest elevation on the continent.

    And in some other places, this refreeze phenomenon accounts for slightly more than half of the total ice thickness.

    I’m having problems wrapping my brain around this – so, in areas where water is forced to lower pressure spots, the water freezes onto the bottom of the ice pack. Ok, fine so far.

    But how does it ‘grow’ the ice pack from the bottom up, winding up being in large areas, 1/3rd to 1/2 of the pack depth? I mean, it seems for that to occur, the newly formed ice would have to be able to literally push the ice pack upwards…. that, or merely manage to fill in spots where deformities left lower pressure…. otherwise, as the bottom formed ice got thicker, wouldn’t it be unable to push the pack above up, and so be forced into areas of higher pressure were it would just turn back into water again?

    Thoughts?

  57. Ged says:

    Ok people, settle down. Seriously.

    This has nothing to do with “global warming” in any direct way, this is all about the physics of ice and large glacial sheets.

    Nor is this a surprise. I learned about this as if it were common knowledge going through school, since we lived near mountainous glacial areas where this was important. There was always believed to be super cooled liquid water under ice sheets of sufficient weight, it’s what allows them to flow in the first place. This is nothing new in principle, maybe they just discovered more about the extent of the dynamics? Or maybe we all just forgot and had to rediscover it? Or maybe the climate world forgets basic physics and had to discover what everyone already knew all on their own? I have no idea, this really should not be news.

    And yes, it could be defined as “squishy”. Increase the pressure and the ice lattice structurally fails and returns to liquid, decreasing the volume. Release the pressure, and the water returns to ice again, increasing the volume. See, squishy.

    Now, increase the pressure even more past the pressure induced liquid state, and you’ll get another type of amorphous, rather than structured, ice. Want to see what I mean? Look at this graph http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/de/WaterPhaseDiagram.png . There are MANY forms of ice, other than the simple Ice I(h) type that we think about when looking at ice cubes. Water is complex, and any model that fails to take into account the multiple ice forms and the relationships of pressure and temperature, will fail to accurately define glacial dynamics.

    In the end, what this means practically, is that there is a lot more water locked up in Antarctica and Greenland than what is simply in glacial ice form, and the phase dynamics in response to temperature will be a lot more complex than what happens when you put an ice cube in your drink.

  58. DCC says:

    The glacier appears to be moving left to right. My geologic training asks why that tallest mountain, whose jagged peak is about one-half kilometer wide, has not succumbed to more erosion. Several others are surprisingly sharp.

    Earthquakes are relatively rare in the Antarctic and many are attributed to post-glacial rebound. http://www.volcanolive.com/antarctica3.html I find it unlikely that mountain building is keeping these peaks elevated. The Gamburtsev mountain range is thought to be at least 34 million years old, plenty of time to erode sharp corners if the ice is solid and contains rock debris. tty (March 9, 2011 at 8:53 am) suggests that the mountains are the result of volcanic action. The AGAP Project concluded recently that the mountains are a result of plate tectonics, not unlike the Alps. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamburtsev_Mountain_Range

    Like a lot of scientific data (datum if you prefer,) this one raise more questions than it answers.

  59. John F. Hultquist says:

    Sun Spot says:
    March 9, 2011 at 10:15 am
    @D. King says: March 9, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I concur, what does that do to ice-core proxies ???

    One assumes the ice for “ice cores” is formed by compression of layers of snow and information is gained by analyses of the gases and other material (dust and soot, perhaps). It will be apparent when a part of an ice core has formed from liquid rather than crystalline H2O. So the answer to your question is ‘nothing’.

  60. Gil Dewart says:

    Ged is right, this is old stuff, common knowledge among glaciologists.

  61. Rob R says:

    DCC

    If the ice at the base is frozen fast onto the rocky slopes of the “under ice mountain” then the ice is part of the mountain. It does not erode the mountain because there is little relative motion between the rock and the ice. There are major differences between frozen bed and non-frozen bed conditions. This can be appreciated in connection with the Laurentide Ice Sheet which covered much of North America during the last ice age. In some areas under this ice sheet, soft sediments were undisturbed by the growth and subsequent destruction of the ice sheet. This ice sheet is thought to have been over 3 km thick in some areas. Further, the rarther delicate structure of sediments deposited in water flow paths (eskers) beneath kilometres of ice has been preserved. These flow paths can be observed on the land surface today because the sediments stand out as elevated ridges and mounds. Its kind of like the effect you get when you stamp an embossed seal in hot wax to close a document.

    So do not be surprised that there can be significant topography under an ice sheet. The base is not always erosive.

  62. John F. Hultquist says:

    Ann In L.A. says:
    March 9, 2011 at 10:24 am
    I don’t suppose anyone can explain to me how a mountain range can be *underground*?

    I’m not sure what is being referred to here. A mountain under ice such as in Antarctica should be easily conceptualized. Snow in this sense is the same as a sediment, such as fine sand being deposited from a river or near-shore environment. As depth builds up and the material is compacted the material becomes more dense. Sand layers can become sandstone and under more dynamic action that can become a metamorphic rock, naming based on the nature of the sand (say, quartz sand versus feldspar or something else). In any case, the sediment (sand, silt, clay, peat) can cover an existing landform of different and older parentage. The search phrase ‘buried landform’ yields 287,000 using Google.

    A slightly different formative process is also possible:
    Here is a link about a mountain in the Cascades of Washington State. Mt. Stuart is of 93 million old material.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuart_Range

    Mt. Stuart came up from underneath younger sedimentary rocks in the Swauk Formation and others. Washington’s landforms and geology are complex but if you do a little digging (pun alert) you can find the information. A key term is “exotic terranes” as in

    http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/student/pachuta1/page1.htm

  63. D. King says:

    John F. Hultquist says:
    March 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    “It will be apparent when a part of an ice core has formed from liquid rather than crystalline H2O. So the answer to your question is ‘nothing’.”

    I would think the super compressed crystalline H2O (snow ice) above the liquid ice formation should be read differently given the small diameter of the cores. No?

  64. Sensorman says:

    Steve Keohane says:
    March 9, 2011 at 4:41 am
    “In the depths, water remains liquid even when it is below the normal freezing point, due to pressure exerted on it. But once moved up to an area of less pressure, such supercooled water can freeze almost instantly.”
    Under two miles of ice, nothing is going to move quickly, and therefore “almost instantly” is a totally inappropriate descriptor.

    Steve – I have witnessed supercooled water turning into frazil ice so fast that I thought I had blinked and missed it – one of the most dramatic sights I’ve ever seen. I don’t see any reason to doubt this could happen at great depth. The volume did not change visibly (in a large container).

  65. Mike says:

    Melting Ice Sheets Now Largest Contributor to Sea Level Rise

    ScienceDaily (Mar. 8, 2011) — The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass at an accelerating pace, according to a new NASA-funded satellite study. The findings of the study — the longest to date of changes in polar ice sheet mass — suggest these ice sheets are overtaking ice loss from Earth’s mountain glaciers and ice caps to become the dominant contributor to global sea level rise, much sooner than model forecasts have predicted.

    “What is surprising is this increased contribution by the ice sheets is already happening. If present trends continue, sea level is likely to be significantly higher than levels projected by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110308150228.htm

  66. Curiousgeorge says:

    Ah. Excuse me. “Underground mountain range”? I’d sure like to see one of those. Underwater, sure. Under ice, ok with that also. But underground? Who writes this crap?

  67. Mike says:

    I believe AGW is real and serious. Yet the article below shows some glacier melting is not due to CO2. I will not ignore this evidence even thought a part of me wants to. It would also be wrong to hype this work to imply AGW is not important. And note, the article is about human impacts.

    Science News
    Soot hastens snowmelt on Tibetan Plateau
    Study suggests black carbon pollution has greater effect than carbon dioxide on region’s ice
    By Janet Raloff, Web edition : Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

    In high-elevation snowy regions, the warming effects of greenhouse gases pale in comparison to those triggered by soot, new computer calculations show. The finding could help explain the accelerating pace of melting on the Tibetan Plateau, which holds the world’s largest reservoir of ice outside of the polar regions.

    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/70777/title/Soot_hastens_snowmelt_on_Tibetan_Plateau

  68. mike g says:

    @Robert L

    Funny how 95% of the innovation comes from a country with backward units of measure.

  69. Bill Illis says:

    Its good to see some actual physical evidence being used for once versus the usual model results being cited as evidence.

    It is unexpected. Noone thought there would such large regions of frozen water at the bottom of the glaciers. But in hindsight, how could it be otherwise. This mountain range has been glaciated for … wait for it …

    … 42 million years.

    42 million years of snow accumulation had to go somewhere because the snow accumulation adds up to much, much more than the 4 km height of this dome.

    On the other hand, it is not a really large cross-section. It is only 20 kms of a 2,500 km wide glacial region. They need to stitch together a number of these sequences to put together what should be thought of eventually as a 3D perspective of the Antarctic ice-sheet.

    It does point to a different view of the dynamics at the bottom of ice-sheets that cannot continue to be ignored by global warming science any longer. As I said at the beginning, there is now actual physical evidence.

  70. Mike McMillan says:

    DCC says: March 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm
    The glacier appears to be moving left to right. My geologic training asks why that tallest mountain, whose jagged peak is about one-half kilometer wide, has not succumbed to more erosion. Several others are surprisingly sharp.

    Here’s a larger version of the image, where you can see the vertical scale is exaggerated by 10x, making the peaks appear pointier than they are. It also looks like the plastic flow starts well ahead of the mountains, so with any difference in flow rate, the ice in contact with the peaks may be moving very slowly if at all compared to the rest of the icecap, resulting in the apparent lack of erosion.

  71. Mike McMillan says:

    Bill Illis says: March 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm
    . . . This mountain range has been glaciated for … wait for it … 42 million years.
    42 million years of snow accumulation had to go somewhere because the snow accumulation adds up to much, much more than the 4 km height of this dome.

    42 million years ago, Antarctica may not have been as far south. Here’s a fun Gondwana animation to play with -
    http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=2889

  72. DCC says:

    @Rob R & Mike McMillan. If the ice is “part of the mountain” or moving more slowly at the base, both seem to contradict the conclusions of the paper that the ice at the base is “squishy,” thaws and refreezes, and affects the rate at which the ice flows. That’s why I wondered how much rock debris was being carried along.

    I’m also wondering what the white reflection is just under the rock surface. I am assuming this is a negative image. “No reflection” is black, so this is more reflective material (Basalt flows? Till? ) It would be nice to see a 3D section of that highest peak; it might contain a collapse crater. Better yet, how about a few nice rock cores?

    The apparent lower-down stratigraphic levels parallel to the surface would be “multiples” if this were a seismic image. It’s likely the same with radar. I’m a bit surprised at how far the radar managed to penetrate.

  73. pofarmer says:

    Doesn’t all this rather support Jaworski’s(sp) contentions about movements of liquids in ice and possible effects on sustances soluble in water?

  74. P.G. Sharrow says:

    tty says:
    March 9, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I fully agree, my impression of the image was the cross section of a volcano or an open center uplift with heat and steam vented at some time and then refrozen, COOL! pg

  75. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Mike McMillan says:
    March 9, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Ah yes, much better image. Looks like it refroze a long time ago, About 1300 meters of snow deposits layered over the refrozen ice dome and no movement during that time. pg

  76. Richard111 says:

    “Rational Debate says:
    March 9, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I wonder about this too. Is there a change in VOLUME from super cooled water to ice?
    That might account for the increase in elevation.

  77. Richard111 says:

    “Mike says:
    March 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm
    Melting Ice Sheets Now Largest Contributor to Sea Level Rise”

    I read the article plus a couple of others and conclude they are propaganda scare stories.
    Do the math yourself. It is quite straight forward. To raise global sea levels by just 1 metre by
    2100 a total mass of 400,000 CUBIC KILOMETRES of land borne ice must melt!
    This will be very, very visible. You won’t need satellites to measure it. The media will be there
    by the shipload.

  78. Neo says:

    Next, we will find out that they didn’t account for the compressibility of the moutains.

  79. Leo Geiger says:

    Bill Illis says: “42 million years of snow accumulation had to go somewhere because the snow accumulation adds up to much, much more than the 4 km height of this dome. ”

    It went into the ocean. Ice flows are a continual cycle. Ice moves ice from the interior (where it forms from accumulated snow fall) to the oceans where it melts. The ice from the time the Antarctic ice sheet first formed has long since moved into the ocean and melted.

    Further explanations and context for the research can be found on Columbia U’s web site:

    http://www.earth.columbia.edu/articles/view/2783

  80. Mike says:

    @ Richard111 says:
    March 10, 2011 at 12:04 am

    I did the math and got the same result as you. But there about 30 million cubic kilometres of ice in Antarctica. If 1.4% melts we have a 1 meter sea level rise, by your calculation.

    http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2000/HannaBerenblit.shtml

    The point however is not to watch this happen on TV, but to try to stop if from happening by changing how we use and generate energy if we can. Don’t dismiss the science just because you don’t like it.

  81. beng says:

    The gist of their title & comments seems opposite to what I’m seeing in the radar-slice, as others have noted. The “squishy” ice I see is in fact the top layer, compressing and forced overtop a solid, immovable dome of refrozen water, which is anything BUT squishy. Whether that plume originated from volcanic activity is certainly interesting.

    Maybe they’re noting the ability of the top-layer to slide roughly intact over such an impediment? I dunno.

  82. Leo Geiger says:

    beng: It’s all ice. There aren’t “solid” and “squishy” versions of ice. The point is that some has been melted, refrozen, and deformed. The melting and refreezing process is *like* some of the ice sheet being “squishy” because of this process.

    People should be a little more cautious about drawing all kinds of odd conclusions based entirely on a subjective interpretation of a radar image, or taking literally the analogies and metaphors used by scientists when trying to describe a process.

  83. DCC says:

    People should be a little more cautious about … taking literally the analogies and metaphors used by scientists when trying to describe a process.

    You mean like “Hide the decline” and “Mike’s Nature trick?”

  84. Rob R says:

    DCC

    I am not entirely sure I understand your point. Flow in an ice sheet can be quite complex. Much of the movement is ductile creep which can be distributed through 1000′s of metres of ice thickness. There may also be surfaces that act as shear zones. These zones of concentrated deformation are not always at the base. They can be 100′s of metres to kilometres above the base.

    At this stage it is too early to say what style of deformation (if any) is occuring at the base of the so-called squishy ice. In addition our normal concept of thawing and refreezing might not apply at the rock contact at the base of the ice sheet.

  85. Richard G says:

    No where do I see any consideration for the possibility that an aquifer is venting ground water under the glacier, supplying water for new ice to the basement ice series above the bedrock. An ice volcano if you will. Springs great and small flow on all other continents, why not there? Glacier orogeny.

  86. Bill Illis says:

    Here is another radar image of this mountain range under the ice (this time, not including a big re-feeze region). Most of the mountains in this range show a Matterhorn-like shape, the glaciers have turned them into sharp spikes.

    http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/res/pi/gambit/images/Beth&AD/Mountains_BW.jpg

  87. DCC says:

    Most of the mountains in this range show a Matterhorn-like shape, the glaciers have turned them into sharp spikes.

    Hmmm. Not likely to be rock. Might it be ice?

  88. Leo Geiger says:

    Don’t forget about the vertical exaggeration used on these radar images. They aren’t as spikey as a casual glance at the image would lead one to believe. The images are not a pure cross section either. There is superimposed off-axis information being projected onto a flat image.

    And it is most definitely rock.

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