Antarctic sea water shows ‘no sign’ of warming

From the Australian: SEA water under an East Antarctic ice shelf showed no sign of higher temperatures despite fears of a thaw linked to global warming that could bring higher world ocean levels, first tests showed yesterday.

The drilling rig that was used - ironically it uses hot water to drill! Keith Makinson and Keith Nicholls from British Antarctic Survey hot water drilling the Filchner Ronne Ice-Shelf in a previous expedition.

Sensors lowered through three holes drilled in the Fimbul Ice Shelf showed the sea water is still around freezing and not at higher temperatures widely blamed for the break-up of 10 shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula, the most northerly part of the frozen continent in West Antarctica.

Click for larger map

“The water under the ice shelf is very close to the freezing point,” Ole Anders Noest of the Norwegian Polar Institute wrote after drilling through the Fimbul, which is between 250m and 400m thick.

“This situation seems to be stable, suggesting that the melting under the ice shelf does not increase,” he wrote of the first drilling cores.

The findings, a rare bit of good news after worrying signs in recent years of polar warming, adds a small bit to a puzzle about how Antarctica is responding to climate change, blamed largely on human use of fossil fuels.

Antarctica holds enough water to raise world sea levels by 57m if it ever all melted, so even tiny changes are a risk for low-lying coasts or cities from Beijing to New York.

Instruments attached to the cabel

Ole Anders Nøst attaches temperature sensors to the cable as it is lowered into the borehole. Image: Lars Henrik Smedsrud

The Institute said the water under the Fimbul was about -2.05C. Salty water freezes at a slightly lower temperature than fresh water.

And it was slightly icier than estimates in a regional model for Antarctica, head of the Norwegian Polar Institute’s Center for Ice, Climate and Ecosystems, Nalan Koc, said.

“The important thing is that we are now in a position to monitor the water beneath the ice shelf.

“If there is a warming in future we can tell.”

She said data collected could go into a new report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due in 2013-14.

The last IPCC report, in 2007, did not include computer models for sea temperature around the Fimbul Ice Shelf.

========

From the expedition web site: http://fimbul.npolar.no/en/news/current/Nye_data.html

We observed a roughly 50 meter deep layer of water with temperatures very close to the freezing point, about -2.05 degrees, just beneath the ice shelf. The highest observed temperature was about -1.83 degrees close to the bottom. The temperatures are very similar to temperature data collected by elephant seals in 2008 and by British Antarctic Survey using an autosub below the ice shelf in 2005.

We collected three profiles from the underside of the ice to the seabed at 653 meters below sealevel. No trace of the relatively warm deep water that upwells over the continental slope was found. It will be exciting to see if this is the situation all year round, says Ole Anders Nøst.

For more on how the drilling was done, see this PDF of the method and equipment here

More on the project here

h/t to Michael In Sydney

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75 thoughts on “Antarctic sea water shows ‘no sign’ of warming

  1. Well if the ice and the water are in contact, wouldn’t you expect the water to be right at the freezing point. Or what is it that I don’t understand about phase diagrams ? Evidently those “Scientists” don’t understand it either.

  2. How to keep yourself employed at the British Antarctic Survey.

    1. – release research that says the antarctic is melting a sea levels will rise.
    2. – next summer release research that shows your previous research was wrong.
    3. – any ideas for next summer?

  3. Who keeps funding these people? All I hear is that the science is settled!

    James? Al? Phil? Anybody??

  4. I note that the largest Antarctic ice extent on record last September was completely ignored by the mainstream media. However the Steig et al paper that used very dodgy statistics to show that most of Antarctica was warming received major media exposure. The subsequent debunking by Steve Mckintyre was also ignored. I wonder if the masia will now report climate more fairly. I shan’t hold my breath.

  5. Only in an equilibrium state would they be at the same temperature.. if you have a current bringing warmer water in, then you might reasonably expect a difference.

  6. If it was below the freezing point, then more ice would be freezing. If it were above the freezing point, then the ice would be melting.

    All in all, a change in temp will melt / form ice until the equilibrium is re-established.

  7. “The last IPCC report, in 2007, did not include computer models for sea temperature around the Fimbul Ice Shelf.”

    Find out who is responsible for this travesty and have them shot as an example.

  8. Where have all the warmings gone?
    Long time passin’
    Where have all the warmings gone?
    Long time ago……….

  9. Or what is it that I don’t understand about phase diagrams ? Evidently those “Scientists” don’t understand it either.

    I am assuming that some information on methodology was omitted in the summary here but they likely allowed the water in the area of the drill holes to reach equilibrium and probably took an average of the water temperature near the ice down to maybe a couple of meters below the ice.

  10. “Antarctica holds enough water to raise world sea levels by 57m if it ever all melted, so even tiny changes are a risk for low-lying coasts or cities from Beijing to New York”

    God I find this kind of crap extremely irritating! It is now early summer in Antarctica, equivalent of early July here in the NH. The Sun is up 24 hrs a day. WU has the current temp at Amundsen-Scott Airport at -17F. The five day forecast shows anticipated highs of -4F. In other words it needs to heat up 40-50 degrees to approach the melting temp of ice. A quick check thru the history files shows only 2005 with a temp above freezing on this date and it was below zero the day before and the day after. Antarctica has about as much chance of melting away as I have of winning the Powerball jackpot.

  11. Janama:

    “1. – release research that says the antarctic is melting a sea levels will rise.
    2. – next summer release research that shows your previous research was wrong.
    3. – any ideas for next summer?”

    Yes – when one has two conflicing results, one MUST go try it out again to see which is correct – but of course, just a third won’t do because then there is not enough to define a statiscally significant trend, so a minimum of five and preferably more years of testing should be funded.

    The last time I saw something as out of touch as this was when I was on the list of interested reviewers of the annual report of the investigations into potential use of Yucca Mtn as a deep geological repository for nuclear waste. If you think climate scientists are good at spending money and saying nothing in two directions at once, get one of those NRC reports – it’s what ha;lppens when one gives “pure research scientist types an unlimited budget.”

  12. Can someone answer a simple question for me please? Arctic ice melts and grows with seasonal variation, often by a huge amount. Does “average” see level rise and fall with the same variation? The reason I ask is because if 1/2 of the ice melts in the summer and we don’t see a noticeable rise in sea level, how would a complete melt be a catastrophe, assuming it can happen?

    Excuse my ignorantum….

  13. Ron (15:55:55) :

    Or what is it that I don’t understand about phase diagrams ? Evidently those “Scientists” don’t understand it either.

    I am assuming that some information on methodology was omitted in the summary here but they likely allowed the water in the area of the drill holes to reach equilibrium and probably took an average of the water temperature near the ice down to maybe a couple of meters below the ice.

    “We observed a roughly 50 meter deep layer of water with temperatures very close to the freezing point, about -2.05 degrees, just beneath the ice shelf.

    According to the story the water was near freezing down to 50 meter depth.

  14. No mention, I can see, of the salinity of the sea water at different depths, maybe. Wouldn’t this help to tell if the sea shelf trending towards freezing or melting?

  15. Robinson: The winter expansion is sea water freezing. When sea water freezes it makes no difference at all to sea levels, same as when you drop an ice cube into a glass of water and mark the water lever. When the ice cube melts the water level remains the same.

    The whole of the polar ice cap could melt and it would make no difference to sea levels, because it is floating in the sea. The difference at the south pole is that a large part of it is on land – disconnected from the sea. If/when that melts it will add to the sea level.

  16. Richard Henry Lee (15:46:51) :

    Maybe they had to burn oil to heat the water to melt the ice.

    They had unexpected problems with ice buildup on the panels of the solar water heater. Forgot to take into account the extra humidity from melting the ice while drilling.
    :)

  17. The link provided above is interesting http://fimbul.npolar.no/en/Project_descriptions/Project_description.html . It says that 10% of Antarctica is ice shelves and so it is reasonable to study the stability of the surrounding water in terms of density and temperature, after all the ice sheets are being supported by this water. What I do not like is alarmist talk about ice shelves ‘collapsing’. It just sounds shrill, but may attract more grant money than the term ‘calving’.
    This is where good, balanced journalism is essential in this post Climategate era to take the alarmism out of reporting and possibly save a few careers as well.

  18. Robinson,

    Artic ice is floating in the water so the melt does not effect sea level rise. Antartic ice is contained on the Antartic continent, its melting therefore would increase sea level rise.

    Hope this helps.

  19. Can they now drill holes large enough to drop a remote sub in to monitor the ice from underneath, instead of trying to pilot one inwards from under the edge of ice shelf?

  20. Sea water, because of its salt content, freezes around -2 Centigrade, if there is no current. Diving in winter in the St. Lawrence River in Eastern Canada, one can record -2.5C water temperatures – quite interesting :-)

  21. Robinson:

    As I understand it: Arctic ice is floating ice, which displaces water by close to the same volume. When the ice melts, the volume is relatively unchanged which means sea-levels don’t, either.

  22. “omnologos (15:40:01) :
    “collected by elephant seals”?”

    I read that too!

    ” The temperatures are very similar to temperature data
    collected by elephant seals in 2008
    and by British Antarctic Survey using an autosub below the ice shelf in 2005.”

  23. Maybe I’m missing something. The water just below the ice is around freezing – isn’t that what you’d expect? If the water was warmer, there wouldn’t be any ice, if it was colder it would actually *be* ice.

  24. This is approaching high comedy.

    Note to AGW studies: If reality and theory diverge you should abondon theory, not reality.

  25. “She said data collected could go into a new report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due in 2013-14”

    No, sorry Ms Noest, this will not survive peer review by the team.

  26. Mark F (16:35:04) :

    Top comment to the DailyMail article:

    The Mail should have kept this information confidential. There are a lot of careers dependent on Global warming – poliiticians, academics, the Met Office. How will the Government be able to raise all those taxes if Global warming is false, not to mention Al Gore’s bank account? Didn’t Phil Jones, from the University of East Anglia, tell us that “the science is settled”?
    – Kerry Livermore, London , England, 11/1/2010 20:11

    Spot on! …… LOL

  27. SEA RISE CLAIMS IN COPENHAHEN BOGUS – so says Britain’s Met Office

    CLIMATE science faces a major new controversy after Britain’s Met Office denounced research from the Copenhagen summit that suggested global warming could raise sea levels by more than 1.8m by 2100.
    The studies, led by Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of ocean physics at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, have caused growing concern among other experts. They say his methods are flawed and that the real increase in sea levels by 2100 is likely to be far lower than he predicts.
    Jason Lowe, a leading Met Office climate researcher, said: “We think such a big rise by 2100 is actually incredibly unlikely. The mathematical approach used to calculate the rise is completely unsatisfactory.”
    The new controversy dates back to January 2007 when Science magazine published a research paper by Professor Rahmstorf linking the 17cm rise in sea levels from 1881 to 2001 with a 0.6C rise in global temperature over the same period.
    Professor Rahmstorf then parted company from colleagues by extrapolating the findings to 2100. Based on the 17cm increase that occurred from 1881 to 2001, Professor Rahmstorf calculated that a predicted 5C increase in global temperature would raise sea levels by up to 188cm.
    Critic Simon Holgate, a sea-level expert at the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, Merseyside, has written to Science magazine, attacking Professor Rahmstorf’s work as “simplistic”.
    “Rahmstorf’s real skill seems to be in publishing extreme papers just before big conferences like Copenhagen, when they are guaranteed attention,” Dr Holgate said.
    Most of the 1881-2001 sea-level rise came from melting glaciers that will be gone by 2050, leaving the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets as contributors. But contributions of these sheets to date has been negligible and researchers say there is no evidence to show that will change in the way Professor Rahmstorf suggests.
    Professor Rahmstorf said he accepted many of the criticisms. “I hope my critics are right because a rise of the kind my work predicts would be catastrophic,” he said.
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/sea-level-theory-cuts-no-ice/story-e6frg6so-1225817853987

  28. George E. Smith (15:16:24) :

    “Well if the ice and the water are in contact, wouldn’t you expect the water to be right at the freezing point. Or what is it that I don’t understand about phase diagrams ? Evidently those “Scientists” don’t understand it either.”

    If were water directly contacting the ice, I would agree. However, this article says they took readings at various depths. Sea water in particular seems very good at forming thermoclines, I suppose due to currents and tides, so their measurements seem valid to me.

  29. Sea ice is ice that is floating above the sea and is not land based. All of the sea ice in both the artic and antartic can melt without raising the level of the oceans. Only if the land based ice in anartica begins to melt will ocean levels be affected. Conversely, if temperatures in anartica continue to fall as they have been doing, the land based ice will probably continue to grow and we could see ocean levels fall. I believe I recently saw research that said the rate of increase in sea levels was deminishing. Maybe we are headed into a cooling phase and sea levels will begin to fall. Wonder how the AGW crowd will spin that?

  30. Antarctica holds enough water to raise world sea levels by 57m if it ever all melted, so even tiny changes are a risk for low-lying coasts or cities from Beijing to New York.

    Oh, so all of these places have contingencies in place, right? Since ocean levels WILL change regardless of what humans do. What? You mean they didn’t study history and are doomed to repeat it? Sucks for them.

  31. Bill the AGW crowd will “spin that out” simply by fudging the data as they have been doing all along. They don’t get paid millions of research funds to do nothing. Hopefully one day soon all this will be revealed as to what most of the climate research is up to these days – fraud on a large scale.

  32. Another couple dozen years of such research and they’ll suddenly discover stress fractures have something to do with ice shelves breaking up.

    So, in these hard economic times, isn’t it comforting to know that scarce dollars are being spent so wisely?

  33. omnologos (15:40:01) :

    “collected by elephant seals”

    Yes, and these are not your run of the mill elephant seals. They were highly trained to in the art of correct temperature device siting. Not wanting to look foolish like NOAA and their US surface stations they took extra precautions to train the seals to avoid air conditioners and barbecues.

  34. Mapou (18:38:41) : .. Ars Technica, a bastion of AGW propaganda, has an explanation for the unusually cold weather in the northern hemisphere and a picture showing how Greenland is abnormally warm.
    http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2010/01/why-the-us-and-much-of-europe-are-shivering-in-the-cold.ars

    I wonder how NOAA got those anomalies for December? The arctic temperatures for December above the 80 th parallel dont seem much higher in Dec 09 as in Dec 08, for example. And was Dec 08 very cold in Europe and America? Dont think so.

    http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php

  35. Great to see “The Two Keiths” mentioned!
    The hot water drill is powered by avtur, the same fuel used in the Twin Otter that takes it to the site.
    I’m not sure that anyone at BAS (other than, possibly, the awful dis-information department) has ever said that Antarctica is melting. They may have pointed out that various ice shelves have broken up recently but the “global warming” explanation has been wrongly inferred by media idiots, not the glaciologists involved (The Two Keiths).

  36. “This situation seems to be stable, suggesting that the melting under the ice shelf does not increase,” he wrote of the first drilling cores.

    Another smoking gun… (or freezing one)

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  37. Mapou>> Well, the analysis from ars technica is worthless if we do not know how these AO-patterns behaved in the 60s, the 40s and even further back.
    That’s why noone really can tell what this all means.

  38. It seems like researchers are followed by a parasitic flock of press release writers and journalists, like pilotfish on whales.

  39. …a parasitic flock of press release writers and journalists, like pilotfish on whales.

    Should be “like remoras on sharks,” Dirk. Pilotfish are free-swimming.

    I’ll refrain from making inappropriate references to everything mentioned (except whales) are scavengers.

    Ooops…

  40. Ron Dean (18:35:09) :….’However, this article says they took readings at various depths. Sea water in particular seems very good at forming thermoclines, I suppose due to currents and tides, so their measurements seem valid to me’

    Do we know about ocean cycles and/or variations in currents in that part of the world?
    Or at least know them as well (or poorly) as we know and understand the cycles in other oceans.
    The information they collect may be good quality, but how could we know how long we have to measure to cover a full cycle?
    How could we then tell if the first cycle was normal (or within normal variation)?

  41. Apparently the link I provided (at 23:41:16) was too long, or something – so, instead – and in case anyone’s interested in following (some of) the money – go to http://www.rbf.org/grantsdatabase/ first –

    => “Search for Grants”

    => “Program” /choose “Sustainable Development”

    => “Program Goals” /choose “Combating Global Warming” and “Submit”…

  42. “She said data collected could go into a new report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due in 2013-14”

    No bloomin’ likely! Has she learnt nothing from Climategate? The Cru will keep it out even if they have to “redefine the meaning of peer review.”

  43. Bill Yarber (18:51:28)

    “I believe I recently saw research that said the rate of increase in sea levels was diminishing. Maybe we are headed into a cooling phase and sea levels will begin to fall. Wonder how the AGW crowd will spin that?”

    You can see a record in the last couple of decades of both sea level and its differential, rate of change (yearly) at the very useful site climate4you:

    http://www.climate4you.com

    Click on “oceans” and go to the bottom of the page.

    Although there is a pronounced 4 yearly oscillation (what a surprise to find that in the ocean!) there is a distinct downward trend.

    I think it is an interesting possibility that rate of change of sea level is a sort of indicator of heat movement into the ocean surface layer, which is in turn a strong hint at the direction of imminent climate change (i.e. downward).

    In this context the following link is also interesting:

    http://climatesanity.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/sea-level-rise-rate-leads-global-temperature/

  44. kadaka (15:37:10)

    They could do, but the problem is getting them back. Underwater navigation systems are quite clever, but not that good – realistically you could predict its resurfacing position somewhere within a couple of hundred metres. Chances of getting it to pop up in the exact same place are minimal. You could use a tethered system, but then your range is limited. A reasonable compromise would be to drop one through the ice and then have it fly (swim) out to the edge of the shelf and pick it up there, but it would be cheaper to just use a bigger battery and fly in and out from the edge in the first place.

    And re: the elephant seals thing. It’s a remarkably cost effective way of getting data. The seals are creatures of habit, always returning to the same beaches for breeding every year, and always swimming the same routes out for feeding in the interim, so by tagging the same seals year on year (the tags are disposable – they fall off when the seals moult) you can get an idea of how the temperature and salinity profiles change over time. You would spend literally 100’s of times the amount of cash using a vessel to get the same amount of data, and the data quality is comparable to larger vessel deployed instruments. They should use more of them. But I’m biased. I make them.

  45. Seawater levels ?
    Now here is something that I cannot equate. If you fixed a point, say X miles deep and measured it continually by satellite, ( less water too many variables ) we would be talking about differences in fractions of a millimeter over a year, but I read that the level has risen by (Richard 18:28:29) 17cm from 1881-2001 what control could you put on the sea bed fluctuation. Can anyone enlighten me?
    I specially want to hear how these measurements were obtained in 1881.

  46. This is just raw data. Jim Hansen will be employed to adjust it with data from a pond in Central Park, NYC.

  47. Won’t be long before the EPA and the UN get their heads together and put out something about the poor endangered ice worm. We’ll be paying through the nose for their protection from extinction in no time at all. Reminds me of the coral problem but so much worse. Wonder why this hasn’t come up already. Maybe its just that someone hasn’t added them to the latest computer program and interpolated their pending demise from all that CO2.

  48. I guess simple ideas sometimes go right over some people’s heads.

    By Definition; the freezing point of a substance is that temperature at which the solid and liquid are in equilibrium. That takes care of the local pressure, impurities in the liquid, and or solid, and darn near anything else.

    So regardless of how deep the ice goes below the surface, changing the pressure at the interface; and regardless of the salt/mineral content of the water, the temperature at the liquid/solid interface is the freezing point under those conditions.

    And yes the only condition, is that melting of the solid, or freezing of the liquid is not occurring. If the temperature changes from the freezing point, either melting or freezing will occur.

    And yes not surprisingly, the water temperature around New Zealand, will not generally be the same as that right at the Antarctic ice shelf, ice/sea interface; but according to an argument in Galileo’s “Dialog on the two World Systems”; every possible temperature between the ice/water interface, and the New Zealand coast, will exist somewhere in between.

    Why do people insist on adding chaff to perfectly good wheat.

    The Horizontal Bridgeman or “Gradient Freeze” process, is a standard method of growing high purity single crystals from a liquid melt; where a temperature gradient is maintained between the hotter liquid “melt”, and the cooler solid crystal. The temperaqtures are slowly lowered, so the freezing temperature moves along the material as the crystal grows out of the liquid. And any impurities contained in the liquid, tend to concentrate in the liquid, and are expelled from the growing solid, by a “segregation coefficient”, which relates the solubility of the impurity in the solid and liquid.

    Exactly that process happens in growing sea ice, and the salt is expelled from the solid phase. And yes high salinity brine pockets may occur inside the bulk; but they are in the liquid phase, not the solid.

  49. What a great idea; use hot water to melt cold ice, so you can then measure the temperature of the melted water in the hole. Is that as big a hole as they could make. They could have laid some charges and blown a much bigger hole; maybe even a football field size hole; Then they would have much more earea of mush to sample and get a good average temperature for the whole pond. I’m sure a ne cm hole is big enough to lower any good thermometer down; and if they don’t screw up the site by artificially intorducing a whole lot of heat, then their data might be meaningful.

    And somebody’s tax money paid for this chicanery. Remind me to not donate to that University.

  50. Is there seriously 57m of potential water displacement in Antarctica? Is that disputable? Sorry for amateur hour. Waaaay OT, but I always thought Biblical/ Gilgamesh type floods were far fetched.

  51. So it looks like most of the “calving” will be done by elephant seals, when they’re not off collecting data of course.

    They’re smarter than we thought.

  52. Smokey, (05:46:18)

    Thank you for the link, but having spent a very eventful life I am not easy to convince. The world is so big I would think that perhaps one person in a million could begin to understand how big, I once sailed a schooner (47 meters) from New Zealand to Norfolk Island, we passed a underwater active volcano, the following:
    (1)We could see the bubble from plus minus 10 km, the ocean was several meters higher over the site.
    (2) The water temp. was at 10km 5C higher than 12 km,
    (3) The depth of the water was 6 km plus
    I think that this event will be happening at several points 24 hours a day,
    (4) I have seen waves in the North sea plus 30 meters
    (5) Off the Azores (North Atlantic) in a 85,000 ton ship we were driven back 70 km in 12 hours
    I offer 5 examples of many, this is only one persons personal experience, but if this is happening somewhere in the world today you cannot convince me that there are instruments that will show even a plus minus 1 meter variation in sea levels, and after all the last time I looked the moon was still up there.

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