Amazing Grace

By Steven Goddard,

The headline reads “NASA Satellites Detect Unexpected Ice Loss in East Antarctica

ScienceDaily (Nov. 26, 2009) — Using gravity measurement data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission, a team of scientists from the University of Texas at Austin has found that the East Antarctic ice sheet-home to about 90 percent of Earth’s solid fresh water and previously considered stable-may have begun to lose ice.

Better move to higher ground! NASA also reported :

“Antarctica has been losing more than a hundred cubic kilometers (24 cubic miles) of ice each year since 2002” and that “if all of this ice melted, it would raise global sea level by about 60 meter (197 feet).“

In 2007, NASA generated this map (below) of Antarctica showing just how hot it is getting down there in the land of Penguins.

Now I am really worried! But wait……. There are a few minor problems.

Assume for a minute that we accept the GRACE numbers. The first problem is Antarctica contains a lot of ice : 30 × 10^6 km³. At 100 km³ per year, it will take 300,000 years to melt.

The next problem is with the NASA temperature map. From the NASA articleThe scientists estimate the level of uncertainty in the measurements is between 2-3 degrees Celsius.” They are claiming precision of better than 0.05°C, with an error more than an order of magnitude larger than their 25 year trend. The error bar is large enough that the same data could just as easily indicate rapid cooling and blue colors. That will get you an F in any high school science class.

And that is exactly what happened. The hot red map above was preceded by a cold blue map which showed Antarctica getting cooler. What motivation could NASA have had to change colors without mathematical justification?

NASA justified their heating up Antarctica with this comment :

This image was first published on April 27, 2006, and it was based on data from 1981-2004. A more recent version was published on November 21, 2007. The new version extended the data range through 2007, and was based on a revised analysis that included better inter-calibration among all the satellite records that are part of the time series.

As I have already pointed out, this is absurd. Their error bar is so large that they could have painted the map any color they wanted. Apparently someone at NASA wanted red.

But why are we looking at temperature trends anyway? The real issue is absolute temperatures. Some of the regions in which GRACE claims ice loss in East Antarctica average colder than -30°C during the summer, and never, ever get above freezing. How can you melt ice at those temperatures?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Antarctic_surface_temperature.png

I overlaid the Antarctica summer temperature map on the GRACE “melt” map, below. As you can see, GRACE is showing ice loss in places that stay incredibly cold, all year round.

The problem with GRACE is that it measures gravity, not ice. Changes in gravity can be due to a lot of different things beneath the surface of the ice. Antarctica has active magma chambers. Plate tectonics and isostasy also cause gravity changes.

We should be clever enough not to be blinded by technology. The claims that ice is melting in East Antarctica don’t have a lot of justification.

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R Shearer

This study rubs me the wrong way.

Ray

“How can you melt ice at those temperatures?”
With a volcano… or a blow torch!

Steve in SC

As usual, they are lying through their teeth.

latitude

I wish these nut jobs would put half this much time, money, and effort into at least trying to do something worth while……………
“”“Antarctica has been losing more than a hundred cubic kilometers (24 cubic miles) of ice each year since 2002” “”
and frankly no one has noticed.
I guess the moral is, don’t go to sleep on the beach……

You don’t have to melt ice to reduce its quantity. Ice will sublime directly into water vapor when it’s cold enough, the winds are strong enough, and the effect lasts long enough.

Chris B

A cold dry wind will sublimate the ice away, given enough time.
Perhaps wind has an effect on the Antarctic ice as it seems to have an effect on the Arctic, to a degree.
OK I’ll stop the sarcasm.

phil

This is really starting to piss me off, why don’t NASA do their own job, as space association, and let NOAA fudge the data themselves, kapeesh?

Gary

Actually, in too many high school science classes erroneous assumptions will get you an A. That’s part of the reason why part of the public swallows these mangled half-truth stories.

Leon Brozyna

NASA lies.
It’s a good thing they weren’t under oath to present “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
Leaving out that tiny little fact that with 30 million km³ it will take 300,000 years for it all to melt serves to create a feeling that there’s a need for panic, a rush to fix an imaginary problem. In other words, a lie.
300,000 years. Hmmm … I wonder how many ice ages our descendants will face during that time.
Oh, how silly of me. We’ve already been told how we’ll be extinct by 2050, that the planet will become like Venus. Right.
Perhaps the high priests of climate “science” need to change the animal whose entrails they’ve been examining.

John Knowles

Does anyone monitor volcanic activity below the sea-ice? The British Antarctic Survey have sometimes quoted seismic activity which could possibly explain detachment of floating sea-ice from the land born ice. Is it unreasonable to suggest that sub-sea eruptions could thin the underside of the ice shelf? The air above could remain below minus 10ºC all year but the ice become thinner.

JAE

“They are claiming precision of better than 0.05°C, with an error more than an order of magnitude larger than their 25 year trend. The error bar is large enough that the same data could just as easily indicate rapid cooling and blue colors. ”
It is simply astonishing that this kind of CRAP is being published. We are in more trouble than I even thought (and I’m REALLY pessimistic).

DRE

Am I maths deficient or are they claiming to be able to make a reliable measurements to six decimal places?

JDN

Can we get some anti-alarmist legislation making it a civil offense to overstate official scientific reports based on some easily defined circumstances, such as this one. We already consider this academic dishonesty. Why not apply it to government. It would make the most interesting congressional debate.

Mike G

Gosh. Not only is the BP spill insignificant compared to the volume of water in the gulf of mexico, it is insignificant compared to the volume of antarctic ice that somehow figures out a way to melt at << -20 deg-C !

Mike G

I wonder if GRACE looks at any landmasses that have no ice and finds them melting at comparable rates?

richcar 1225

The accelerating land ice melt scenario poses a problem for sea level rise because if too much is attributed to melting land ice then the steric component due to increasing sea temps must be reduced. The only solution is to exagerate the rise to 3 cm/ year to accomodate both scary scenarios.
http://www.argo.ucsd.edu/global_change_analysis.html#temp
Looking at the mass component of sea level rise from 2004 to 2008 as determined from Grace it appears that it reaches its largest amount in the fall when the Antarctic land and sea ice should be at its highest. Does this make sense?

David Smith

When the time comes to cut American government spending, and that time is coming, I know a bureau and a university which are deserving candidates for cuts.

In this article from the Mail & Guardian, in which the study’s author, Jianli Chen, of the University of Texas at Austin was interviewed;
http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-11-23-worlds-largest-ice-sheet-melting-faster-than-expected
this statement jumped out at me;
“The scientists used a computer model to take account of ongoing movements in the Earth’s surface caused by the retreat of glaciers at the end of the last ice age. Uncertainties in the model gave the scientists only a broad estimate of ice loss in the East Antarctic ice sheet of between five-billion and 109-billion tonnes a year.”
It is then used to justify the claim that:
“The East Antarctic ice sheet, which makes up three-quarters of the continent’s 14 00 square kilometres, is losing about 57-billion tonnes of ice a year into surrounding waters, according to a satellite survey of the region”
Nice to be accurate within an order of magnitude or so… Seems like another garbage model to me.
Also interesting is that Jianli Chen also turns up in this 2006 Washington Post article touting his model showing a rapidly melting Greenland ice sheet:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/10/AR2006081001557.html
Between Jianli Chen and Jinlun Zhang we seem to identified the primary sources of most Earth’s supposed ice losses…

David

Mike G , great question. Also, antarctica is basically an archipelago, and as tides move in an 18 year cycle this to could affect the very percise numbers claimed; as well as magma movemments within the mantel.

jorgekafkazar

Johannes Rexx says: “You don’t have to melt ice to reduce its quantity. Ice will sublime directly into water vapor when it’s cold enough, the winds are strong enough, and the effect lasts long enough.”
Wrong. Cold ice temperatures reduce sublimation.

C Colenaty

I wonder as to the likelihood that the melting of five or ten percent of the Eastern might lower the temperature of the oceans sufficiently to bring about a glacial period.

Keith Minto

Johannes Rex,
From Sci-tech Encyclopedia

Sublimation is a universal phenomenon exhibited by all solids at temperatures below their triple points. For example, it is a common experience to observe the disappearance of snow from the ground even though the temperature is below the freezing point and liquid water is never present. The rate of disappearance is low, of course, because the vapor pressure of ice is low below its triple point.

As Chis B hinted ,more like wind ablation than sublimation.

Amino Acids in Meteorites

I know NASA is an arm of the government and the government (at present, but that’s changing) uses global warming to pass laws and regulations it wants. But where is the NASA that made the earth stand still to see a man take a step onto the moon?!

jeef

All together now:
M-I-C
K-E-Y
M-O-U-S-E
Mickey mouse study from a mickey mouse organisation trying oh-so-desperately hard to retain some relevance and funding.
This is just so unscientific.

hunter

How do you melt ice when it is below freezing?
By the magic that is AGW, and its satanic gas CO2.
With CO2, you do not need temps to be above freezing for ice to melt.
With AGW any new information, whether warm or cold, above or below freezing, wet or dry, is always proof that the world is facing a climate catastrophe.

Robert

Are you kidding me? This analysis is completely and utterly without scientific merit. I’m usually relatively interested in Goddard’s work but this is without a doubt a time when I can’t agree in the slightest. Antarctica (like most anyone knows) does not lose the majority of its ice through melting but rather through marine terminating glaciers having their ice go over the grounding lines. Antarctica does not even allow for significant melting due to temperatures being too cold. When you see accelerated mass losses like in Antarctica, it is due to increases in glacier velocity without subsequent increases in input ice. Thus more ice leaves then is replaced by meteorological conditions. The acceleration of glaciers in Antarctica is due to many reasons. In some regions it is due to the removal of buttressing ice shelves, in others it is due to grounding line retreats associated with increased subsurface ice melt by warming waters. There are also instances in the antarctic peninsula where there is melting occurring but because of its low resolution, grace does not see the mass loss as significantly as it has been.
Overall, to approach this topic in the manner that Goddard has is simplistic and shows that he did not read into the core literature which suggests why West Antarctic in particular is losing ice. As an individual who studies glaciology and has done so in Antarctica, I find it very important for individuals to become informed on the issues there, therefore I ask that this post be revised so as to not misrepresent what scientists are saying about what causes mass changes in the region.

Robert

To clarify that is warming ocean waters which has been remarked in numerous studies off the coast of the WAIS (see rignot et al. 2008a or b, Allison et al. 2009 and so on…)

anna v

There is an anomaly for the geoid given by GRACE:
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GRACE/page3.php
It is the difference for the month of August of 2002 from the average of the year for 2001 for the whole globe.
So on a scale of tens of meters, (as the GOCE plot of two months shows in the other thread,) anomalies are of the order of mms all over the globe. Models are fitted on these anomalies and give the estimates shown. These are gravity anomalies. The ones around Antarctica are used by this team to sell AGW. We are not shown the fits for other parts of the globe, which also must be changing according to the GRACE geoid. Maybe North America will be accumulating ice since there are positive anomalies there?
It seems very risky to me to assign these anomalies to ice melts, when the underlying continental shelfs may be redistributing on these scales. I know that Africa approaches Europe something like 2cms a year. From wikipedia plate tectonics:
The lateral relative movement of the plates varies, though it is typically 0–100 mm annually.[1]
Tectonic plates are able to move because the Earth’s lithosphere has a higher strength and lower density than the underlying asthenosphere. Their movement is thought to be driven by the motion of hot material in the mantle. Lateral density variations in the mantle result in convection, which is transferred into tectonic plate motion through some combination of drag, downward suction at the subduction zones, and variations in topography and density of the crust that result in differences in gravitational forces. The relative importance of each of these factors is unclear.
Bold mine.
The research is interesting, the interpretation smells.
Seems to me there must be a policy decision to push the AGW panic button on all fronts.

Mike

SG asked: “The real issue is absolute temperatures. Some of the regions in which GRACE claims ice loss in East Antarctica average colder than -30°C during the summer, and never, ever get above freezing. How can you melt ice at those temperatures?”
Keith Minto above pointed out that ice can be lost through sublimation. But also the ice sheets flow. They do not sit still. Ice from the interior flows toward to coasts. Warming along the coasts can affect the flow rate of ice from the interior.

Robert

My statements regarding mass losses being due to glacier accelerations have been proven without a doubt by Rignot et al. 2008a and b in which differential interferometric synthetic aperture radar is used to tangibly SHOW the increases in velocity measured using Radarsat, ERS 1 and 2, and Alos Pulsar. Finally, if this mass trend is incorrect as Goddard indicates, then why would the flux-gate method, the gravimetry method, and altimetry methods all have results which are extremely similar? Allison et al. 2009 summarizes all the studies which have been done on the mass balance of antarctica and only one method even suggests any gain and that study terminated in 2003 and was using low resolution radar altimetry instead of laser altimetry meaning basin level changes (such as on Pine Island Glacier, Thwaites Glacier and Smyth Glacier) could not be effectively seen or calculated.

Grace finds amazing scapegoat indeed. But it’s a lie. Look at the present temperature anomalies down there, exactly where the big melting is supposed to take place.

It looks like the cold spot is exactly where the big melt is supposed to take place. Whom are they kidding!?

Olaf Koenders

To every complex problem, there’s a solution that’s simple, neat and wrong..

pat

How can you have an error factor higher than the claimed change? This is preposterous. And the hot zones all appear to be shelf ice. Yawn. How about some measure of continental ice? And is the Eastern sea temps really above normal? This is a desolate area, with few measuring devices. The sats indicate the sea temps are falling. So why do they appear to be rising here?

jeff brown

Steve, where do you find that the temperature uncertainty in the satellite-derived temperatures are 2-3oC? You don’t see that in the links you provided. Where did those numbers come from?

rbateman

-may have begun to lose ice.
Funny how a maybe is taken as a reason to declare catastrophic melting in subzero temps.
197 feet sea-level rise will happen in a blink of an eye, because fossil fuel C02 is a time-warp gas left here by visiting aliens bent on giving man something to destroy the planet with.
Great sci-fi stuff there.

JPeden

“if all of this ice melted, it would raise global sea level by about 60 meter (197 feet).“
By now, I’d put more stock in Rain Dances.

James Sexton

Keith Minto says:
June 29, 2010 at 8:13 pm
“As Chis B hinted ,more like wind ablation than sublimation.”
Either way, that ain’t melt. Which, I believe, was Mr. Goddard’s point. Which in itself is funny, in a sad, pathetic way.
People actually earn a living, with our tax dollars, in an institution that is supposedly our best and brightest, and they apparently don’t understand that ice loss doesn’t equal to ice melt. They’re so wrapped up in “temp anomalies” that they can’t check an actual thermometer? It’s probably just as well. If they did look at the thermometer, we’d probably have to pay for a study that states CO2 has changed the properties of H2O to where it melts at much cooler temps now or some other such nonsense.

Robert

Funny my comments are still awaiting moderation despite an individual who commented after me having theirs accepted. Yet my comments have a substantial scientific basis and show actual flaws in the analysis compared to the other individual’s being a rant about AGW proponents. Not being accusational but I did try to put a lot of time and energy into the post for it to not appear…
ryanm…ur wish is my command…

ES

The ice in Antarctica moves. At the South Pole it moves nearly 10 meters a year. Every year on New Years day they move the location of the pole as can be seen in the picture here:
http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/photo284509.htm

You don’t need either sublimation or melt to lose ice mass, and in this case the mass loss is not a result of either, but rather a result of ice thinning at outlet glaciers. This was initially detected by radar altimetry and later confirmed by satellite laser altimetry.
See this Nature paper: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nature08471.html

Matt

I have a question for those in a position to determine the answers.
If you spread 100 cubic kilometers of ice across the entire surface of the east Antarctic ice sheet, how thick would it be? And just for giggles, given the conditions in Antarctica, would that much sublimation on an anual basis be a realistic possibility?

richcar 1225 says:
June 29, 2010 at 7:50 pm
The accelerating land ice melt scenario poses a problem for sea level rise because if too much is attributed to melting land ice then the steric component due to increasing sea temps must be reduced. The only solution is to exagerate the rise to 3 cm/ year to accomodate both scary scenarios.
http://www.argo.ucsd.edu/global_change_analysis.html#temp
Looking at the mass component of sea level rise from 2004 to 2008 as determined from Grace it appears that it reaches its largest amount in the fall when the Antarctic land and sea ice should be at its highest. Does this make sense?

Interesting to see at your link that the steric component is now estimated to be 1/3 of sea level rise. IPCC AR4 had it at just under 1/2. I did some calcs on this and found the rise in sea level due to thermal expansion (steric component) would require much more excess energy than co2 could account for, event at IPCC inflated sensitivity values. It must have come from increased insolation, i.e. less tropical cloud cover.
But the new value gives more to melting, even though there is the dropping off of temperature and levelling out of ocean heat content globally since 2003. If they are right, it does mean significantly higher arctic temperatures, yet ice there increased in 2008 and 2009. I note the graph at your link only runs to 2008…
Perhaps they just keep fiddling with the proportions of the attributions so they can quote whichever study is convenient for the scare du jour.

Michale Cejnar

I agree with JDN – we need to start looking at alarmist statements legally.
Alarmist statements have a real impact on society and individuals just as false representation does in commerse – in fact worse, because we can’t choose to not purchase the product – it is foistered on us with authority.
If NASA carries on business in any way, then their statements might fall under the US equivalent of the Australia Trade Practices Act. As many people invest based on these statements, maybe they could be construes to fall under corporations laws of financial institutions laws.
Were NASA’s statement touting an investment prospectus or a product, omiting the fact that Antartica would take 300,000 years to melt would be an omission of a material fact . If this was a prospectus, in Australia this would be a criminal offennce.
Are there any US lawyers who can comment on any prospect of forcing truth using existing laws?

Keith Minto

ES says:
June 29, 2010 at 10:08 pm
The ice in Antarctica moves. At the South Pole it moves nearly 10 meters a year. Every year on New Years day they move the location of the pole as can be seen in the picture here:
http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/photo284509.htm

Now isn’t that interesting !,worth an investigation by itself, 10 metres eh , bet it is moving north.

jeff brown
The quote is in the linked NASA article.

I get it now. Antarctica isn’t warming, melting and raising sea level. It is actually cooling, sublimating and not raising sea level.
And ice 1000km inland is rapidly finding it’s way to the sea at outlet glaciers with temperatures averaging -50C during the year.
And NASA has done everything they could to make sure that people understand that this has nothing to do with CO2 or global warming.
LMAO

Willis Eschenbach

I have a different problem with this study. I don’t find that it makes sense that the gains and losses would be where they are claimed to be:
1. Why is there a gain of 2 mm of thickness just inland of the place where there is a loss of 2 mm of thickness?
2. Why is there a gain of about a mm of thickness out in the ocean at the top of the image?
3. Why is there a “nimbus” of light blue (ice loss) on both sides of the West Australia Peninsula. The eastern side generally has lots of ice, while the western side usually has none … how can they possibly be losing ice at the same rate?
4. How can the ice loss at sea be the same as the ice loss on land? Why is there no change in loss at the point where the ice leaves the land and starts floating in the ocean?
5. The general trend over the period of the study was an increase in Antarctic sea ice area … why does this not show up in the GRACE graphic? Surely if it can tell us the difference of 1 mm in sea ice thickness, we should be able to the increase in sea ice.
For me, it doesn’t fly. I’d have to see a lot more data before I’d believe that this GRACE data is ready for prime time.
Finally, they have chosen a color scheme that paints everything within about ± 1 mm from zero the same color green … if (as they claim) a 1 mm loss is the size of the signal they are discussing, that’s enough less than helpful as to suggest deliberate action.

churn

“The ice in Antarctica moves. At the South Pole it moves nearly 10 meters a year. Every year on New Years day they move the location of the pole…”
Isn’t this because of the wobble in the earth’s axis? Also, just an observation from a research trip in the austral summer of 1977-78. When I was working in the Dry Valleys on the coast of Antarctica the sun’s radiation was so intense during the peak of summer that the glaciers would send a stream of melt water down the valley and the noise of rushing water could be heard for miles. As the sun sunk lower on the horizon as summer came to an end, the mountains would cast a shadow on the glacier’s tongue and the sound of rushing water would cease abruptly. This sudden cessation of noise was surprising, almost as if a switch was turned off. It was fascinating to me how the sun’s energy and the glacial ice/water was in such a delicate balance. The cause and effect seemed obvious at the time; never occurred to me that CO2 was involved.

Brian Angliss
The GRACE map shows thinning nearly a thousand kilometers from the coast. That has nothing to do with outlet glaciers.