Climate alarmists make major blunder in reporting Antarctica ice loss results

Antarctic_Melt-0acf6[1]Guest essay by Larry Hamlin

Total ice loss from latest study is “consistent” with, not “double” prior study measurements

Numerous recent climate alarmist articles addressing the recent study results reported for the new CryoSat-2 radar altimeter satellite methodology with increased land area orbital coverage capability for evaluating ice loss in Antarctica between 2010 and 2013 have made a monumental blunder in their reporting.

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http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/19/doubling-of-antarctic-ice

-loss-revealed-by-european-satellite

The big scary headline claim in almost all of these alarmist articles which screamed that the rate of Antarctica ice loss has “doubled” compared to prior estimates is wrong. The alarmist reporters have managed to confuse two distinct issues addressed in this latest study which dealt with both continental Antarctic ice loss as well as the contribution of this Antarctica ice loss to sea level rise.

This latest study (abstract link below) clearly establishes that the continental Antarctica ice loss estimates based on past satellite gravimetry surveys are “consistent” with the latest study radar altimetry total ice loss findings. Specifically the full study says:

“At the continental scale, the most recent estimates of Antarctic ice sheet mass balance are based solely on satellite gravimetry surveys [Barletta and Bordoni, 2013; Velicogna and Wahr, 2013; Williams et al., 2014]. According to these studies, the rate of ice mass loss from Antarctica has increased progressively over the past decade and, between 2010 and 2012, fell in the approximate central range 105 to 130 Gt yr-1. Our survey puts the contemporary rate of Antarctic ice sheet mass loss at 159 ± 48 Gt yr-1, a value that, although larger, is nevertheless consistent given the spread of the gravimetry-based uncertainties (16 to 80 Gt yr-1). A possible explanation for the discrepancy is the exceptional snowfall event of 2009, which saw an additional ~200 Gt of mass deposited in East Antarctica [Boening et al., 2012; Lenaerts et al., 2013; Shepherd et al., 2012] that, although absent from the CryoSat-2 record, does factor in the gravimetry-based estimates of imbalance.”

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL060111/abstract

Amazingly then and despite the bogus climate alarmist headlines to the contrary this latest study of Antarctica ice loss using new radar altimetry technology demonstrates that the total continental ice loss of Antarctica is “consistent” with prior measurements using gravimetry measurement technology.

The climate alarmist reporters misunderstood the total Antarctica ice loss picture from this latest study and provided incorrect information in their articles. They appear to have confused this latest studies reported sea level rise contribution estimate of 0.45 mm per year which is about “double” prior study estimates of 0.19 mm per year as being applied to ice loss values which is incorrect.

Additionally these alarmist articles completely fail to provide any distinction regarding the significant differences between the measured ice loss rates for the three distinct regions of Antarctica addressed in this study.

Over 98 percent of the total ice loss defined in this latest study is associated with the unstable West Antarctica and the Antarctic peninsula with West Antarctica alone representing about 85 percent of the total ice loss measured. These combined regions of Antarctica contain only about 10 percent of the total Antarctic ice mass.

The ice loss reported in this study for the massive Eastern Antarctica region which contains about 90 percent of the total Antarctica ice mass represents less than 2 percent of the total ice loss reported (-3 +/- 36 Gt. per year) with the uncertainty band being ten times greater than the nominal ice loss value reported. This outcome continues to support the findings of other studies, discussed below, of the ice loss in this region which have concluded that Eastern Antarctica is a more stable region of Antarctica which has not experienced significant ice loss and in fact has seen periods of significant increasing snow and ice accumulation.

One study (abstract link below) of Eastern Antarctica notes:

“In this study, we describe the causes and magnitude of recent extreme precipitation events along the East Antarctic coast that led to significant regional mass accumulations that partially compensate for some of the recent global ice mass losses that contribute to global sea level rise. The gain of almost 350 Gt from 2009 to 2011 is equivalent to a decrease in global mean sea level at a rate of 0.32 mm/yr over this three-year period.”

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2012GL053316/abstract

Another study (abstract link below) of East Antarctica notes:

“During 2003 to 2008, the mass gain of the Antarctic ice sheet from snow accumulation exceeded the mass loss from ice discharge by 49 Gt/yr (2.5% of input), as derived from ICESat laser measurements of elevation change.”

“The recent 90 Gt/yr loss from three DS (Pine Island, Thwaites-Smith, and Marie-Bryd Coast) of WA exceeds the earlier 61 Gt/yr loss, consistent with reports of accelerating ice flow and dynamic thinning. Similarly, the recent 24 Gt/yr loss from three DS in the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) is consistent with glacier accelerations following breakup of the Larsen B and other ice shelves. In contrast, net increases in the five other DS of WA and AP and three of the 16 DS in East Antarctica (EA) exceed the increased losses.”

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50559/abstract

This latest study concludes that the majority of the Antarctica ice loss results reflects the behavior of the unstable West Antarctica region. It is in fact the West Antarctica region which experienced the 31 percent increasing ice loss relative to prior study measurements.

Concerning this latest studies much lower ice loss measurements in both Eastern Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula the study provides a caution concerning the difficulty of obtaining accurate measurements in these regions noting:

“the average change in ice sheet mass remains small in comparison to expected fluctuations in snow accumulation (Table 1), which present an observational challenge to all geodetic techniques. Although the CryoSat-2 measurements allow an improved understanding of the drivers and timescales of ice sheet imbalance in these sectors, longer-period data sets are required to separate the effects of meteorological and ice dynamical imbalance [Wouters et al., 2013].”

The most recent satellite derived global sea level rise study available (abstract link below) determined that the rate shows no acceleration whatsoever in the period from 1992 to 2011 and amounts to only about 7 inches per century. Specifically this sea level rise study notes:

“We use 1277 tide gauge records since 1807 to provide an improved global sea level reconstruction and analyse the evolution of sea level trend and acceleration.”

“The new reconstruction suggests a linear trend of 1.9 ± 0.3 mm·yr- 1 during the 20th century, with 1.8 ± 0.5 mm·yr- 1 since 1970.”

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921818113002750#f0015

The authors of this latest Antarctica ice loss study estimate that the rate of global sea level rise contributed by their measured Antarctica ice loss results is about 0.45 mm per year which is about the thickness of a human fingernail.

The authors note that the higher sea level rise estimate from this studies ice loss measurements compared to prior study sea level rise contribution estimates of 0.19 mm per year “reflects both the improved capability of CryoSat-2 to observe regions of ice dynamical imbalance, and the impact of short- and intermediate-term changes in ice sheet mass.”

The alarmist articles in the news about the results of this latest Antarctica ice loss study incorrectly claimed that the rate of Antarctica ice loss was “double” prior study estimates which is wrong, failed to provide this studies information showing the rate of total measured ice loss was “consistent” with prior total ice loss estimates, failed to identify the significant distinctions between the ice loss behavior between the unstable West versus more stable East Antarctica regions, failed to identify that the majority of the ice loss measured was from the unstable West Antarctica region, failed to identify that it was the West Antarctica region that had experienced an increased ice loss rate compared to prior studies and failed to identify the reasons indicated in this study which account for the increased estimate of sea level rise.

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Please somebody spare the readers and do some heavy sub-editing. The verbiage doesn’t bode well for the accuracy of the post. In other words, I stopped reading at the 20th latest and 50th studies.

H.R.

Thanks for dashing my dreams, Larry. I was going to open a beach resort in Antarctica and make a killing on being the first in a hot new location ;o)

Bloke down the pub

‘The climate alarmist reporters misunderstood the total Antarctica ice loss picture from this latest study and provided incorrect information in their articles. They appear to have confused this latest studies reported sea level rise contribution estimate of 0.45 mm per year which is about “double” prior study estimates of 0.19 mm per year as being applied to ice loss values which is incorrect.’
You give the Grauniad too much credit by suggesting that they are merely stupid, when in fact they are being outright mendacious.

joelobryan

Whatever the mass loss is from Antarctica today and tomorrow, it is nothing compared to 14 kyr to 8 kyr ago when the seas were rising at an astonishing ~10 cm/decade (1 meter/century, 10 meters/millenium). That’s climate change you can believe in.
Fortunately today and tomorrow, +19 mm/decade (1.9 mm/yr, 3/4″ per decade) delta MSL is something that can be mitigated without a crisis. That rate assumes the WAIS continues on its long predicted path to “collapse”. Collapse in this case is tne geologic term of millenia.

LewSkannen

Link does not quite work.
(spam nazi chemtrail slayer lagos 419)

That “blunder” wasn’t a blunder. They just didn’t expect anyone to actually read and check the garbage driving the headlines.
Pointman

Greg

The point was that the new estimation was twice the old because it was based on more complete data and thus presumably more accurate.
They did not find nor report an increase in melting , simply a new estimation.
Maybe the article should make that point more concisely.

old trick to misrepresent the headlines then no one notices the correction a few weeks later

Oatley

B-b-but, what about the Natinal geographic photo of the Statue of Liberty up to her waist in water?
Splain that!!

George Lawson

I wonder how much of the MSM will have the courage to report on the error and retract the alarmist coverage which they were only too ready to push last week.

ConfusedPhoton

As usual the BBC blindly regurgitated the Guardian Alarmism on their News programmes!

observa

The iron law of Big Climate fizz-icks and their media units- The gigatonnes come and the gigatonnes go but the singular tone always remains the same.

Oatley says:
May 23, 2014 at 3:11 am
B-b-but, what about the Natinal geographic photo of the Statue of Liberty up to her waist in water?
Splain that!!
========================================================
!!

Richard111

C’mon folks! 150 BILLION TONNES of ice melting each year? What is the heat capacity of ice? And the heat capacity of sea water at say 3C? And what happens to very cold not so salty sea water? That should show up beautifully on the Southern Hemisphere sea surface temperatures. Any reports?

Stephanie Clague

If in doubt lie through your teeth, the public will never know and if they find out later so what because there will have been a dozen more lies coming out after that one, its all about keeping up the wall of lies and never issuing retractions.
Its all the rage in the Western world now, politicians and their bought and paid for ‘scientists’ lie to us and themselves so often its wonder they can remember their own names, a whole new make believe world of wishful thinking and delusion liberally drenched in industrial strength lies.
Its all bound to come tumbling down and as usual its Joe Six pack that picks up the tab.

hunter

So once again science proves skeptics are right and that the media are liars.

I’m not sure what the detailed basis of the claim is. But it was not invented by the Guardian. The press releases from ESA (European Space Agency) and Leeds University are here. Both begin:
“Three years of observations from ESA’s CryoSat satellite show that the Antarctic ice sheet is now losing 159 billion tonnes of ice each year – twice as much as when it was last surveyed.”

knr

The big scary headline claim in almost all of these alarmist articles which screamed that the rate of Antarctica ice loss has “doubled” compared to prior estimates is wrong’
No its was ‘right’ has in it was the right approach to take if you wanted a “big scary headline” which gives you maximum impact. IT IS NOT ABOUT THE FACTS , it’s about the impact the message has no matter how bad the message.
The mistakes some sceptics make is thinking that proving alarmist are factual wrong is enough , its not because their simply not basses their approach on their facts being correct in the first place.

David A

” Our survey puts the contemporary rate of Antarctic ice sheet mass loss at 159 ± 48 Gt yr-1, a value that, although larger, is nevertheless consistent given the spread of the gravimetry-based uncertainties (16 to 80 Gt yr-1). A possible explanation for the discrepancy is the exceptional snowfall event of 2009, which saw an additional ~200 Gt of mass deposited in East Antarctica [Boening et al., 2012; Lenaerts et al., 2013; Shepherd et al., 2012] that, although absent from the CryoSat-2 record, does factor in the gravimetry-based estimates of imbalance.”
Once again a field where different methods of observation producing different results , and the same methods also produce results different from each other. Bottom line is there has been no warming in the vast majority of Antarctica, and the southern oceans have, if anything, cooled. The error bars are likely underestimated. In ANY EVENT there is nothing alarming or threatening going on and SL rise is demonstrably unaffected by CAGW.

Georg

Dear folks
I am just a guest and rarely come here to this site due to lack of time, but the notice made me check some facts:
160 billon tons = 160 gigatons = 160.000.000.000 tons.
Now that is more or less equivalent to 160 km3
160 km3 compared to 26 millon km3 total antarctic ice mass (wikipedia) is as much as 0,000615%. So in 100 years it would be 0,0615% of antarktic ice mass which has gone lost. And in 1000 years not eaven 1%. Awfully shocking really. The problem seems to be that not eaven scientists take one minute to think about what they asess. Journalist – ok – nobody expects that.
Please rectify me if I am wrong.
A thank you from Spain for your worthfully work.

@Nick Stokes – the ESA statement is fairly ambiguous, but written poorly enough that it led to the gross misinterpretation by the press. It is entirely possible that it was an innocent mistake all around as those in science are not reporters. However, the alarmism of the Guardian indicates that intentional or not, their story is bunk.
Which is not proof of incompetence of any scientific agency, just incompetence in the press.

Stephen Skinner

“They appear to have confused this latest studies reported sea level rise contribution estimate of 0.45 mm per year which is about “double” prior study estimates of 0.19 mm per year as being applied to ice loss values which is incorrect”
Maybe, but the quibble is over something so small.
The Japanese Tsunami reached heights over 40,500 mm
How much worse would it have been if the Tsunami was 40,500.45 mm high instead of 40,500.19 mm?

EHhhhh. The lost Ice is growing back again right now, cause the SH summer is at an end and winter is setting in. Oh yes, almost forgot, wasn’t there some kind of ship that got stuck in ice down there during the last – very hot – summer???

Bruce Cobb

The blunder lies in the veritable snarknado their shoddy, misleading, alarmist reporting has caused, thus hurting their Cause even further.

ralfellis

Let me get this straight, because the article above is not very clear.
So…… The rate of Antarctic ice-loss is remaining steady at about 160 gt/yr. And this steady rate of ice-loss has caused the rate of sea-level rise to increase from 1.9 mm/yr to 4.5 mm/yr.
Did I miss something? WUWT???
I think someone needs to clarify the rate of ice-loss in surveys prior to this new one. What exactly was the previous figure?
And why do the Grauniad et al concentrate on ice loss, when Antarctica gained 350 gt of ice between 2009 and 2011. This sounds less like “ice loss” and more like “variability”.
R

carbon bigfoot

IMHO ice accumulation or depletion has nothing to do with sea levels. Tectonic plate movement has everything to do with measurable sea movement. Only engineers and geologists who work in the real world can appreciate the fact, while you scientists jerk off in immeasurable insignificant tiny mms!!

Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story…

Bill Illis

The traditional mass balance for Antarctica was losing 200 billion tons per year or an increase in sea level of 0.5 mms/year.
A new consensus estimate was published last year that arrived at a loss of 71 billion tons or 0.19 mms/year in sea level rise. This new estimate used an improved glacial rebound model based on GPS measurements which showed rebound rates were only about half that assumed in the previous model.
So, the current paper is about twice the previous, well-accepted estimate from last year but it is lower than what would have been quoted 2 years ago for example.

Box of Rocks

Too late the damage is done.

Bill_W

“range 105 to 130 Gt yr-1. Our survey puts the contemporary rate of Antarctic ice sheet mass loss at 159 ± 48 Gt yr-1, a value that, although larger, is nevertheless consistent given the spread of the gravimetry-based uncertainties (16 to 80 Gt yr-1).”
I don’t quite understand if the range is 105 to 130, how the spread is 16 to 80 (with errors added is what I presumed). At any rate, using the upper bound of 159 + 48 = 207, we now know that it is somewhere between 16 and 207 Gt yr-1 for 10% of Antarctica over some very small stretches of time using several fairly new techniques that should be better than the old but are still in development. Interesting science but as with so many of these measurements, they don’t really know the answer within a factor of 10.

Oceans rise. Ice melts.
Don’t see any sort of evidence that anything being done by humanity, especially the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere is the major, or even minor contributory, cause.

Resourceguy

As I suspected, gravimetry is not a very accurate approach.

alex

Anybody understood what Larry tried to mumble? Where is the “blunder”?

Ralph Kramden

I don’t think this is a blunder, it is inline with the warmist “lie and exaggerate” policies.

Steve

The damage is already done. They have now resorted to “headline” journalism, even though the stories themselves refute the gleaming headlines of doom. One readers catch a glimpse of “Melting! Oh Noes!” at CNN.com, it sticks in their mind and affects their opinion going forward.

phlogiston

They’re grasping at straws in desperation.
Its not the Antarctic but the CAGW circus that is falling apart and they know it.
The Antarctic is doing just fine, thank-you.

dp

A fool and his data are soon punted.

Chris R.

As most readers of this blog know, the mass loss rate from
Antarctica sounds large. “160 BILLION tonnes lost per
year!!” sure sounds big. Bust, as Georg
above put it in perspective, this is a very tiny fraction of the
enormous ice sheet covering the continent.
The whole thing about sea level rise drowning cities, island,
countries is exaggerated. Haven’t these people ever heard
of seawalls? Ask the Dutch about those; a large fraction
of their country has been reclaimed from the sea.

RogueRat

How about them Red Sox?

Steven Hoffer

Am I the first one to ask… we are expected to give credence to numbers where the uncertainty is 30% of the supposed loss of ice?
My car gets 30 miles to the gallon, but actually it could be 20… or 40.
That is not useful.

MikeUK

To go from an ice mass loss to a sea-level rise is a bit tricky. At the moment (and maybe for several centuries to come) most of the ice being lost is already underwater, hence no rise in sea-level from that part. You’d probably have to have major calving from ice shelves to get any significant sea-level rise, but all the time new ice is being added by snowfall and direct conversion of water vapour to ice.
I might start to worry about volcanoes in that area …

CRS, DrPH

We are all penguins now. (/sarc)

Philip Schaeffer

What we really need here is some more mostly uninformed speculation, and some ideological dialogue. That should sort it out.
Or some people who actually know enough about this to provide some insight into the issue.

DavidG

Thanks George, maybe they meant ounces of ice!!:)

DesertYote

The reporters misunderstood nothing. They are not interested in informing, but in propagandizing. The misrepresentation of the study is deliberate. These guys do not care about facts. All they are interested in is making the world safe for Socialism and that requires the destruction of free market capitalism and individual self determination.

milodonharlani

Bill Illis says:
May 23, 2014 at 5:28 am
Thanks for those data.
If the mass loss is really that low, then the EAIS should actually be gaining mass. The 159 GT estimate broke it down such that, IIRC, only about three GT came from the massive EAIS, with the rest from the WAIS & the Antarctic Peninsula.

Larry Hamlin:
Should not the following sentence in the article above

“This latest study (abstract link below) clearly establishes that the continental Antarctica ice loss estimates based on past satellite gravimetry surveys are “consistent” with the latest study radar altimetry total ice loss findings. “

be corrected to say:

“This latest study (abstract link below) claims only that the continental Antarctica ice loss estimates based on past satellite gravimetry surveys are “consistent” with the latest study radar altimetry total ice loss findings. “

As written, the first version simply reinforces what the alarmist-publicity propagandists are pushing.

TonyG

And how many of the general public will ever know, or even care, that the headline is incorrect? All they will remember is that things are getting worse, because that’s what they’re being told.

Let’s use some real sciency units of measure.
I need to know how many Hiroshima bombs it takes to melt 160 billion metric tons of ice.

Louis

“Our survey puts the contemporary rate of Antarctic ice sheet mass loss at 159 ± 48 Gt yr-1”

Is that the total amount of ice lost or is it the “net” loss after subtracting for ice gain? The wording is confusing to me. The ice gain in 2009 of “~200 Gt of mass deposited in East Antarctica” was greater than the ~159 GT of estimated yearly ice loss. So how unusual was 2009? How much snowfall usually occurs each year? And is that accounted for in their estimate of ice loss?
It would be less confusing if they reported the total volume or mass of land ice in Antarctica. Then we would know if it is increasing or decreasing beyond the margin of error. The rate of increase or decrease could also be estimated over time from the volume/mass estimate. Are they still unable to make a reasonable estimate of total Antarctic land ice mass or volume?