Guest essay by Larry Hamlin
During May three new scientific papers appeared addressing results of studies of Antarctica ice loss which sent the alarmist media into a feeding frenzy of ill-informed, exaggerated and erroneous print and broadcast climate reporting panic.
The first two papers were released on May 12 and resulted in ludicrous claims being made by the major news media with the big three anchors including NBC Brian Williams warning that sea level would rise by 13 feet by the year 2100 while ABC’s Diane Sawyer chimed in that Florida would be hit by three or more feet of sea level rise and CBS’s Scott Pelley bemoaning that a large part of Antarctica is melting and can’t be stopped.(1)
These May 13 broadcasts were supposedly based on these two new released studies which addressed research on West Antarctica ice loss involving six specific glaciers.(2)
One of the studies was published in Science and involved use of computer simulations to model behavior of the Thwaites and Haynes glaciers to examine ice loss behavior. The results suggested that early=stage collapse of these long known to be geologically unstable glaciers had begun with sea level rise impacts of 0.25 mm per year likely over the 21 century and that somewhere in the next 200 to 900 years onset of sea level rise increase of 1 mm or more per year could begin.
This study specifically cautions that the simulations used were not coupled to global climate models and as such these simulation results do not constitute a projection of future sea level rise impacts.
The second study was published in Geophysical Research Letters and involved use of satellite radar tracking analysis of ice movement and thickness for the Pine Island, Thwaites, Haynes, Smith, Pope and Kohler glaciers in West Antarctica. The study noted that these glaciers constitute about 1/3 of the West Antarctica ice sheet which is equivalent to about 4 feet of potential sea level rise impact.
This study found that over the last 41 years the ice loss from these six unstable glaciers has increased. The study specifically noted that until numerical ice sheet models with realistic oceanic forcing are able to replicate these observations, projections of the evolution of this sector of West Antarctica should be interpreted with caution.
Neither of these studies made any claims regarding sea level rise projections related to these results and in fact cautioned that such assessments were not part of their efforts. Furthermore neither of these studies made any claims that man made climate change was responsible for these findings.
Notwithstanding the very specific qualifiers and cautions contained in both of these studies including cautions regarding the lack of projections of future sea level rise the print and broadcast media “freaked out” with absurd claims of future sea level rise impacts that were not only completely unsupported by these studies but more importantly they were not even addressed in these two studies.
In addition to the NBC, CBS and ABC news anchor absurdities noted earlier the BBC claimed that sea level would rise by 1.4 meters by 2100 and The Guardian claimed that sea level would rise by 4 meters. Based on the material contained in the two published studies the alarmist claims made by NBC, ABC, CBS, BBC, The Guardian and many other news organizations about these West Antarctica studies can only be viewed as ill-informed, exaggerated and erroneous. It seems clear that no one involved with these news organizations made any effort to actually obtain, read and evaluate the information contained in the two studies.(3)
On May 19 another study was published in Geophysical Research Letters which addressed the results of new satellite radar altimetry measurements taken over the entire Antarctica continent during the period 2010 through 2013.(4)
The results showed that the total ice loss across the entire continent during this period was “consistent” with prior measurements taken using different satellite measurement technology. The results also showed that the West Antarctica region was experiencing by far the largest amount of ice loss, about 85% of the total with the ice loss about 31% greater than during the period 2005 -2011, the Antarctica Peninsula being about 13% of the total loss and the vast Eastern Antarctica region being only about 2% of the measured loss.
The study noted that the measurements of ice loss in the Antarctica peninsula and Eastern Antarctica regions were more difficult to determine and that for a variety of technical reasons longer time periods would be needed to improve these measurements. Further and as was the case with the previous two studies discussed this third study makes [no] assertions about man made climate change being responsible for the studies findings.
Based on these results the study performed an assessment of the expected change in sea level rise contribution from these latest continent wide ice loss measurements. The results showed the sea level rise contribution to be 0.45 mm per year versus a prior estimates of 0.19 mm per year. The change of 0.26 mm per year is equivalent to about 1/2 the thickness of a human fingernail.
The news media again went into action and botched the reporting of this third study just as they had done regarding the first two studies. The Guardian and the BBC both wrongly claimed in screaming headlines that the study showed that Antarctica ice loss had doubled since the last measurements. It is hard to explain how they could have managed to make such a dumb mistake other than complete incompetence by the news organizations.(5), (6)
The manner in which these three Antarctica studies were reported and broadcast by the news media can only be characterized as an extraordinary example of what climate alarmism and climate science propaganda looks like.
It is clear from how these alleged news reports were handled that the news organizations involved are pushing political and ideological agendas that have nothing to do with objective climate science reporting.