Record Antarctic ice: Mawson base might have to relocate


Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The record busting growth of Antarctic ice is threatening the viability of Australia’s Mawson Antarctic research station.

According to The Australian;

Satellite observations show a new daily record being set for ­Antarctic sea ice every day for the past two weeks. Annual records have also been broken every year for the past three years.

Rob Wooding, general manager of the Australian Antarctic Division’s Operations Branch, said expanding sea ice was now causing serious problems.

Last year, fuel supplies were flown to Australia’s Mawson base by helicopter because the harbour had failed to clear. Dr Wooding said the situation was “unsustainable”.

He said it was possible for the Aurora Australis icebreaker to break through a certain amount of sea ice to enter the harbour, and the planned capability of a replacement icebreaker would increase the ability to do this.

But conditions experienced last year of thick sea ice, with snow cover, extending out 40 to 50km could not regularly be navigated by any Antarctic resupply vessel.

“If we were to face such a situation at Mawson for three or four successive seasons, it would be unlikely that we could continue to resupply the station under the current operating model,” he said. “Unless we could find an alternative resupply strategy, questions would arise as to the ongoing ­viability of the station.”

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You might think the rapid increase in ice contradicts previous claims that Antarctica is warming. You might be worried that if global warming continues to force massive growth in Antarctic ice, other bases might also have to consider moving. Some bases might even have to close.

Thankfully, most climate models indicate Antarctic ice is melting – we just have to wait for the observations to agree with the theory.

128 thoughts on “Record Antarctic ice: Mawson base might have to relocate

    • The Australian Govt is planning to send copious amounts of dry ice to keep them warm and melt the ice via back radiation once released. Prof Turney is to organize the delivery. He is to be accompanied by The Guardian.

  1. feeling so bad for our friends down under – first they are ordered by the UN to stop mining coal and now they also may have to give up their South Pole base. Life is going to get tough for them.

  2. Press reports claimed that the Arctic is melting because of “global warming”, while the ad hoc excuse de jour for record Antarctic sea ice is stronger katabatic winds.
    If an allegedly warmer atmosphere is to blame for less Arctic sea ice, then how does it not also melt the Antarctic?
    Antarctic sea ice has about five times as much effect on planetary albedo as Arctic.

      • @ren
        There are no katabatic winds in your chart, which depicts winds at 70hPa, up in the stratosphere. Not much effect on weather from up that high.
        Here’s the chart which properly depicts surface winds in the Antarctic:,-90,250
        Big difference. Your upper air winds are much faster and zonal (parallel to latitude lines), whereas surface winds are much slower and meridional (making large angles with latitude lines).
        These winds may be katabatic (generated by dense air being pulled down a slope by gravity), but as such the temperature of these winds rises as the air descends due to lapse rate warming.
        Even with this extra warming, the Antarctic is currently so cold that the ice is still expanding. The surface temperature anomaly chart (base 1981-2011) explains this better than words:,-90,250

      • @opluso
        Click on the word ‘earth’ in the lower left corner to get a menu, then click on ‘grid’. This will draw a dot-grid with 1/2 degree spacings. Mouse on any point on the map will return coords for that point. Note that many map projections are available. I’m using ‘O’ (orthographic). Data comes from NOAA/NWS/NCEP GFS and RTG-SST.

    • Neither has much effect on albedo. There isn’t that much area, and there isn’t that much solar radiation to reflect.
      Clouds provide most of earth’s albedo.
      Also, ordinary grass has about the same reflectance as non new snow (>72 hours old).
      Now, as for the local reflectance; particularly in the arctic, the coming and going of the sea ice, or land ice may have a perceptible local effect; but no big shakes globally.
      I ce is way over rated, specially when it comes to radiative cooling.

    • Would not stronger katabatic winds actually tend to disperse the ice further out to sea? Like all the other excuses something does not seem to add up here.

      • Axelatoz

        Would not stronger katabatic winds actually tend to disperse the ice further out to sea? Like all the other excuses something does not seem to add up here.

        Antarctica is a continent some 14.0 million sq kilometers – The US and Canada together are only 18 Mkm^2 – only slightly larger.
        The katabatic wind theory (climate makes stronger winds come off of the Antarctic highlands, the stronger winds blow sea ice away from the coast, the newly exposed open water near the coast freezes up … therefore, climate change (the rest of the world getting 0.1 degrees warmer causes a 43% increase in Antarctic sea ice between 1992 and 2015 ….
        Yeah, right.
        Katabatic winds do exist, and where they are strongest, they do blow from the interior out over the sea ice towards open water. But the open water is hundreds (and in places) thousand kilometers from the coast. And there are actually only a few places along the coast where such winds are common.
        it is like blaming Boston’s pack up of sea ice off of Cape Cod in February on Seattle’s winds blowing down from Mt Rainier in January because the Gulf of Mexico was 1 degree hotter in July the year before. When the excess sea ice off of Boston is the size of Greenland.

  3. God help us all when it comes to the real question of whether a scientific research station is worth maintaining in the face of expanding polar ice.
    Because the next question is what we do when the ice reaches someplace where we actually need to be.

    • Such as Cape Horn?
      Probably few actually need to cruise past it in the winter. It was passable during LIA summers. It was named for a recently lost Dutch ship:
      Bounty couldn’t make it in 1788 and despite becoming part of the clipper ship route, it remained deadly dangerous, as shown by this historic wreck in 1819:
      Had San Telmo made it to Peru, the history of South America might have been changed.

      • Just how recently ??
        I was on a Dutch ship named Johan van Oldenbarneveldt, in Feb/Mar 1961; its last voyage. When it got home to Holland, after dropping me off in Manhattan, it was sold to a Greek shipping line, and renamed the Lakonia. They took it to the Adriatic, and sailed it around the Greek islands.
        It caught fire in a storm at night, and the Greek crew jumped off the ship in the lifeboats, and left the passengers to it.
        The Lakonia sank with about 700-800 souls aboard.

      • George,
        I’m at a loss as to understand what that tragedy has to do with the history of attempts to make it through Drake’s Passage during the Little Ice Age.

      • The “recently” above refers to the ship’s having been lost just before the Dutch expedition made the first voyage through the Passage, ie almost 400 years ago.

      • “””””…..
        May 12, 2015 at 2:33 pm
        I’m at a loss as to understand what that tragedy has to do with the history of attempts to make it through Drake’s Passage during the Little Ice Age…….”””””
        And I’m at a loss to understand what Francis Drake , or the little ice age, has to do with “recently”.
        To some people, “recently” means since they last saw President Obama speak on television.

  4. Nope, still nothing about it on the BBC! This is as close as they got:
    By the way, to all Americans, lots of reports in our press here in Britain today that the BBC’s days (in its current form) are numbered. The new government here has appointed a Culture Secretary who is a little anti-BBC, and reports today also say that technology will make the licence fee redundant.

  5. ‘and the planned capability of a replacement icebreaker ‘, given their past claims about melting ice I would have thought a row boat would have all the capability needed not something which can break through ‘thicker ice’ that the current boats .

    • What if the ice reaches a tipping point?
      Like, last winter’s ice not having time to melt before
      this winter’s ice arrives?
      The Warmists will have conniptions. The icebreaker
      will have bigger problems.

  6. You do know, of course, they will do a complete 180 as soon as they can’t hide the truth abou the cooling planet. Then all blame for the cooling will be blamed on? CO2 of course! It will always be the hook into a global dictatorship. Nothing else matters.

  7. Don’t suppose they could just use a long hose….
    Most of the Allied fuel in W.W.II was delivered by a 4 inch hose pipe from the UK to France…. it was a major strategic win and great secret… For one little base I would expect a 2 cm hose would be enough…

  8. It just gets better and better folks. Prediction – reality bust, prediction – reality bust etc.
    The latest out of Oz, annoubced in the same news bulletins as the “Deadly Antarctic Ice Threatens Oz Base” story is the “Deadly El Nino Threatens Oz Farmers”. The ‘models’ show a 4 fold increase in the rate of sea surface temperature increase from May to about July than in the months preceding, just when they make the announcement. Its snowing down to 300 m in Tasmania and to 6 or 900 in the Alps, earlier than usual and for the second time in the past few weeks but the dams will dry up and it will be warmer than usual etc… apparently.
    I called this sort of modelling results “Deus ex Machina” recently. Actually “LUPUS!! ex Machina is more appropriate.

  9. “Thankfully, most climate models indicate Antarctic ice is melting – we just have to wait for the observations to agree with the theory.”
    The ice is melting from the bottom up so you just can’t see it. Or is the melting causing fresh water that is causing the freezing? I just can’t keep up.

    • rbabcock
      I chose the same quote:
      “Thankfully, most climate models indicate Antarctic ice is melting ”
      All they need then is to build a model fuel supply and model food deliveries so they can maintain model people and model trucks. My grandson thinks model trucks are cute. It’s a small world after all!

  10. This post is so out of date – please keep up if you want to be taken seriously.
    [??? .mod]

  11. You enjoy the analogy in my letter in the Australian newspaper today.
    “The world’s leading Antarctic supply teams and scientists who are meeting in Hobart this week should prepare for the current trends in Antarctic sea ice to continue for some decades as the current solar grand minimum deepens (“Antarctic bases battle ­record ice”, 12/5).
    They also should ignore the modelling of climate scientists as interpreted by the Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre. Current climate change modelling is about as helpful for understanding what is happening in the Antarctic as a colonoscopy would be for understanding what is happening in our brains.”

  12. I do have to admit that it IS rather novel that the planned new icebreaker – presumably planned by the previous administration – was intended to break through thicker ice then the current one. Of course, it is possible that they were anticipating that the US would decommission its expected to be unnecessary icebreaker – global warming, Antarctica melting, ice free Arctic, you know the story – and turn it into hand shovels and people drawn plows to replace the earth moving and farming equipment that would be melted down to prevent carbon emissions. Fascinating world we live in. too bad the only sane people in it seem to be the ones in the mental health wards.

  13. There is some noticeable cooling going on in the Arctic at the moment.
    The jet stream looks to be setting up NE Canada and the northern Atlantic for a outbreak of this cold air over the next few days. The signs that there has been a switch to cooling seem to be growing.

      • Yes, I did. The principle is the same.
        There is a the record high in Antarctic Sea Ice.
        The record high in Antarctic Sea Ice is a sign of climate change caused by man’s emissions, apparently.

    • The CO2 and the Ozone hole, both man’s fault, altered the winds creating the record ice around Antarctica
      Wow, Guardian, nice job explaining that problematic record ice away. And people wonder why so many have entered the ‘denial’ camp.

    • Dose any body know what the climate models say is the cause of the cooling of the 5th biggest Continent on our planet to the point of it having to be evacuated? Well that’s what climate models are for????????

  14. Ozone layer hole – winds – shifting the ice – all due to CO2 Apparently! That’s what they’re claiming in the UK Guardian.
    More Antarctic sea ice is global warming.
    Less Arctic sea ice is global warming.
    More or less sea ice – wherever it is doing, is due to global warming.

    • As everyone that has followed the “research,” there is nothing that isn’t caused by global warming, be it less sex, more sex, no sex, or whatever you can think of, someone has written a paper that conclusively shows that it is caused by only manmade carbon dioxide – not the stuff that comes out of volcanoes or rolls up off forest fires, just fossil fuel based carbon dioxide. No, no, don’t hold your breath, that carbon dioxide apparently still is okay since the politicians and “consensus climate scientists” spew tons of that.

      • Tom O,
        Ref sex.
        Honestly NOT taking the mickey here but I am sure I read that AGW/CAGW/GW and BAR etc causes more prostitution…
        I really am not making that up….

  15. Sadly, they have so many oars in the water that the boat sank from the weight. Their theories contradict each other and that elusive silver bullet remains lodged in their dreams. Good blog as always.

  16. Should they put up more wind thingies or take the ones they have down?
    Either way, if they have to move it was caused by “The Change”.

  17. Fear not Antarctic researchers, for this morning, with much delight, our Bureau of Meteorology has announced a major El Niño event. Board shorts and cold beer for the troops at Mawson.

    • yeah, full on hype an ABC..however I see on the ENSO widget the levels DROPPED back again from the slightly over 1 to now dead ON the 1 marker
      curiously the first el nino the Bom waffled over also occurred as the meter dropped below the .5 at that time:-0 and it had been a shade over prior.
      its all in the timing
      Bom poor timing.LoL

  18. The ABC in Australia could not help itself when reporting on this. The reporting was based on increasing sea-ice, but the banner on the screen was that increasing sea level was threatening Antarctic bases!

  19. In the early to mid 19th century, ships regularly reported seeing icebergs off the south coasts of Africa and Australia, where none have been seen in the 20th century. Probably, what happened is reductions in sea ice allowed icebergs from icesheets to break free into the open ocean. This indicates to me that prior to the mid-19th century, Antarctic sea ice was considerably more extensive than the 20th century onwards, and that the SH warmed along with the NH at the end of the Little Ice Age.
    It’s hard to attribute any cause for this, except natural climate cycles. And the current increases in Antarctic sea ice indicate we are returning to LIA conditions.

    • I figure that the farther out into the open ocean that the Antarctica sea ice forms ….. then the greater the chances are that the wind, wave and gravitational (tidal) forces will cause it to fracture off resulting in icebergs floating away.

  20. “Professor Tony Worby, chief executive of the Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre, said expanding Antarctic sea ice had not been ­expected initially with climate change, but was now better understood.”
    Rinse, repeat, the science is settled folks, but our esteemed Professor is just coming to a ‘better understanding’ on behalf of us all.

    • Charlie
      There’s a very good post over at Climate etc. which demolishes the economic case for wind power (exposing the fact that it can only survive by subsidy).

  21. The Klimatariat’s propaganda arm requires dismantling.
    ‘Researchers said the icy barrier being formed around the continent was due to windier conditions.
    ‘Scientist Tony Worby said those conditions, and consequent ice formations, were a side-effect of climate change.
    “We do know that the strengthening winds around Antarctica are being driven by decreases in ozone and increases in greenhouse gasses,” he said.
    “Both of those are a result of human activity.”

  22. Reminds me of the inevitable floods in Oz after the long general drought and Tim Flannery’s pontifications that with global warmening there wouldn’t be enough rain to cause runoff and fill our dams. As one wit put it- I’m having trouble clearing away all this water to find the drought underneath Tim.

  23. “You might think the rapid increase in ice contradicts previous claims that Antarctica is warming.”
    No. One has to do with temp on the land, the other on the sea. And the amount of cold fresh water in the upper layers which freezes early. A little complicated for ya?

    • Where is this cold fresh water coming from. Only one of Antartica’s glaciers is melting, and it’s the smallest one. For the continent as a whole, land ice is increasing.
      [Well, 4 glaciers are advancing quickly. Around a continent as large as sub-Saharan Africa. .mod]

      • Glaciers advance most quickly when the weight on the upper reaches increases. More snow and ice

      • When sea water freezes the salt is left behind thereby increasing the salinity/density of the water around the new ice.
        But I wonder how the purported sub-glacial fresh water sources make it out to the edge of the ice in winter — often tens of kilometers away? It would seem unlikely that glacial melt/freshwater is the source of the large increases in sea ice (unless katabatic winds push the shore ice seaward, etc.).

        • opluso

          But I wonder how the purported sub-glacial fresh water sources make it out to the edge of the ice in winter — often tens of kilometers away? It would seem unlikely that glacial melt/freshwater is the source of the large increases in sea ice

          They do not want to answer your question – because the answers betray the false claim that fresh water is repsonsible for the huge increases the past 23 years in Antarctic sea ice area.
          Not tens of kilometers from shore. The “average” Antarctic shore is right at 66-67 south. The edge of the Antarctic sea ice is “a little further” at 58-59 south at maximum, at 67-68 south at minimum – when the summer melt has FINISHED. Thus, at maximum, the edge (where the sea ice is newly freezing), when degree of latitude around the 14 million sq kilometer continent is 6-8 degrees latitude x 111 kilometers per degree. (For an average obviously. Many areas are freezing far past that “average” distance.)
          And the closest areas – the areas of the ocean that would be most diluted by runoff of freshwater – are exactly the areas with the LEAST newly-freezing sea ice! That freshwater, should it actually be running off from shore glaciers – is nearly pure right at the coast, right under the glacier tip – and it is ONLY those very, very few areas where runoff freezing is actually seen. Areas that are NOTat the edge of the sea ice extents.

    • Trafamadore is anagram for fart aroma. Maybe that’s the answer to Antarctic ice growth – fight back with some methane and particulates.

  24. I guess Turney’s Ship of Fools did a service after all. Getting the Ozzie icebreaker stuck in the Antarctic summer ice was an unwitting guinea pig test. And I mean unwitting with a dozen exclamation marks. I note the leading Antarctic researchers meeting in Hobart didn’t include the South Ozzie U “centre of excellence in climate science”. You know, you get a little mean when you have been assaulted with all this nonsense for years. Sorry.

  25. All the CAGW computer models predicted Glooooobal Waaaarming would melt sea ice at BOTH poles…
    Arctic sea ice flux is simply sinusoidal, roughly following the AMO/PDO 30-yr warm/cold ocean cycles. Since the current 30-yr AMO warm cycled peaked in 2007, Arctic sea ice has steadily grown, and will continue to so for the next 30+ years as the AMO approaches its next 30-yr cool cycle around 2022… The PDO entered its 30-yr cool cycle in 2005 and Arctic sea ice has been increasing on the Pacific side of the Arctic ever since…. Ooops..
    Science still doesn’t understand why Antarctica sea ice is setting records, although it IS known the CAGW hypothesis was 100.000% wrong in predicting Antarctic sea ice would decrease due to CO2 induced gloooooobal waaaarming..
    How much longer will the disconfirmed CAGW hypothesis be taken seriously??? NONE of its predictions are coming even CLOSE to reflecting/explaining reality.

  26. “How much longer will the disconfirmed CAGW hypothesis be taken seriously??? NONE of its predictions are coming even CLOSE to reflecting/explaining reality.”
    Do keep up. You need to stop dwelling in the past and move on to a higher plane with a ‘better understanding’ of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change and extreme weather. Just look out the window occasionally, watch the weather report and feel Gaia’s wrath and understand the need to sacrifice more money to placate her.
    Look on the bright side. You could be a superfluous, ignorant Aztec minion.

    • Ah, yes… All peasants must sacrifice their lives to the goddess Gaia…
      Do all peasants need to die? Can’t we just sacrifice a few virgins to appease Gaia like our ancestors did?….
      97% of our ancestors agreed human sacrifice was the answer… The 3% being sacrificed didn’t much care for the idea, though… They called them “deniers”, too…

    • The infinitely flexible, omnipotent “climate change” theory explains all things, and hence explains nothing.
      Maybe we need to wait for a new generation of young scientists to rebel against their elders and return to science that remembers the now minor things like hypothesis, experiment, data, falsification, and so on of the apparently outdated Scientific Method we older fools learned about in school so many decades ago.

  27. Never hear anything about Indian Ocean cycles and their effects on the planet (apart from nino/nina cycles). Does this mean that the “science is settled” on this part of the planet and it has negligible effects on world climate?

  28. It must be the revenge of Odin.
    A few years ago the largest Swedish icebreaker Oden was sent to Antarctica to assist scientists with their research into global warming. In 2011 it was recalled because the warming had produced record sea ice in the Baltic and all the other breakers together couldn’t cope.
    Now the research stations themselves are under threat.
    Delicious, delicious irony.

  29. OT Was I the only person to note how quickly the Met Bureau declared that we now had an El Nino. Our ABC jumped on it in a flash. No more rain this year for the east coast – allegedly.

  30. Who will provide backup for misguided summer political science field trips? Call in the Americans when things go wrong.

  31. Mt Erebus is an active volcano in Antarctica that reaches 3,794 metres (12,448 ft) above sea level. The gasses venting from this volcano include carbon dioxide (~1.5%) as well as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide. Such volcanoes are also know emitters of hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acids. Mt Erebus even has its own observatory and website –

  32. Imagine the tipping point when CO2 starts precipitating out of the atmosphere above Antarctica when temperatures drops below CO2’s freezing point? More and more CO2 would be taken out of the atmosphere reducing the greenhouse effect making it colder thus accelerating the removal of CO2. Then all the plants will die! Snowball earth! We’re DOOMED!
    [freezing point? .mod]

  33. It is all due to warm water sinking to the bottom of the Southern Ocean & pushing to the surface ice forming cold water !
    Trust me ! I am a “respected” scientist mentored by “respected” scientific genius Tim Flannery !

  34. “Thankfully, most climate models indicate Antarctic ice is melting – we just have to wait for the observations to agree with the theory.”
    Be scared, very scared! But, don’t hold your breath!!

  35. Replace the bases with computer models of bases, resupplied with models of icebreakers.

  36. ‘Up down and around’ alright-
    originally published here
    “Sea ice is notoriously difficult to model or “forecast” because it sits at the boundary of the ocean and atmosphere. Wind, waves, temperature, ocean currents and tides all make sea ice difficult to predict.
    Small errors in any one of these variables in a forecast model can quickly translate into large errors in sea ice, and from the perspective of a ship’s captain, receiving wrong information is worse than receiving no information.”
    Get a grip Tony Worby, et al because that’s what many of us have been trying to tell you for some considerable time with your ‘settled science’, not least with jumping to conclusions about Arctic sea ice changes. So receiving wrong information is worse than receiving no information [and wanting us all to throw billions of dollars worth of resources around on that basis presumably?]

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