Antarctic warming and greenhouse gas connection: ‘we lack sufficient evidence’; but the ice sheet will collapse anyway

The huge West Antarctic ice sheet would collapse completely if the comparatively small Amundsen Basin is destabilized, scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research find

From the POTSDAM INSTITUTE FOR CLIMATE IMPACT RESEARCH (PIK) comes this gloom and doom scenario, which was likely prepared before they had a chance to read the latest study that suggests things aren’t so bad in Antarctica after all, and that ice mass there is actually gaining according to ICESat data.

But here’s the money quote:

“So far we lack sufficient evidence to tell whether or not the Amundsen ice destabilization is due to greenhouse gases and the resulting global warming,”

Right, but let’s continue to issue gloom and doom press releases based on model simulations. What they neglect to tell you in the PR is that this is a simulation that runs thousands of years into the future, as seen below:

antarctica-ice-shelf-collapse

I think maybe it’s time to just ignore Schnellenhuber’s PIK pushers.

Local destabilization can cause complete loss of West Antarctica’s ice masses

The huge West Antarctic ice sheet would collapse completely if the comparatively small Amundsen Basin is destabilized, scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research find. A full discharge of ice into the ocean is calculated to yield about 3 meters of sea-level rise. Recent studies indicated that this area of the ice continent is already losing stability, making it the first element in the climate system about to tip. The new publication for the first time shows the inevitable consequence of such an event. According to the computer simulations, a few decades of ocean warming can start an ice loss that continues for centuries or even millennia.

“What we call the eternal ice of Antarctica unfortunately turns out not to be eternal at all,” says Johannes Feldmann, lead author of the study to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “Once the ice masses get perturbed, which is what is happening today, they respond in a non-linear way: there is a relatively sudden breakdown of stability after a long period during which little change can be found.”

“A few decades can kickstart change going on for millennia”

This is what is expressed by the concept of tipping elements: pushed too far, they fall over into another state. This also applies to, for instance, the Amazon rainforest, and the Indian Monsoon system. In parts of Antarctica, the natural ice-flow into the ocean would substantially and permanently increase.

Ocean warming is slowly melting the ice shelves from beneath, those floating extensions of the land ice. Large portions of the West Antarctic ice sheet are grounded on bedrock below sea level and generally slope downwards in an inland direction. Ice loss can make the grounding line retreat, thereby exposing more and more ice to the slightly warmer ocean water – further accelerating the retreat.

“In our simulations 60 years of melting at the presently observed rate are enough to launch a process which is then unstoppable and goes on for thousands of years,” Feldmann says. This would eventually yield at least 3 meters of sea-level rise. “This certainly is a long process,” Feldmann says. “But it’s likely starting right now.”

The greenhouse-gas emission factor

So far we lack sufficient evidence to tell whether or not the Amundsen ice destabilization is due to greenhouse gases and the resulting global warming,” (Bold by WUWT) says co-author and IPCC sea-level expert Anders Levermann, also from the Potsdam Institute. “But it is clear that further greenhouse-gas emission will heighten the risk of an ice collapse in West Antarctica and more unstoppable sea-level rise.”

“That is not something we have to be afraid of, because it develops slowly,” concludes Levermann. “But it might be something to worry about, because it would destroy our future heritage by consuming the cities we live in – unless we reduce carbon emission quickly.”

###

Article: Feldmann, J., Levermann, A. (2015): Collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet after local destabilization of the Amundsen Basin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS, Online Early Edition) [DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1512482112]

Weblink to the article once it is published: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1512482112

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97 thoughts on “Antarctic warming and greenhouse gas connection: ‘we lack sufficient evidence’; but the ice sheet will collapse anyway

    • Not so silly is the moment of publication. It will be around in the media and powering all the good-willed but gullible greens in Germany and Europe. And Mutti (Mommy) Angela will again do what the media says and be the Klima-Kanzlerin and saye the world in Paris.

  1. I wonder if they even cited any of the research showing that the WAIS is inherently unstable due to geothermal heating. Are they even aware of this fact or would that be considered blasphemy?

  2. “But it might be something to worry about, because it would destroy our future heritage by consuming the cities we live in – unless we reduce carbon emission quickly.”

    Or we could not destroy the economy, and if the sea level did rise the cities could gradually adapt through seawalls or other means over the course of the centuries that this model represents.

    • That was my favorite take-away quote too. Göbekli Tepe is only 7,500 years old, and there’s not much left of that. Does anyone believe Venice or NYC will look this good when so aged, even if not inundated by rising seas?

      • Buildings, especially modern ones, last less than a century. Let the existing buildings wear out, and then rebuild them further inland. At less than 1 foot a century, we have many centuries to adapt.

    • New Orleans is below sea level, and they just rebuilt it at huge expense.
      Moving a wrecked city is not without precedent, and yet it was not even considered, even though the city sinks more every day, and is in the band of highest hurricane landfall history in the Atlantic basin.

      • Yes menicholas, we must preserve our authentic Bourbon St. heritage. In a warming world, our grandchildren may never know double vision.

  3. In a few thousand years, earth will probably be well on its way into the next glacial period deep freeze and our descendants will be looking for all the warming they can get.

  4. At least the Potsdam Institute read the memo to prepare for the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference. Shame on NASA for not reading the memo.

  5. I’m sure there’s something dumb about this idea but I’ll put it out there anyway: Why don’t you take the difference in the sea level rise before and after 1950, multiply by the ocean surface area and then figure out the heat required to melt the associated ice into water? Then match to the corresponding CO2 difference to get the rate of doubling for “human” influenced warming. Maybe not the most intelligent method but hey I’ve seen worse….

    • That is not a bad idea, and the ones to do would be the climate alarmists. Perhaps they already have done it and found out there was no difference – in fact that I believe is the result.

    • 4.13 x 10^17 joules / KM^3. What does that number represent? That is the energy it takes to convert one cubic kilometer of continental ice from -30 oC to water at 4 oC

      Maths here – https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/06/03/el-nino-strengthens-the-pause-lengthens/#comment-1953030

      Reason it will not work is trying to compare something like all that ‘Missing Heat’? Ocean heat content and it’s supposed increase of about 2.5 X 10E23 Joules since 1970 (IPCC AR5).

      So 2.5 X 10E23 Joules / 4.1342 x 10E17 Joules/KM^3 = 604,712 KM^3

      Well that sounds like a lot of ice, but Antarctica has between 26 and 30 million and Greenland has 2.5 million of those KM^3, so in reality it works out to 604,712 / 30,000,000 = 2.02% of the total.

      http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2000/HannaBerenblit.shtml

      Please tell me to what accuracy in percentage has the volume of ice has been measured since 1970?
      And now we have confirm our belief there is no missing ice, so no Missing Heat.

    • The total amount absorbed by ice-melt right now is equivalent to something less than 0.05 W/m2/year.

      This compares to the direct forcing in 2015 estimated to be 2.30 W/m2/year and the feedbacks that should be occurring given the temperature increase of a further 1.705 W/m2/year …

      … So, all the ice-melt of all ice-sheets and glaciers on land is absorbing just over 1% of the forcing that is supposed to be showing up.

    • Isn’t one of the problems for the warmists that their predictions for increase in CO2 and consequent temperature rise is based on models predicated on laboratory results not matched in the real world atmosphere, so working out the amount of heat required to melt x amount of ice against the increase in CO2 is meaningless. The models don’t work and don’t include the geothermal energy from the sub ice cap volcanoes.

  6. Collapse of the WAIS is possible.
    It just requires:
    A) A molten underside due to volcanism.
    B) A large shake du to an earthquake.

    Neither is impossible. But they aren’t linked to AGW.
    So let’s prepare for adaptation anyway. Cheap energy and strong economies for the whole world.
    That’s the prudent course.

    • MC, only in your wildest (skeptical, I agree with you) imagination. WAIS spans several geological features/ zones. It is ~1/3 of a continent; imagine California squared. No earthquake has ever been that large. Even the Siberian and Deccan flood basalt traps were not that large–and they were BAD! WAIS collapse is not remotely in Fortune’s climate cards. Although warmunists keep trying to assert it might be. As here. They just show how unanchored from reality they have become. Regards.

    • The WAIS has collapsed about 60 times in the past 5 million years, as the marine sediments show us. Yes it will happen again and it wasn’t caused by penguins driving cars.

      • “The WAIS has collapsed about 60 times in the past 5 million years”

        No it hasn’t. That is just hype. The last time it (perhaps) happened was more than a million years ago and it probably happened a few more times during the warmest part of the Pliocene. Check the ANDRILL-1B core (the only one with relevant marine sediments).
        There is an embarrassing lack of any concrete evidence for WAIS collaps in the reasonably recent past. There is even ice older than the last interglacial (when the WAIS is supposed to have collapsed) in West Antarctca.

    • “…enough to launch a process which is then unstoppable and goes on for thousands of years”

      Isn’t that proof enough of yet another tipping point? How much model proof do we need before we start signing cheques? Can you imagine having to rebuild city infrastructure after only 10,000 years?

      • “Here is the ‘hype’:”

        Sorry but You have misunderstood the abstracts (which admittedly seem to be written so as to to be misunderstood). There is evidence for 41 kyr climate cycling in the AND-1B core during the Pliocene and Early Pleistocene and there is evidence of a number ice-free periods in the Ross sea during the Pliocene, but there is NOT evidence in the core for ice-free periods every 41 kyr, far from it. There is one long ice-free period in the mid Pliocene (the well known “Pliocene warm interval”) and three briefer ice-free intervals before it in the Early Pliocene and seven after it in the Late Pliocene at irregular intervals, the last about 2.5 million years ago. After that there is just one very short interval wiith a probably ice-free Ross Sea just over a million years ago during the very warm MIS 31 interglacial.

    • Hopefully the Arctic gains will continue a pace and it will be cold for Paris, just like it was for Copenhagen. Could badly do with some Gore effect blizzards..

      • Yes, definitely. Either just before to stop them arriving or at the end to stop them leaving. But of course, it will be ‘weather’ or proof that rising temperature causes more cold. And the great mass of the people as indicated elsewhere on WUWT will not be interested anyway. Only when the scam comes closer to home does it become relevant. Ask a former British steelworker how it feels to be one of the 3.4 jobs killed off by green energy taxes. Perhaps they can get employment cleaning solar panels or sweeping up the bird and bat carcases at the foot of the windmills.

    • It seems to me that the only thing atypical about this year’s Polar sea ice is that the Arctic minimum occurred a bit earlier than usual and the Antarctic peak sea ice seemed to happen a few days later than average date.

      • Such a complacent measured statement.

        Remember, if the reverse happened, alarmists and their news services would be screaming the news from the rooftops and celebrating the death of mankind.

  7. At least the recent NASA study made it onto the Telegraph on-line edition. See

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/climatechange/11970682/NASA-reveals-that-Antarctica-is-actually-gaining-ice.html

    What is needed is for someone to point out that according to the satellite data there has been no statistically significant warming of Antarctica throughout the entire record (about 36 years)!

    O/T but in view of Paris, it will be interesting to see the October update for the satellite data. Obviously, the land based thermometers will show that it is the warmest year ever (on record), but the satellite data is likely to paint a different picture especially if the present Strong El Nino has yet to have a significant impact on Southern Hemisphere average.

  8. ROFLOL….. ” and MORE unstoppable sea level rise”. Just what does that mean other than Alarmist drivel? Who knows what technology man will have a thousand years from now if the Progressives/Dems/Catastrophists don’t bring an end to good science. Besides, the odds are extremely low they have enough information and understand this complex process enough to make more than a biased WAG at will happen 1000 years from now.

    • The worm will turn…
      No matter how much control these elite climate fearmongers may think they have over press and propaganda, nor how much power they assume for themselves, they should reflect that the Third Reich and all it’s might, fell far short of it’s thousand- year billing. That’s not to say that the world will suffer less at the hands of these modern fools who would be king.

  9. We shouldn’t be afraid of space monsters either, but it might be something to worry about because they could destroy our planet with some type of advanced weaponry. Ya never know. Better safe than sorry.

  10. Would it be better to collect data for a better understanding for the money spent on this simulation. ??
    It seems there is nobody who will tell him that this is ridiculous.

  11. Ocean warming is slowly melting the ice shelves from beneath, those floating extensions of the land ice

    What ocean warming, there is none? I can fib too and quote Arctic ice had been melting due to cooling oceans around the area.

    Most ocean temperatures surrounding Antarctica are showing well below normal.

    So far we lack sufficient evidence to tell whether or not the Amundsen ice destabilization is due to greenhouse gases and the resulting global warming

    Oh dear, the most reliable Antarctic ocean temperatures show no warming for many years. Hence, global warming that has failed to do so with observed data, without deliberate tampering has had no affect on Antarctic Circumpolar Current. (ACC)

    Real observations don’t count though, it’s only what the model shows obviously because we don’t do any science. If we actually did science then we would have to show that it doesn’t support our ridiculously alarmist claims and never has.

    Our simulations mean absolutely nothing because we don’t have a clue how the climate will behave here and have been showing we are wrong all the time. We have to use a model because it doesn’t support scientific method and we want to continue the non-science in climate pseudoscience.

    “A few decades can kickstart change going on for millennia”

    You people don’t not have a clue, a few decades is only half of a small natural climate cycle and after it will likely reverse it’s trend for the next few decades. There is no science in can, maybe or if, as these words particular highlight significant doubt. A few decades has shown to have changed nothing around Antarctica, so why should a further few decades kick start something that has not even happened? Cherry picking a few decades and projecting into the future for hundreds of years is absolute nonsense, pathetic, useless, science. Based on only these recent few decades nothing unusual will happen different in future. It scares me so much how these so called scientists know so little about the Earth’s climate, past and present.

    There is no science to any claims here and all based on assumptions that are not supported by any observed climate data.

    • Oh but you forget that the dangerous warming is actually happening deep below the surface where we can’t see it (seriously, that is the official “scientific” party line)

    • I have not forgotten, but the official alarmist line is wrong of course because it can’t warm deeper down without going through the surface and upper ocean first. Warming deeper down has been caused by reduced albedo and increased SW radiation over ocean surface area, but they don’t want people to know that part.

  12. Just what is the temperatures around the ice shelf? They keep saying the ocean are warming and melting the glaciers, but what is the temperature of the water around there? I highly doubt it has gotten so warm as to melt anything.

  13. This is beyond silly. Basic geology. The WAIS is divided into several geological ‘ice sheds’. Some are anchored by mountains and going no where, since far too cold to melt. Others slope to the sea with some ice creep. The two big ones are Ross and Ronne. Both know known to be stable (ANDRILL looked at Ross in detail). The ‘little’ one is the Amundsen Embayment. And there, only two of 6 sea reaching glaciers (PIne Island and Thwaites) are shedding net ice, althoughnthe amount is in dispute. Even Rignots most recent JPL/NASA alarm paper about them loosing 400Gt/ year (4x all previous estimates) showed the higher interior of the Embayment is stable to gaining ice mass. Discussed with references in essay Tipping Points.

  14. We will not debate, we will not be challenged! But nature is so stubborn it doesn’t bother to listen to them. Pity that it will take about 20 more years for their malfeasance and stupidity to become commonly known. But I sorely hope that in 100 years time some history major digs through these articles and demonstrates to our descendants how incredibly stupid, corrupted, fraudulent they were being and better yet let the greatest idiots of these be remember throughout history as just that.

    • Timo, I am more optimistic. 5 and 20 years, respectively. 5 gets to AR6, which will not be able to ignore thickening Antarctic ice, recovering Arctic ice, and the extended pause (insolation, oceans, whatever). 20 gets to a new generation of young history of science scholars needing theses topics yet less brainwashed than the present generation, still being brainwashed by the likes of Nye, Cullen, Hayhoe, Oreskes (herself a supposed history of science prof) …
      The Dutch tulip bulb mania collapsed in one year. So did the South Seas bubble a century later. A good rolling blackout in AUS or UK (and I still harbor faint hopes for Germany if they would just stop building sensible brown coal generation) could have the same salutory effect on CAGW.

  15. Let’s see, a 3m sea level rise in how many years? Thousands? 3mm per year times 1000 years would be about 3m. But they say “thousands”, with an “s”. So sea level rise will actually slower than now. Anyway, my home is at 13 feet above sea level or 3.96m so I and my 50+ generations are safe.

    • The lowest garage floor of my Fort Lauderdale directly on the ocean condo tower is about 1.5 meters above mean high tide. So when hurricanes come, we evacuate to the middle garage level, a ‘safe’ 15 feet of storm surge up. So the future owners 150 years from now might have a problem with that parking level. Should I be worried now?. Buyers into the building do not seem to be….and prices are rising nicely. Parking spaces on the lowest level that used to go for $15k in 2001 now sell for $30k each. I own one, and am not selling. Even to the new folks looking to park their Maseratis and Ferraris. Nope. We ned that space for our Ford Escape hybrid, MY 2007.
      Funny how economics and CAGW do not mix well…

  16. They know the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is “perturbed” because they read it on it’s facebook page (which, coincidentally, is managed by William “The Stoat” Connally)..

    The run-up to Paris is really bringing the crazy out of the woodwork.

  17. But but!? Surely the author has played this simulation in his daydreams a thousand times.

    In parody:
    “…“Once the authors brain ice masses get perturbed, which is what is happening today, they respond in a non-linear way: there is an irreversible breakdown of stability…”

  18. How can people get so worked up over the possibility that an ice sheet in Antarctica “might” become unstable and “collapse”. It’s not like there is anything we can do about it! And why use the term ” collapse”?

    • For some reason, describing something that is going to take thousands of years to happen as a “collapse” seems a trifle dishonest.

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  19. Going that far into the future with your predictions assures you of going to your grave believing that you are correct in your modelings. Apparently there is a market for millennial meanderings on the morrow.

    • Yes and unfortunately neither measures the ice volume, so both need to be corrected for firn compaction, isostatic adjustments and elastic response of the underlying rocks. All of which are very imperfectly known, with a total uncertainty much larger than the supposed trend.
      Trying to measure something that is dependent on effects caused by what you are trying to measure isn’t easy to put things mildly.

  20. I’m willing to sacrifice New York, San Francisco, LA and many other cities… Beam me up Scotty. There is no intelligent life here.

  21. That stuff about the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) is both stupid and uninformed. For your information, that ice sheet is unstable and has been subject to periodic collapses. Scherer et al. (Science July 3, 1998) noted in 1998 that WAIS had collapsed at6 least once during Pleistocene. Ohguci et al in 2006 noted in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 70:453 that large amounts of melt water cascaded into the Ross Sea 18,000 years ago, again 10,500 years asgo, again 5,500 years ago and then again 1,500 yers ago. These dates come from analysis of sediments in the Ross sea. Such numerous collapses in the not too distant past are a hint that it could happen again if rising bottom water under the Amundsen Sea keeps undermining it. The bottom water currently rises because land winds keep pushing the cold coastal water out to sea which is then replaced by warmer bottom water. For more info read my book pp. 37 to 46 and E&E 22(8):1067-1083(2011)

  22. Unbelievable myopia by them. They think that melting will continue for 7000+ years even though we are currently well overdue for the next glacial period. They really think that CO2 rules the whole planet and has completely over-ridden the 2 million year ice age we are only 800,000 years into? Idiots.

  23. This surely has to be a joke? Simulations in to year 9700? Really this is crackpot stuff. Can it get more crazy before COP21 in Paris?

    • Simulations to the year 9,700 ?

      By that time Germany will have been a caliphate for 7,635 years. Wonder what the religion of peace has to say about PIk’s jihad against the global warming which isn’t happening ?

      Should that need a sarc or a pained grin?

  24. If it’s possible to lie about the future then this is as good an example as you’ll find. This sort of stuff should be laughed out of town and the authors thrown out of their jobs for repeatedly offering up egregious, evidence-free make-believe.

  25. “From the POTSDAM INSTITUTE FOR CLIMATE IMPACT RESEARCH (PIK) comes this gloom and doom scenario, which was likely prepared before they had a chance to read the latest study that suggests things aren’t so bad in Antarctica after all, and that ice mass there is actually gaining according to ICESat data.”

    Looks like someone hasn’t bothered to read the articles properly.

    “Mass gains of Antarctic Ice Sheet greater than losses” paper:
    “We’re essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge in the Antarctic Peninsula and the Thwaites and Pine Island region of West Antarctica”

    Both the Thwaites and Pine Island region being in the Amundsen Sea Embayment:

    From above:
    “The huge West Antarctic ice sheet would collapse completely if the comparatively small Amundsen Basin is destabilized, scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research find.”

    I see no contradiction there

  26. Jerry Brown thanks you and so do the unions benefiting from high speed rail line construction in that state. Gloom at the South Pole is a key component of waste spending and carbon taxation in California, don’t you know. And its the model public policy funding and spending scheme for other hapless populations.

    • No, Nylo, don’t be silly. We’re supposed to think of the children . . of our children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children, like the CAGW clan does, unlike the heartless denialists.

  27. ““In our simulations ”

    OK…where is the proof that your “simulations” are right? When did computer models become incontrovertible proof?

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