Greenland retained 99.7% of its ice mass in 20th Century!!!

(Featured image borrowed from


Naturally, the Real Clear Science headline actually read…

Greenland Lost 9 Trillion Tons of Ice in Century

Which sounds even more serious than the original headline…


Greenland has lost 9,000 billion tons of ice in a century

One would think that the fact that 99.7% of Greenland’s ice sheet survived the 20th Century might just be more scientifically relevant than a 0.3% loss… But I guess that doesn’t make for a very dramatic headline.

Here’s the math…

First I converted 9 trillion tons to metric tonnes.

9,000,000,000,000 tons = 8,164,662,660,000 tonnes

Then I converted tonnes to gigatonnes.

8,164,662,660,000 tonnes = 8,165 gigatonnes

Then I converted  gigatonnes of ice to cubic kilometers, assuming 1 Gt = 1 km3.

8,165 Gt ~ 8,165 km3

Note: This conversion is inexact because ice is slightly less dense than water.  But it is close enough for this exercise.

Now that I roughly knew the volume of ice loss during the 20th century, I needed to know how much ice volume was still in place. I chose to rely on the USGS and their figure of 2,600,000 km3.

So now I could calculate the percentage of ice volume which survived the 20th century…

The ice volume at the onset of the 20th century should be…

2,600,000 km3 + 8,165 km3 = 2,608,165 km3

Converting to percentage surviving the 20th century…

2,600,000 km3 / 2,608,165 km3 = 0.997 = 99.7%


To put the math into perspective, I’m going to actually rely on the SkepScibots


1 gigatonne of ice is big… Much bigger than an Olympic sized swimming pool.

So, throughout the 20th century, Greenland lost about 8,165 gigatonne ice cubes.  8,165 km3 equates to a 20 km x 20 km x 20 km cube of ice (3√ 8,165 = 20.136565).  That would be one big@$$ cube of ice!

However, it’s not even a tiny nick when spread out over roughly 1.7 million square kilometers of ice surface.  That works out a sheet of ice about 5 meters thick.


2,600,000 km3 / 1,700,000 km2 = 1.53 km

The average thickness of the Greenland ice sheet is approximately 1.5 km (1,500 meters).  5 meters is obviously 0.3% of 1,500 meters.

Greenland Map

Isopach map of Greenland ice sheet (Wikipedia).  The “Lost Ice Cube” represents 8,165 cubic kilometers of ice.


From a thickness perspective, 5 meters looks like this…


Greenland Xsect

Radar Cross Section of Greenland Ice Sheet (Source: Columbia University).  Note that even with a vertical exaggeration of 75 x, 5 meters is insignificant.

The red line along the top of the cross section is approximately 5 meters thick. Here is an enlarged view…

Greenland xsect2

While my math may not be exact, estimates of the volume of the Greenland ice sheet vary from 2.6 to 5.5 × 106 km3.  The difference between 2.6 and 5.5 million cubic kilometers of ice is quite a bit larger than 9,000 gigatonnes.  For that matter, GRACE derived estimates of recent (2003-2011) ice mass balance vary widely as do the glacial isostatic adjustments…

For the analyzed period, the ice mass balance of Greenland and the corresponding GIA correction are, respectively, − 256 ± 21 Gt yr−1 and − 3 ± 12 Gt yr−1 (1%) for SM09, − 253 ± 23 Gt yr−1 and − 6 ± 5 Gt yr−1 (2%) for AW13, and − 189 ± 27 Gt yr−1 and − 69 ± 19 Gt yr−1(36%) for Wu10 (table 1). At the regional scale, the ice mass estimates are more dependent on the GIA correction, especially in NE Greenland where the Wu10-GIA correction is the largest portion of the signal measured by GRACE (table 1).

From Sutterley et al., 2014

With ~±10% margins of error in modern satellite measurements of glacial mass balance and GIA accounting for up to 1/3 of the reported ice mass loss, it is truly amazing that a 0.3% reduction in the Greenland ice sheet during the 20th century can be identified with such robustness [/Sarc].

155 thoughts on “Greenland retained 99.7% of its ice mass in 20th Century!!!

  1. Nice job, Dave! Even with doubling of the error bars, your 99.7% headline is far more impressive than the 9 trillion ton loss!!!

  2. 0.3% loss is practically nothing compared with historic changes the last 1000 years. What is the accuracy of the satelite measurements for comparison?

    • Actually it is significant to the previous 1000 years for what we can surmise from the data the original study found.

  3. Well, whenever politicians want to raise my taxes (when then aren’t changing the name to “user fee”) they gone about how its “only” a cup of coffee a week, or some such minor thing. After all, I get to keep 99.7% of my current income, right?

    Nicely done.

  4. Mr. Middleton,

    In my opinion, this is one of the best, humble, easy to understand and informative posts of the year!

    Thank you and Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!

    • Mr. Doyle,

      I agree with you. This post speaks clearly as to the duplicity of the alarmists and their willing accomplishes in the main stream media. As they say, figures* don’t lie but liars do figures.

      * And they are not willing to just lie with arithmetic, they also cook the books like religious crazy people. Looking at you Gavin.

  5. Nice work, unfortunately the 9 trillion tons of ice loss is based on Velaconga’s calculation of isostatic adjustment. It is complete BS, because he threw out the actual GPS measurements (which show ice loss within the margin of error) and replaced them with a computer model.

  6. There might be an easier calculation. The article from Clear Science says that the melt over the last 115 years, caused sea levels to rise 25mm. Previous calculations state that if the Greenland ice sheet completely melted, it would add 23 ft to the sea level. 23 ft = 7010.4 mm. 25mm of sea level rise would be .357% of the total. Sounds like your calculations were pretty spot on, but you did a lot more work than you needed. :)

    • I’m not sure that sea levels are rising.
      Sea Level in Alaska is decreasing. I checked sea levels in Victoria BC and they are dead flat for a century (decreasing slightly within margin of uncertainty).
      However sea levels in Halifax are increasing at 33cm / century. Weird.

      • When you cannot raise the bridge, lower the river. Water has the tendency to occupy lowest places quite evenly, and so any discrepancy can be explained in few simple ways. The Earth moves, continental plates exhibit vertical motions a lot. and they buckle too. Quite unevenly. Gravitational measurements around the globe are quite uneven too, many gravity ‘wells’ are known. So measuring ocean water levels is a tricky business, and so we apply some great statistical tools to come up with a nice number that totally obliterates the reality, as to what is really happening.

  7. I’m sending a copy of this article to both Senators from Michigan, and after doing a slight bit of math I deduced that one would need a mircometer to measure the change in sea level due to that ice volume.

      • Leo Smith “net loss.” I.E. Higher global temperature affected everywhere on Greenland … except wherever there’s a downed WW2 airplane?

    • The loss of ice is not uniform across Greenland’s ice sheet. I believe there was a pretty good discussion of this question on this site within the past couple of weeks. My understanding is that most of the ice loss occurs around the coastal areas with massive sheets sloughing off into the ocean. The accumulation of snow and ice occurs inland and slowly flows out to the perimeter. That’s why those bombers are buried under 250′ of ice? I’m sure greater minds than mine on this site can provide a more definitive answer.

      • kelleydr

        My understanding is that most of the ice loss occurs around the coastal areas with massive sheets sloughing off into the ocean. The accumulation of snow and ice occurs inland and slowly flows out to the perimeter. That’s why those bombers are buried under 250′ of ice? I’m sure greater minds than mine on this site can provide a more definitive answer.

        No. The coastal mountain ranges that encircle Greenland’s central very high ice cap prevent the central ice from “getting pushed” sideways. That central ice mass – now thousands of meters thick – is trapped between very high ranges to the east and west, north and south.
        The short highly sloped EDGE ice masses can (and do!) move like classic mountain glaciers out and down to the seas. But those are “little” 50 and 75 kilometer glaciers “only” a few tens of meters thick. Now, multiply by many thousands kilometers around Greenland, and you do get a lot of ice that can move downhill and can (and sometimes does!) move out to the sea and calve off for dramatic photographs… But that central mass cannot get out to the sea.
        Which is NOT a fact that these propagandists want you to know.

      • @RACookPE1978 on December 30, 2015 at 4:25 pm

        Ice moves from the “bowl” to the oceans via outflow glaciers. Also, the edges of the ice cap are seaward of the mountain ranges.

        The bulk of the ice cap is secure in its topographic bowl. However, it does melt at the edges and it does push outflow glaciers to the sea, which it couldn’t do it it wasn’t accumulating ice in the interior.

    • Ice flows. Snow falls in the interior, gets compressed into ice, then flows out to the margins where it calves into the sea. The planes are getting carried along with the ice. In a few thousand years, had they not been dug out, they would have been dumped into the sea as well.

  8. So, if my math is correct, at the rate of Greenland ice sheet loss for the past 100 years, almost the entire Greenland ice sheet will be gone in about 33,000 years? That is terrible, you know, except in about 33,000 years the earth should be well into the next major glaciation period… so that won’t be so bad, right?

  9. From the original article: “According to Professor Jason Box from Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, the new data will make the predictions of climate change and sea level rise even more robust.”

    The Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI…. arguably with skill from “ownership” of the island?) has modelled snowfall mass gain versus melting loss to find a nett annual gain of ~280 Gt/year when averaged over the 24 years from 1990 to 2013, yet with high variability as indicated by the range in grey shading in the graph below. With their newer model, for season 2014-15 alone they show a gain of ~220 Gt, and 2015-16 is on similar track, but for 2011-12 there was zero growth.

    DMI claims that separately modelled glacier calving (towards total mass balance) is about 200 Gt/year averaged over the last decade.
    Thus, from these modelled data, it seems plausible that a nett of about 80 Gt/year average of liquid water was removed from the global water cycle over the last decade. That infers a nett potential Greenland-driven slight drop in sea level of ~0.2 mm/year. (~360 Gt = 1mm on sea level)

    Jason Box has done some spectacular things starting in AR4 which in my opinion are far from robust

    • Every time I see that chart, it makes me wonder: what happened in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014? Why aren’t they on there but 2011-2012 is robustly prominent?

      • the DMI uses the “record lowest” as a reference next to the mean and standard deviations imho a very good choice to compare current states with that exceptional year.

  10. Good work. When Greenpeace posted this ‘scary headline’ I responded (having done the same calculation) and, funnily enough, they didn’t reply. 9000 billion tonnes unrelated to the size of Greenland is designed to scare not inform. The alarmists have to lie because the truth is so innocuous.

    • “9000 billion tonnes unrelated to the size of Greenland is designed to scare not inform.”

      PBDS (pale blue dot syndrome ; )

  11. A number is just a number.
    Give it a unit of measure and you have a quantity.
    Add another quantity and you can make a comparison.
    Only after you make the comparison can you start reaching for Meaning.

  12. Curious that the media chooses to zoom in on the immenseness of the net shrinkage over a century rather than the triviality of its net impact.

    • Back up and read “bobfj’s December 30, 2015 at 1:04 pm” comment again.

      According to DMI, Greenland is gaining ice, not losing it. In 33,000 years there may be two Greenlands full of ice.

      • According to DMI, Greenland is gaining ice, not losing it.

        According to DMI, Greenland is losing ice.

        Satellite observations over the last decade show that the ice sheet is not in balance. The calving loss is greater than the gain from surface mass balance, and Greenland is losing mass at about 200 Gt/yr

        And before you attack me, I just corrected what you said. According to DMI at their web page at,

        Greenland is losing mass at about 200Gt/yr. What the reality behind there really is – I can’t know. Satellites can be difficult to calibrate.

  13. And even if it lost 97% it would be irrelevant to how it came about. Doesn’t prove anything. It’s just an interesting fact. like mentioning how many hot dogs were eaten in the past year. What’s the point?

    • like mentioning how many hot dogs were eaten in the past year. What’s the point?

      Finding the missing heat.

      • evanmjones: The strange thing is the search for the missing heat is an admission that the models have failed. If they hadn’t failed, no explanation would be needed as the observations would be as expected.

        MarkW: if they were warm ones then they might get confused with sun dogs.

  14. Plenty of photos of melting ice in the press, but almost no mention of Glacier Girl, the P38 buried under 268 feet of ice after an emergency landing 50 years before in 1942. I would like to remark as robustly as I can that no one knows what ice has done in Greenland in the 20th century – remembering that the North Pole was not reached until 1908 or 1909 by either Cook or Peary.

    • So what you’re saying is that while Greenland “lost” a total of 18 feet of total ice in the last 100 years, during that time it probably acquired more than 534 feet of ice in the same period placing the “total melt” of the last 100 years at 550ish feet of ice by 1.7 million kilometers. [math math math] resulting in a total 100 year estimated cycle of 26,675,951,219,512,194.6 liters of water based on the premise that the glacier has a uniform perimeter from top to bottom. Might as well round that up and tell Greenpeace to call it 27,000 trillion liters of freshwater lost from glacial melt in the last century!

      The biggest and simplest argument I have ever used on warmists is “Are you so fucking stupid as to think the Earth’s existence is static and unchanging enough for ANY study of less than one ten thousandth of a percent of its lifespan is representative of its future with OR without mankind?” Perspective stops arguments, heals hate, saves children and will always make someone feel stupid.

    • 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 °C to water at 4 °C – See

      But you say ‘DD’ how does this compare to the well known ‘Hiroshima bomb’ measurement.
      By today’s standards the two bombs dropped on a Japan were small — equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT in the case of the Hiroshima bomb and 20,000 tons in the case of the Nagasaki bomb.
      (Encyclopedia Americana. Danbury, CT: Grolier, 1995: 532.)
      In international standard units (SI), one ton of TNT is equal to 4.184E+09 joule (J)

      Hiroshima bomb TNT 15000 x TNT to Joules 4.18E+09 = Joules total 6.276E+13 =>
      or 1 KM^3 of ice melt (4.1342E+17 / 6.276E+13) = # HiroBmb per Km^3 = 6,587
      That is correct. Place one Hiroshima bomb in a grid every 54 meters apart to melt the ice.

      So 8,165 km^3 x 6,587 HiroBmb/ km^3 = 53,782,855 HiroBmb

      What I want to know is “Where are all the Icebergs?

      D. Diemand, Coriolis, Shoreham, VT, USA Copyright ^ 2001 Academic Press doi:10.1006/rwos.2001.0002

      Northern Regions
      In general, the mean size of icebergs in Baffin Bay is about 60 m height, 100 m width and 100 m draft. Mean mass is about 5 to 10 Mt. The sizes of icebergs in this area are constrained by the water depth near the calving fronts, which is less than 200 m. Icebergs with a mass greater than 20 Mt are extremely rare, and for those found south of 60N, a mass greater than 10 Mt is seldom found.

      1 gigaton = 1000 megaton so 200 Gt of total loss equals.

      200,000 Mt total loss / 10 Mt high ave size = 20,000 icebergs created.
      Anybody seen all of them?

  15. Well since I live on the Southern US Coast, I am pretty concerned about the 25mm or 1 inch rise in global sea level over the past 115 years. Especially since there is a 9mm+- error which would amount to almost 1/3 of an inch. Ineed to be moving to higher ground pretty darn quickly!

  16. But I guess that doesn’t make for a very dramatic headline.

    There’s an art to writing headlines. There was a race between an American car and a Soviet car. Pravda reported that the Soviet car came in second and the American car came in second last.

    • Last time that story was told, it was a game of golf between President Nixon and the Russian President (although I’ve forgotten his name).

  17. Well as most of that Ice is demonstrating what happens if you pin the edges of it in rock thus you get that lovely rounded gravity driven profile there is nothing much new. :-)

    There is a big dip between the sides in the rock in the centre that doesn’t show up well in those pictures.

  18. I appreciate you referring to “Olympic sized swimming pool” units, but would you please express that loss in my preferred units, “state of Rhode Islands”?

  19. 3% with +/-10% margin of error. Yeah.. 8,165 Empire State buildings sounds scarier.

    It’s kinda like how they report differences in temperature of 1/100 of a degree when the margin of error is 1/10, so they just report it as “Hottest Year Evah!!” And everyone is like,

    “.01 degrees, 8,165 cubic km, think Empire State Buildings, big, bigness, pictures, fun, no.. rainbows smell like farts because GHGs are really an underground population of tiny soul-eating, unicorn-riding leprechauns out to destroy our skies. Yeah.. That sounds scary.”

    “Margin of error? unlikely? failed hypotheses? What are these things you ‘deniers’ are ranting about over their?”

    It’s only a matter of time before those CO2 molecules are depicted as leprechauns riding their CH4 evil, soul-eating unicorn counterparts while white lab coats come to the rescue saving the world by banishing them back into Hades via magical sequestration. Don’t forget, kids, hold in those farts. Save the rainbows!

    “Wait. The lab coats are white. This might be inconsiderate to certain ‘ethnic minorities,’ I mean majorities.. Wait. Excuse me while I waste away pandering to this nonsense for awhile. When I get back, numbers and logic will be impossible to absorb.”

    – Western Culture

  20. DM, an outstanding essay. A wonderful example of the perspectives chapter of The Arts of Truth (which is of cours about the opposite, as the introduction explains. Congratulations on a clear, simple, and total evisceration of warmunist alarmism. Could not have happened to a more deserving website. Well done!

  21. And how would they even know how much ice there actually was at the beginning of the 20th century, long before accurate measurements of this sort of thing was possible?

      • The reality is that Glacier Girl sank 268 feet as the ice it was resting on subsided under the weight of new fallen snow.

      • The reality is that Glacier Girl sank 268 feet as the ice it was resting on subsided under the weight of new fallen snow.

        Er, uhm, ah … No. That did not happen.

        The packed ice underneath the aircraft, the ice that it landed on with wheels down, was already denser than the snow falling above it.

      • That team dug down through more than 200′ of ice for a P-38 F model aircraft. The P-38 F was the first operational model of that very advanced for it’s time fighter aircraft but still had plenty of problems. Even in those early days of WW II the P-38 had a longer range than any fighter the allied powers had. Long enough to ferry it from Goose Bay to Greenland to Iceland to Scotland. Even if it did have to fly through some of the least predictable bad weather on the globe. And those doing the ferrying weren’t specialists. They were the fighter jocks that would take the aircraft into combat when they reached N. Africa where US forces would first face. So a B-17 with it’s four engines and dedicated navigator and more capable radios with dedicated operator would act as a mother ship for a gaggle of P-38s. Remember this was in the day when navigation was done by dead reckoning, terrain association, star sightings/sun lines, and radio beams.

        The reason why Glacier Girl was under the ice in the first place and why some other P-38s, B-17s, and C-47s remain under Greenlands Ice because the U-boat scourge impelled the US to ferry P-38s to Europe and then down to N. Africa. At the beginning of the war the P-38 was the most advanced fighter the US had . It was deemed essential by George Marshall and the planners of ‘Torch” (the invasion of N. Africa) that at least 100 P-38s be available to support the initial operations with more needed later. But the US accelerated ship building programs were not yet exceeding losses to the U-boats and wouldn’t until early in 1943. Meanwhile the supplies needed to keep going to the UK and Russia while at the same time the US was trying to launch an invasion of N. Africa with multiple Divisons including an Armored Division which required massive amount of transport. And at about the same time launching it’s first offensive thrust in the form of “Watch Tower” putting the first Marine Div. to be reinforced on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon islands.

        It was deemed that a 10% loss of aircraft and crew was acceptable for this ferrying operation. That’s how desperate the situation was. As it turned out losses of all types of aircraft was under 5% with most of the crews being rescued. In fact the ferry operations were judged to be such a success that plans were made to ferry 4,000 P-38s to Europe. But by May of 1943 the Allies had won what Churchill termed “The Battle of the Atlantic” . U-boats would still take their toll but were being sunk in greater numbers and sinking less Allied shipping tonnage while at the same time the US Ship building programs were taking effect. (In the years of 1944 and 1945 the US launched more total tonnage of all types of vessels than the combined total from all other nations of the world.) This fact plus the advent of developing racks that fit on the decks of tankers to carry fighter and some types of light and medium bomber aircraft made it possible to ship enough of the aircraft instead which was much safer and economical so from then on only the larger aircraft continued to be ferried.

        The P-38 was the ONLY US fighter aircraft that remained in production as a front line fighter from before Pearl Harbor through VJ day. It was the type flown by the top US WW II aces, Dick Bong and Tommy McGuire. I find it Ironic that men would go to the great trouble and expense of digging down through 100s of feet of ice to recover a P-38 F when at the end of WW II one could buy a brand new surplus P-38 L model which was a far more advanced and reliable aircraft for $1,200. Now days there are less than 20 P-38 fighters of all models still flying which makes it a very rare beast and that is why it was worth recovering Glacier Girl.

    • What warmunists do not explain, but which would if they would, explains your loss of explanation. Greenland is a bathtub shaped underlying geology. Essay Tipping Points in ebook Blowing Smoke even provides multiple geological surveys. We are talking several thousand feet of depression/ rim mountain fringe. So the only ice that is lost is on the ‘outside’ of the bathtub. On the interior, it still accumulates. Glacier Girl landed on the interior. And now you know at what rate it accumulates on the interior of the ‘bathtub’. QED.

      • If snow in the interior was accumulating at the rate of 200+ feet in 60 years, then the height of the interior ice should be hundreds of miles high by now.
        It’s flowing out somewhere.

  22. Is this surprising given the LIA ended a short time prior to this time frame? I expected more but then I’m still waiting for my flying car.

      • Yes – meaning melting would be the next natural thing to expect. I’m left wondering why the alarmists find it alarming when an expected melt happens. Given the scale of their alarm I expected to see base rock in the satellite images. Who wouldn’t given the clamor they set up and the taxpayer money that has been wasted on it.

  23. 8,165 cubic km divided by 360,000,000 square kms of oceans = 0.00002268 km sea level rise = 0.022681 metres = 2.268056 cm = 0.892935 inches…in a century…call off the hysteria… (and please correct my math if I’m wrong)…

    • “They” say 2mm/year rise over the past kazillion years so your quick math reveals that G-land “could” contribute about 1/10 of that. Got quite a shake for a few seconds last nite – how about your place? /mark

      • Yep, we got the shaker/roller here last night, I thought it was large truck going by! hehe!
        Fortunately it was small and some 48km under Sidney(or close).

    • I did not check your math but after subsidence of the ocean floor the net might be a negative number. The claims from CAGW are not very scientific when all is taken into account.

    • OMG…it’s worse than we thought. The meteorologist at the Atlantic mixed up the North Pole with North Pole,Alaska !!! LMAO ….

      • Over at the Huff post someone pointed this out, and provided a link to this article. He was instantly derided for thinking anything true could be posted on this site. As near as I can tell to the majority over there the mere fact that WUWT that posted this correction is defacto proof that the original story was correct.

        how can you argue with a mind set like that?

  24. Dunno if my post-reply way above worked:

    Someone tell Groanpeace that Greenland lost aproximately 27,000 trillion liters of freshwater over the last century. (26,675,951,219,512,194.598l after density adjust, but I figured they’d want to round up by the actual amount lost from total volume just to have an easy number to write up)

  25. And THAT’S what you call an “attention getter” headline. Big numbers attract people, even if they mean very little. People read headlines say “huh”, and move on.

  26. So let’s see how that compares with the volume of ice that disappeared since the glacial maximum:

    “29 to 21 ka BP with a maximum grounded ice volume of ∼52 ×10^6 km^3 greater than today;…”

    This ice lost equates to 52,000,000 Gt lost since ~25,000 yrsBP. One century loss in Greenland therefore represents 8000/52,000,000 = 0.000154, or 0.015% of the total ice lost since the glacial maximum. This total period is 250 centuries, so the average loss per century since the glacial max is 52,000,000/250= ~208,000Gt per century so Greenland’s ice loss in one century is ~8000/200,000 or approximately 4% of the average century ice loss.

    Wow, ice loss has been slowing down amazingly in recent centuries. Perhaps we are nearing the earth’s ice minimum before it begins climbing again.

  27. Worryingly, some authoritative institutions make sensational claims about Greenland that are not credible, such as this from Washington University; “Greenland’s fastest glacier sets new speed record”:

    “…in summer of 2012 the glacier [in Danish; Jakobshavn] reached a record speed of more than 10.5 miles (17 kilometers) per year, or more than 150 feet (46 meters) per day. These appear to be the fastest flow rates recorded for any glacier or ice stream in Greenland or Antarctica, researchers said… …But they point out that even the glacier’s average annual speed over the past couple of years is nearly three times its average annual speed in the 1990s.”

    But, the retreat record since 1850 is incoherent and very contradictory per this NASA image:
    Source 1, NASA:
    Source 2: Updating information:

    The updating source tries to be scary about a big calving in mid-August 2015, (slightly short of the end of the normal melt season) but the satellite shots suggest that there is virtually no retreat 2013 through 2015. The fastest annual retreat by far was in the season 2002-3 of some 5 or 6 km/year but awkwardly, between 1964 and 2001, the retreat rate was comparatively very low. (Only around one kilometre, spread over seven years, or a factor of some 35 times slower). Also, the total retreat in the last eleven or twelve years looks to be around half of that of 2001 through 2004, = very much slower in the last decade and especially “the past couple of years”!

  28. In 1889 the Jules Verne book, “In the Year 2889” was published. The main character in the story is a wealthy newspaper owner. People would come to him with requests for him to fund their inventions or ideas.

    “As you are aware, sir,” began applicant No. 3, “by the aid of our solar and terrestrial accumulators and transformers, we are able to make all the seasons the same. I propose to do something better still. Transform into heat a portion of the surplus energy at our disposal; send this heat to the poles; then the polar regions, relieved of their snow-cap, will become a vast territory available for man’s use. What think you of the scheme?”

    I’m saying it is a good, or even practical idea, but it does illustrate an attitude different from those concerned about a 0.3% loss of ice.

  29. In your third to last paragraph you say:
    “The difference between 2.6 and 5.5 million cubic kilometers of ice is quite a bit larger than 9 trillion gigatonnes.”
    I think you meant to say 9 trillion tons or 9,000 gigatons.


    The new study is the first of its kind to reconstruct the amount of ice lost from the Greenland ice sheet in the 20th century, based on observations rather than model predictions.

    Well that’s a good start. At least someone’s realising that you need to start with observation in science.

    In the 20th century, Greenland has lost around 9,000 gigatons of ice, accounting for 25 millimetres of sea level rise that is missing in the latest IPCC report.

    According to Professor Jason Box from Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, the new data will make the predictions of climate change and sea level rise even more robust.

    Oooo! Even more “robust” than they aren’t already. Fab.

    “It’s an elegant study in which we use the information from the landscape and old photos to reconstruct the loss of ice since 1900. It provides a more complete picture of how Greenland has changed over the past 11 decades,” says Box.

    Ooooo, elegant, not less. Robust and elegant at the same time.

    Too busy being “elegant” to point out the error margin on an estimated change of 0.3%

    Now 0.3% +/- 20% does not sound too “robust” to me. It sounds like hype.

    Excellent article by David.

  31. First off, nobody knows for sure how much snow and ice was on Greenland 110 years ago. It does make sense that there would be some loss of ice over the past 100 years because we know for a fact that the 16, 17 and 1800s were colder than the 1900s. Our local records show the big warm up came in about 1890, long before there were coal fired power plants and a fleet of automobiles.

  32. An isopachous map like that can’t be planimetered to a volume within an error of +/- 0.3%. I wish they would show their work on the original claim (9 trillion tonnes lost!) as you have.

    • The volume didn’t come from the isopach. However, that’s a good point. If I planimetered it 10 times, I’d probably get 10 different volumes varying by about 5%. Plus, the different methods of volumetric calculation from the planimetered areas can yield large differences in volume.

      While the ice surface can be accurately measured, the ice/rock interface can’t be. So, no volumetric calculation could be more accurate than the accuracy of the base of the ice surface.

  33. December 31, still close to the Winter Solstice, and still no sign of the Sun even at 630am in Calgary.

    At the Winter Solstice the Sun has illuminated the central chamber at Newgrange, County Meath in Ireland for five thousand winters, and yet I still cannot buy a glimmer of sunrise.

    Best wishes and a Happy New Year to all.

    – Allan

    Fire And Ice

    Some say the world will end in fire,
    Some say in ice.
    From what I’ve tasted of desire
    I hold with those who favor fire.
    But if it had to perish twice,
    I think I know enough of hate
    To say that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice,
    – Robert (“Jack”) Frost

  34. I don’t match your arithmetic on sea-level rise: the volume DV of a sea-level rise
    by DR is approximately DR=0.7*4*PI*R^2, assuming 70% ocean-coverage on
    the Earth. Given DV=8.2E3 KM^3 and solving for DR, I get

    DR = 8.2e3/(0.7*4*PI*6371^2) = 2.297e-5

    is about 2.3 cm.


  35. > “With ~±10% margins of error in modern satellite measurements of glacial mass balance and GIA accounting for up to 1/3 of the reported ice mass loss, it is truly amazing that a 0.3% reduction in the Greenland ice sheet during the 20th century can be identified with such robustness.”

    If I collect the yearly production of apple in the entire world in one gigantic box, I probably cannot tell you how many apples are in the box. But if I eat two of them, I can tell you precisely how many I have taken out. And it’s much less than 0.3%. The precision of the measurement of quantity and flux are not necessarily linked.

  36. WTF ? We are, after all, between ice ages. Should it be surprising that during any period within this interglacial Greenland should be losing a bit of ice? It’s the old story. The alarmists believe everything will be okay if there’s no ice lost. (But doesn’t that mean we’re into the next ice age?)

  37. In this clip from The Changing Climate of Global Warming Al Gore claims that “within 10 years there will be no more Snows of Kilimanjaro.” Does anyone have any recent data on the Mt Kilimanjaro glacier, and how much is still left? It has been 10 years since he made this movie was made. Was Al Gore correct? If not, our High School Students are being shown a film that can now be proven to be highly inaccurate.

  38. Sorry, I tagged the wrong clip, and the quote is “within the decade” meaning by 2010, so if there is any glacier on top of Mt Kilimanjaro Al Gore was wrong. Here is the correct clip.

  39. Mount Kilimanjaro glaciers nowhere near extinction
    The legendary glaciers, one of key tourists ecstasy, on Tanzania’s majestic Kilimanjaro mountain, will not melt anytime soon after all, as it was earlier predicted.

    Kilimanjaro glaciers just won’t die – ‘nowhere near extinction’
    Anthony Watts / April 7, 2014

  40. Thanks, David Middleton, for this very good article bringing more common sense to the debate.
    Polar ice seems to have staying power, and I hope it doesn’t start growing again.

    • Did not the Volume of the Arctic Ice Cap increase in 2015; and the Area of the Arctic Ice Sheet decrease in 2015? I believe so according to NASA and the European Space Agency. This would leave direction of Climate Change an Open Question in REAL Science. Now can we focus on the really serious issue of Air and Water Pollution on this Good Earth?

  41. I have read that the Arctic Ice Sheet is curently smaller than ‘Normal’; and I have also read that the Arctic Cap Ice Volume is larger than ‘Normal’. As best I recall, it was from the same or similar creditable source. This would indicate to this R&D STEM Type, that the current direction of Climate Change is still an “Open Question” of REAL Science. In any case, in my view, Global Air and Water Pollution is the real basic issue.(?)

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