Study: Ocean warming primary cause of Antarctic Peninsula glacier retreat

antarctic-ship-james-clark

Ocean samples were collected by the RRS James Clark Ross around the Antarctic Peninsula. CREDIT Mike Meredith

A new study has found for the first time that ocean warming is the primary cause of retreat of glaciers on the western Antarctic Peninsula. The Peninsula is one of the largest current contributors to sea-level rise and this new finding will enable researchers to make better predictions of ice loss from this region.

The research, by scientists at Swansea University and British Antarctic Survey, is published in the journal Science today (Friday, July 15). The study reports that glaciers flowing to the coast on the western side of the Peninsula show a distinct spatial correlation with ocean temperature patterns, with those in the south retreating rapidly but those in the north showing little change. Some 90% of the 674 glaciers in this region have retreated since records began in the 1940s.

Dr Alison Cook, who led the work at Swansea University, says:

“Scientists know that ocean warming is affecting large glaciers elsewhere on the continent, but thought that atmospheric temperatures were the primary cause of all glacier changes on the Peninsula. We now know that’s not the case.

“The numerous glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula give a key insight as to how environmental factors control ice behaviour on a wide scale. Almost all glaciers on the western side end in the sea, and we’ve been able to monitor changes in their ice fronts using images as far back as the 1940s. Glaciers here are extremely diverse and yet the changes in their frontal positions showed a strong regional pattern.

“We were keen to understand what was causing the differences, in particular why the glaciers in the north-west showed less retreat than those further South and why there was acceleration in retreat since the 1990s. The ocean temperature records have revealed the crucial link.”

The team studied ocean temperature measurements around the Peninsula stretching back several decades, alongside photography and satellite data of the 674 glaciers.

The north-south gradient of increasing glacier retreat was found to show a strong pattern with ocean temperatures, whereby water is cold in the north-west, and becomes progressively warmer at depths below 100m further south. Importantly, the warm water at mid-depths in the southerly region has been warming since as long ago as the 1990s, at the same time as the widespread acceleration in glacier retreat.

Co-author Professor Mike Meredith at British Antarctic Survey says:

“These new findings demonstrate for the first time that the ocean plays a major role in controlling the stability of glaciers on the western Antarctic Peninsula.

“Where mid-depth waters from the deep ocean intrude onto the continental shelf and spread towards the coast, they bring heat that causes the glaciers to break up and melt. These waters have become warmer and moved to shallower depths in recent decades, causing glacier retreat to accelerate.”

Co-author Professor Tavi Murray, who leads the Glaciology Research Group at Swansea University, says:

“The glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula are changing rapidly – almost all of the Peninsula’s glaciers have retreated since the 1940s. We have known the region is a climate warming hotspot for a while, but we couldn’t explain what was causing the pattern of glacier change.

“This new study shows that a warmer ocean is the key to understanding the behaviour of glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula. Currently the Peninsula makes one of the largest contributions to sea-level rise, which means understanding this link will improve predications of sea-level rise.”

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113 thoughts on “Study: Ocean warming primary cause of Antarctic Peninsula glacier retreat

  1. A new study has found for the first time that ocean warming is the primary cause of retreat of glaciers on the western Antarctic Peninsula…..

    …really?

    • Find a nice lake with floating ice, and no wind but zero deg. C air. Strip naked and stand by the lake.

      Or: if you really want to be impressed.

      Go and jump in the lake !

      Now do you understand thermodynamics ??

      G

      • George, those are thermal springs…hot springs….on the western Antarctic peninsula
        Deception Island

      • “This new study shows that a warmer ocean is the key to understanding the behaviour of glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula. Currently the Peninsula makes one of the largest contributions to sea-level rise, which means understanding this link will improve predications of sea-level rise.”

        Send more money !

      • I think I mentioned floating ice in the lake; something that can buffer a zero deg. C Temperature for the water. Never suggested geothermals.

        g

    • “These new findings demonstrate for the first time that the ocean plays a major role in controlling the stability of glaciers on the western Antarctic Peninsula.

      Who would have suspected that the climate of a long narrow peninsula would be determined by the surrounding seas ?

      Wow, at last an answer to this long standing mystery. /sarc

      • Well the whole Atlantic and Pacific oceans go sloshing by there twice a day just to stop the AAP from mating with Tierra del Fuego.

        Water bulge under ice tends to bend ice upwards. ice tensile strength in tension rivals that of concrete.

        So fracture is guaranteed by design.

        g

  2. If the ocean warms, wouldn’t the dissolved CO2 come out of solution? Like a warm bottle of beer vs a cold bottle of beer?

    • Paul, yes indeed. This has been discussed here before. The rise in temperature causes a very small percent change in the amount of dissolved CO2. However, this effect is totally swamped by the increase in dissolved CO2 caused by the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

  3. “Ah, “glacier change”. Scary. For when the air temperature isn’t changing much at all, because of all that sneaky heat hiding in the oceans, sneakily melting the glaciers.

  4. Some 90% of the 674 glaciers in this region have retreated since records began in the 1940s…..

    Of course, just to state the obvious….
    …they don’t know if the 1940’s were the aberration
    and it’s actually normal again now

  5. A lot of other data makes the conclusions of this paper highly suspect. For example:
    √ Satellite and surface temperature records and sea surface temperatures show that both the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are cooling, not warming.
    √ Satellite and surface temperature measurements of the southern polar area show no warming over the past 37 years.
    √ Growth of the Antarctic ice sheets means sea level is not being caused by melting of polar ice and, in fact, is slightly lowering the rate of rise.
    √ Satellite Antarctic temperature records show 0.02 °C/ decade cooling since 1979.
    √ The Southern Ocean around Antarctica has been getting sharply colder since 2006.
    √ Antarctic sea ice is increasing, reaching all–time highs.
    √ Surface temperatures at 13 stations show the Antarctic Peninsula has been sharply cooling since 2000.

    • They talk of warmer waters below 100m depth, presumably at the level of the glacier nose grounding. Not surface air/ocean temps.

      • Amazing really how the ‘atmosphere’ which contains all the CO2….traps all that heat (without showing any radical signs of warming itself) then passes it to the ocean (not the surface mind you but a deeper layer).
        I humbly suggest you check out the conditions in Antarctica right now using NullSchool.
        And ask you to take note that the thermal heat capacity of air is 1. kJ/kg(kg*K) vs that of water 4.18 kJ/(kg*K)
        Quite amazing really!

      • And that warms the Western Antarctic Peninsula, how?

        Nor did they explain how CO2 was warming deep South Polar waters…

        More confirmation bias junk science.
        Some one gave them a CO2 hammer; now everything looks like a GHG caused nail.

      • At the grounding point?? Wouldn’t that be where the glacier is in contact with the volcano? Isn’t soil above the moving magma somewhat warmer than other soil? Could they have just discovered that glaciers on active volcanoes don’t prosper? I am confused, I thought these were already discovered eons ago.

    • Pretty crushing. Adds up to a general cooling of the Antarctic region. Could I ask for a source for the data?

  6. The volcanic activity on the peninsula is just coincidence. It’s got nothing to do with warming the water or the land under the glaciers.

    • WHAT? What are you saying BL … did you even think before pecking a the key board ….. ooooh …. wait …. I get it now. huh.

    • You may change your mind if you read:

      Larour, E., Morlighem, M., Seroussi, H., Schiermeier, J., and Rignot, E., 2012, Ice flow sensitivity to geothermal heat flux of Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica: Journal of Geophysics Research, vol. 117 F04023

      Vogel, S.W., and Tulaczyk, S., 2006, Ice-dynamical constraints on the existence and impact of subglacial volcanism on West Antarctic ice sheet stability: Geophysics Research Letters, vol. 33, L23502.

      • These studies provide not only greater insights into the dynamics of ice sheet movement and the associated uncertainties but also give references to many other studies covering geothermal activities in the region. Like an onion, peeling away a layer just opens up more layers that need to be peeled away. Each layer just creates more uncertainties that the consensus seem to ignore.

  7. “A new study has found for the first time that …”
    This statement appears a lot in studies. It is intended to show high level of notoriety. But what it actually indicates is that the study is likely BS, because, otherwise, how on earth did no one find this before.

    • That isn’t the problem.

      https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/nasa-study-mass-gains-of-antarctic-ice-sheet-greater-than-losses

      Munk’s Enigma studies also confirm that on net the Antarctic at worst isn’t melting and is possibly gaining mass.

      Global warmers are so desperate to claim the Antarctic contributing to sea level rise and it isn’t.

      Further – melting that started in the 1940s isn’t CO2 driven global warming – it is the ordinary kind of global warming.

      • This study is about the peninsular – a small part of the Antarctic. What is happening to the Antarctic as a whole is a separate issue. If Antarctic is gaining mass, therefore causing sea level fall, then how do you explain the rate of sea level rise?

      • What is happening to the Antarctic as a whole is a separate issue.

        What is happening to the Antarctic as a whole is by no means less irrelevant than a small portion of it. It is not a separate issue, it is of two issues the important issue while the peninsula is a small detail.

        There are no credible predictions on Antarctic ice. There is actually some difficulty in measuring the sign of the ice loss/gain.

      • Thanks for the link – good read:

        “At the end of the last Ice Age, the air became warmer and carried more moisture across the continent, doubling the amount of snow dropped on the ice sheet,” Zwally said.

        The extra snowfall that began 10,000 years ago has been slowly accumulating on the ice sheet and compacting into solid ice over millennia, thickening the ice in East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica by an average of 0.7 inches (1.7 centimeters) per year. This small thickening, sustained over thousands of years and spread over the vast expanse of these sectors of Antarctica, corresponds to a very large gain of ice – enough to outweigh the losses from fast-flowing glaciers in other parts of the continent and reduce global sea level rise.

      • Seaice1:

        1. The ice shelf section of the peninsula has a trivial (21000 GT more or less) amount of ice. The ice shelves don’t count toward sea level rise.
        2. The land ice is going to take a millenia to melt.
        3. The Larson ice shelf is only 10,000 years old. It didn’t exist during the ice age. IMelting may be evidence we are going back into an ice age.
        then how do you explain the rate of sea level rise?
        4. The sea level rise according to LOD (moment of inertia) studies is about 1.4 mm/y and is mostly steric.
        5. The satellite sea level has 1.0-1.1 mm/y of deliberate error. Their 2.3 mm/y “real” measurement may have additional errors or simply be on the high side of the error range

    • So nothing significant can ever be discovered again? Anything newly doscovered must be BS, because, otherwise, how on earth did no one find it before?

      • http://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6296/283
        “Ocean forcing of glacier retreat in the western Antarctic Peninsula”

        Here, we identify a strong correspondence between mid-depth ocean temperatures and glacier-front changes along the ~1000-kilometer western coastline. In the south, glaciers that terminate in warm Circumpolar Deep Water have undergone considerable retreat, whereas those in the far northwest, which terminate in cooler waters, have not.

        We conclude that changes in ocean-induced melting are the primary cause of retreat for glaciers in this region.

        Hard to argue without full access to the paper. But they haven’t said anything obviously wrong and might even be right. Warm water melts ice faster is easy to prove in a cup.

        But the peninsula is a balance between precipitation and glacial advance.

        The fact the ice cubes in the water are melting faster excites warmers but doesn’t mean much unless you are a watch ice melt/watch grass grow kind of person.

    • I don’t know if that phrase is actually in the paper. It is probably the number 1 phrase found in University Press releases though as PR people seem to think that is the way to gather prestige to the institution. Usually it just makes them look silly – especially when the paper is later retracted!

    • Check the map to the right in your link. The western Antarctic Peninsula does indeed show warming. However, it’s the only ocean location in Antarctica showing a warming trend. As a whole there seems to be a net cooling with a corresponding rise in sea ice extent over that period.

    • Cooling on the surface. Warming at depth. Glaciers are melting at their grounded nose fronts.

      • Sounds like the warming is occurring only where it is required to bolster the information presented in the report

      • That area is also warming from intense geological activity and not necessarily 100% human induced

      • Claims that volcanoes are anthropogenic is on very thin ice.

        The volcanoes in the peninsula may be some or all of the problem.


        The warm water appearing magically in mid-column is sort of interesting. Does anyone have a sane explanation for the diagram?

        This grounded nose front thing is interesting. 11/10ths of the ice below sea level doesn’t count toward sea level.


        The ice on higher ground isn’t changing much.

        Further, the Pine Island glacier has little or nothing to do with the Ronne and Ross ice shelves when the “melting” is occurring.

        Well, the ice shelves are thinning. They are 0-500 meters thick. Given the thickness and speed it doesn’t seem that the velocity can increase much or even maintain the same speed. And the ice shelves don’t contribute to sea level.

        The situation looks like a don’t care.

      • Interesting diagram. Melting the ice below sea level does not increase sea level. On the contrary, it will decrease sea level because a cubic meter of ice when melted produces only 0.92 cubic meter of water. There’s a void of one cubic meter where the ice used to be but meltwater can only fill in 0.92 cu. m. Seawater will fill in the excess 0.08 cu. m. void so sea level will decrease.

      • “The warm water appearing magically in mid-column is sort of interesting. Does anyone have a sane explanation for the diagram?”

        In a word – thermohaline.

        The surface waters are less saline (lighter) and the density gradient separates them from slightly warmer water below which is eroding the glacier nose front.

        Also do a back of the envelop calc of the amount of energy required to heat those waters via geothermal….. Along the entire length of the WAP. That has magically lit up since around 1990.

    • The Southern Ocean around Antarctica has been getting markedly colder since 2006. Sea ice has increased substantially, especially since 2012

      • Don,
        The Church of CAGW will despise you for pointing out obvious inconsistencies with their dogma.

  8. I guess the warming of the waters around the Antarctic is the reason for record-breaking sea ice extent for the last 40 years. OK, I got it.

  9. Once again, we see claims of causation based on correlation. Even is that is subsequently justified, it won’t help much with long term predictions of ice loss since we don’t know what drives ocean temperature. Heck, other analysis has shown that we can’t even measure current ocean temperature with sufficient precision to be very useful.

  10. its the Jedi Mind trick again.” This is not the (volcanic) heat you are looking for”!

  11. It is astounding how these scientists present studies proving AGW is wrong yet won’t present the conclusion their study reaches.

    If Antarctic (and Arctic for that matter) glaciers is caused by ocean warming, than it is not man causing it, it has to be natural.

    Direct sunlight is the only way to heat the ocean. There is nothing man can put in the air to warm the ocean. Heat capacities and the properties of water (skin layer, failure of LWIR to penetrate at depth, etc.) preclude air warming water.

    Rest in Peace — AGW.

    • You will find, should you care to look, that the ocean comprises some 93% of the climate system, and as such that is where 93% of man’s contribution to warming is going. The increase in GM air temp is just a small part.

      • Yes 93% of the climate system is driven by the oceans. Where your wrong is believing there is ANYTHING man can do to change ocean temperatures which are driven EXCLUSIVELY by solar insolation. Cloud cover can effect how much sunlight reaches the ocean, but man cannot control how much sunlight reaches the oceans nor the physics of heat capacities, skin layer, and evaporation regulate its temperature.

      • I find the condescension of alarmist’s posts to be quite funny. They don’t seem to realize that this and all topics related to climate have been discussed thoroughly on this site, whether it be in the articles, or the educational commentary following. It has not occurred to them that all points of contention have been/are discussed in this forum in depth. They think they are the first to “enlighten us”. Too funny. 8^D

        Toneb – get over yourself, then start to think about what you write. I would forward a hypothesis that you haven’t got a clue regarding climate and its description. In order for your claim to be correct, a lot of SWAGS would have to be spot on. It is just not so.

        78.5% of statistics are made up on the spot. Or is it 97%?

      • It has often been said that the atmosphere is just a thin envelope surrounding our Earth but the edge of that envelope rises 62 miles above sea level while the ocean depths vary from 11km at the Mariana Trench to 2.5km at the Mid Atlantic Ridge with the average depth of 3.8km. The main point of interaction between the ocean and atmosphere, where the ocean has the greatest effect on the climate is contained in the top 100 meters of ocean. So the climate is moderated by the fluid covering 70% of the planet surface to a depth of 100 meters. But the major effect this fluid has takes place as storms in the atmosphere where storm clouds rise to altitudes of 45,000 meters so the atmospheric interplay has a far greater depth of influence. Clouds play a roll of both dissipating energy and reflecting energy in either direction.
        As far as percentage of the Earth that moderates/influences climate goes, the atmosphere plays a far greater roll than the remaining 7% that would allow for the ocean being responsible for 93%. The ocean’s effect is far less then 93%

      • Here’s how skepticalscience explains how CO2 heats the ocean:

        “Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, trap heat in the atmosphere and direct part of this back toward the surface. This heat cannot penetrate into the ocean itself, but it does warm the cool skin layer, and the level of this warming ultimately controls the temperature gradient in the layer. … Despite being only 0.1 to 1mm thick on average, this skin layer is the major player in the long-term warming of the oceans.”

        The trapped heat contained in the “cool skin layer” which is about a hairs-width in thickness, is what determines the heat of the oceans 1,000s of meters deep because the special heat from CO2 dives downwards rather than rises. Never mind that insolation directly warms the first ~20 meters of the ocean. That doesn’t count. It’s the “0.1 to 1mm” skin layer that is more influential in causing global-scale warming.

      • “Toneb – get over yourself, then start to think about what you write. I would forward a hypothesis that you haven’t got a clue regarding climate and its description. In order for your claim to be correct, a lot of SWAGS would have to be spot on. It is just not so.”

        I know it is anathema for someone on here to explain the actual science …. You know, that actually discovered by people who spend their professional lives researching such.
        I’d suggest it is you that should “get over yourself” my friend.
        If you say that I have no “clue” regarding “climate and its description” that is again par for the course on here.
        As of course you believe that said climate scientists know nothing of climate. Sorry in my reality…. You have it precisely backward.
        In other words if you do not know of my professional background, you could always ask.
        But, I return …… Most on here have greater contempt for those with knowledge that the average ignorant on here.
        I care not a jot my friend.
        But then if you say so …. And another dog-whistle gets a response.

        PS: what are your credentials, such that you attribute to me, and that which you show zero knowledge to assert?

      • The CO2 warming myth is best characterized as a house of cards, and it is blown over by an ocean breeze. As the analysis below demonstrates, even if you accept the IPCC value for CO2 “forcing” (which is a violation of thermodynamics), the strength of this “forcing” when compared to the varying methods for ocean heat exchange becomes immeasurable.

        As the calculations below demonstrate, a .5 MPH wind delivers more ocean cooling than the entire “warming” caused by the Industrial Age change in CO2.

        Thus, the CO2 warming theory drowns in the first .5mm of the ocean, and the AGW House of Cards is blown over by a puff of wind. Any study that points to ocean warming (Karl included) as the signal of AGW is a prima facia case for the theory being wrong. Ocean warming DISPROVES AGW. Period.

        The sun warms the ocean, the ocean warms the atmosphere, the atmosphere drives the weather. All the rest is just hand waving.

        https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/can-co2-warm-the-oceans/

        “It is simply impossible for the observed increase in downward LWIR flux from a 120 ppm increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration to heat the oceans. This presumed LWIR induced ocean warming is one of the major errors in the global warming scam. The increase in flux from CO2 is nominally 2 W.m^-2 or 0.18 MJ.m^-2 per day. The oceans are heated by the sun – up to 25 MJ m^-2 per day for full tropical or summer sun. About half of this solar heat is absorbed in the first 1 m layer of the ocean and 90% is absorbed in the first 10 m layer. The heat is removed by a combination of wind driven evaporation from the surface and LWIR emission from the first 100 micron layer. That’s about the width of a human hair. In round numbers, about 50 W.m^-2 is removed from the ocean surface by the LWIR flux and the balance comes from the wind driven evaporation. The heat capacity of the cooled layer at the surface is quite small – 4.2 kJ.m^-2 for a 1 mm layer. This reacts quite rapidly to any changes in the cooling flux and the heat transfer from the bulk ocean below and the evaporation rate change accordingly. The cooler water produce at the surface then sinks and cools the bulk ocean layer below. This is not just a diffusion process, but convection in which the cooler water sinks and warmer rises in a complex circulating flow pattern (Rayleigh-Benard convection). This couples the surface momentum (wind shear) to lower depths and drives the ocean currents. At higher latitudes the surface area of a sphere decreases and this drives the currents to lower depths.

        In round numbers, the temperature increase produced by a 2 W.m^-2 increase in LWIR flux from CO2 is overwhelmed by a 50 ± 50 W.m^-2 flux of cold water and a 0 to 1000 W.m^-2 solar heating flux.

        Over the tropical warm pool the wind driven cooling rate is about 40 W.m^-2.m.s^-1 (40 Watts per square meter for each 1 m/sec change in wind speed). This means that a change in wind speed of 20 cm.s^-1 is equivalent to the global warming heat flux. (20 centimeters per second).”

      • “They don’t seem to realize that this and all topics related to climate have been discussed thoroughly on this site, whether it be in the articles, or the educational commentary following. It has not occurred to them that all points of contention have been/are discussed in this forum in depth. They think they are the first to “enlighten us”. Too funny. 8^D”

        Alas, enlightenment is almost impossible. This is illustrated here. Kennethrichards finds the mechanism for IR resulting in warmer oceans incredible. This seems to be based on the fact that a thin layer cannot influence energy transfer. What this absurd assumption is based on is anyone’s guess. Thousands of professional scientists accept it but to Kennthrichards it does not sound right, so it must be wrong.

        There was a detailed description here a while ago, so David Ball is right, these things are discussed here. Unfortunately no one seems to remember. It was a discussion of an actual experiment that measured IR and surface layer temperatures. From what I remember, the IR increased the surface layer temperature, which reduced the energy transfer from the deeper layers to the atmosphere. If we have constant energy in (from insolation) and the IR reduces the rate of energy out, we get warmer oceans!

        The argument that oceans are warmed only by insolation, therefore IR cannot result in warmer oceans is like arguing that my front room is warmed solely by the radiator, so closing the curtains cannot result in a warmer room.

      • seaice1 July 15, 2016 at 7:15 am
        You do not appear to have thought through your claims:

        From what I remember, the IR increased the surface layer temperature, which reduced the energy transfer from the deeper layers to the atmosphere.

        The additional energy imparted by IR to the top few microns thick layer of water molecules enables those water molecules to escape by providing sufficient energy for them to achieve the latent heat of evaporation. That is they become excited enough to escape the surface tension. They then increase the humidity of the air above the water surface, humid air is lighter than dryer air (molecular weight of N2 and O2 being higher than H2O and the number of molecules being constant cf Avogadro) in consequence the humid air will rise taking the energy in the evaporating molecules into the atmosphere cooling the surface. There will be no ‘warm layer’ from infrared radiation there will be a cooler layer. To warm it is necessary to have shorter wavelengths that penetrate the below the surface.

      • Posted this earlier, but might have been caught in moderation.

        The CO2 warming house of cards is blown away by a .5 mph wind. The ocean heat transfer math shows that the entire CO2 “forcing” (which is against thermodynamics) as defined by the IPCC is immeasurable against the massive heat transfers of solar insolation and evaporation.

        The skin layer prohibits any penetration by LWIR and the entire Industrial Age “forcing” from the increase in CO2 is less than the cooling caused by a .5 mph breeze.

        Thus, CO2 warming drowns in water the width of a human hair and the CAGW house of cards is blown over by a puff of wind.

        If CAGW fails for over 70% of the earth’s surface — it fails.

        https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/can-co2-warm-the-oceans/

        “It is simply impossible for the observed increase in downward LWIR flux from a 120 ppm increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration to heat the oceans. This presumed LWIR induced ocean warming is one of the major errors in the global warming scam. The increase in flux from CO2 is nominally 2 W.m^-2 or 0.18 MJ.m^-2 per day. The oceans are heated by the sun – up to 25 MJ m^-2 per day for full tropical or summer sun. About half of this solar heat is absorbed in the first 1 m layer of the ocean and 90% is absorbed in the first 10 m layer. The heat is removed by a combination of wind driven evaporation from the surface and LWIR emission from the first 100 micron layer. That’s about the width of a human hair. In round numbers, about 50 W.m^-2 is removed from the ocean surface by the LWIR flux and the balance comes from the wind driven evaporation. The heat capacity of the cooled layer at the surface is quite small – 4.2 kJ.m^-2 for a 1 mm layer. This reacts quite rapidly to any changes in the cooling flux and the heat transfer from the bulk ocean below and the evaporation rate change accordingly. The cooler water produce at the surface then sinks and cools the bulk ocean layer below. This is not just a diffusion process, but convection in which the cooler water sinks and warmer rises in a complex circulating flow pattern (Rayleigh-Benard convection). This couples the surface momentum (wind shear) to lower depths and drives the ocean currents. At higher latitudes the surface area of a sphere decreases and this drives the currents to lower depths.

        In round numbers, the temperature increase produced by a 2 W.m^-2 increase in LWIR flux from CO2 is overwhelmed by a 50 ± 50 W.m^-2 flux of cold water and a 0 to 1000 W.m^-2 solar heating flux.

        Over the tropical warm pool the wind driven cooling rate is about 40 W.m^-2.m.s^-1 (40 Watts per square meter for each 1 m/sec change in wind speed). This means that a change in wind speed of 20 cm.s^-1 is equivalent to the global warming heat flux. (20 centimeters per second).”

    • Bryan A: “As far as percentage of the Earth that moderates/influences climate goes, the atmosphere plays a far greater roll than the remaining 7% that would allow for the ocean being responsible for 93%. The ocean’s effect is far less then 93%”

      Levitus et al., 2012
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2012GL051106/abstract
      “The World Ocean accounts for approximately 93% of the warming of the earth system that has occurred since 1955.”

      Ellsaesser, 1984
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0004698184901185
      “The current eager acceptance of oceanic thermal lag as the “explanation” as to why CO2 warming remains undetected, reemphasizes that the atmosphere cannot warm until the oceans do. The logical implication follows that most current climate models are lacking in relevance; they have not been constructed with ocean surface temperature as the fundamental variable. When the problem is attacked from this view, sensitivity to CO2 is significantly reduced; a position also strongly supported by the available palaeoclimatic data.”

  12. Nice study, except this is NOT the first time ocean currents have been used to explain the melting on the Antarctic peninsula. And NOT the first time volcanism has been ignored. h/t Latitude.

    • From the story:

      A new study has found for the first time that ocean warming is the primary cause of retreat of glaciers on the western Antarctic Peninsula.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Thwaites Glacier on the western Antarctic Peninsula? Here’s a story about how geothermal heat is melting the Thwaites Glacier.

      The problem with academics is their ability to ignore the glaringly obvious.

    • Trying to model with or estimate system change/contribution as associated with volcanism seems to be an even more complicated endeavor that guessing how the clouds are going to be moving around.

      … easier to ignore it, claim it doesn’t do anything significant, or provide bogus calculations showing it doesn’t exist.

  13. If the melting is in fact due to warm ocean waters, this actually means that warmth is *leaving* the ocean system, and heading for space.

  14. Oh dear. Again, I thought I had learned some time ago that Antarctic Peninsula melting was caused by a warm Pacific current moving south in summer and then north again causing re-freezing. That this the place journalists were taken to to see the global warming catastrophe. Is this all wrong?

    • WAIS has generally been retreating for 20k yrs. interspersed are periods of global cold where it advances before resuming its retreat.

      When the WAIS finally stops retreating and begins to grow on a millenial time scale… the Holocene is over.

      • “When the WAIS finally stops retreating and begins to grow on a millenial time scale… the Holocene is over”

        That’s the time to stock up on ammo and insulation.

  15. It would be a good study should the oceans around Antarctica actually be warming but since there is no data showing this but only data showing cooling/stable temps or warming from 1972 to 1985 and cooling/stable temps after that, one would have to assume it is models or adjustments again.

    Models and adjustments showing warming would certianly NOT be for the very first time since the whole science seems to be based on it being done in EVERY single study ever – it is all they are about really. Just another FAKE like they all are – these people are highly paid PhDs which really pisses me off.

  16. Arctic and Antarctic ice melting and building follow cyclic variation in opposite pattern The ice area that is building up is more than 70% of total ice area. Glaciers may be melting but in more area it is building. For doing this where from the moisture comes? By accounting this, can we say sea level rising?

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  17. I’m holding out to see what the crew of the good ship Boaty McBoatface has to say about this . ; )

      • A Science magazine research article summary before the climate quack Marcia McNutter took over as Sr Editor and destroyed science at Science magazine:

        ” . The study bolsters a fragile consensus that gradual retreat, rather than sudden collapse, is the most likely fate of the ice sheet during the next few thousand years, he says.
        http://www.sciencemag.org/news/1999/10/antarctic-ice-beats-retreat

        Back when Science magazine actually did Climate Science as science, the retreat of the the WAIS was a completely understood Holocene phenomenon. If the Holocene goes as long and extreme as the Eemian, it means 30 more feet of SLR. CO2 not needed. Anthropogenic or natural.

    • the demiseofchristchurch page has unknown scripts attempting to downoad. according to Chrome

      • M E Emberson,
        I got this message from WordPress. Hope it helps.

        Hi there,

        >Chrome gives messages when loading my website:- ‘demiseofchristchurch page has unknown scripts attempting t

        Your question got cut off but it sounds like one of your readers was having trouble viewing your site on Chrome.

        Do you know if that user has javascript blocked? We use several scripts, including some 3rd party ones to make the site work, so if your reader has their browser locked down they might get a message like that.

        Let me know if you have any questions about that!”

        Cheers

        Roger

    • I am sure you know, Wellington is higher now than it was in 1840, Killbirnie didn’t exist nor did the airport. So even 1.7mm p/y, the quake in 1840 wiped that threat out for about 1000 years!

      • Patrick, thanks. I certainly am aware uof the Wellington earthquakes although they were basically before official sea level recording began. I know that the basin reserve which is now a sports and cricket facility used to be used by ships to shelter from bad weather.

        The 1.7mm figure comes from Hannah
        GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 31, L03307,
        doi:10.1029/2003GL019166, 2004

        Cheers
        Roger

  18. Which all raises the question, what is causing the ocean, esp at mid-depth, to warm? It certainly cannot be CO2, as, even if there was a mechanism for it to cause it, the heat capacity of the ocean is so great as to make any temperature difference so small as to be unmeasurable.

    So, are we seeing warm waters being transported from elsewhere?

  19. Yep. Net discharge. The only way we can rise out of a stadial glacial period is if the oceans switch from net recharge to net discharge of stored heat. No other source of heat has been measured that can account for that sudden switch to a rapid millennial length rise to a warm interstadial period (with the assumption that we can rule out CO2 because it follows heat, not causes heat). Once at that peak it appears that we stay there for a relatively short period of time, bouncing between small discharge/recharge ocean conditions prior to the oceans switching to millennial length slow net recharging mode, leading us back down in jagged steps to another stadial glacial period. In my mind experiment, the vast ocean volume, slowly storing heat and then rapidly sending it back out, is a plausible mechanism, using current thermodynamic modeling of such a volume of water in slow oscillation between recharge and discharge, with orbital solar insolation assisting that swing.

  20. From the article: “We have known the region is a climate warming hotspot for a while, but we couldn’t explain what was causing the pattern of glacier change.”

    As far as I’m concerned, you *still* haven’t explained it. You say it is because of warmer water, but you don’t say why the water is warmer.

    If the heat is originating in the deeper levels, volcanic activity might be involved. But you didn’t say “yeah” or “nay” on that point.

  21. There’s an interesting book published in 1950 by Thomas R Henry, a journalist-writer who toured with the 1930-33 Admiral Byrd expedition. They noted the geothermal and volcanic aspects affecting areas of melt, as well as ocean currents affecting certain regions. The book is called The White Continent. Those explorers had some true grit!

  22. My late father used to talk about an activity he was involved in during the early 1940s which had the effect of massively increasing aerosols and dust and smoke and stuff. Fortunately, although several times wounded, he was not killed.

  23. “This new study shows that a warmer ocean is the key to understanding the behaviour of glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula. Currently the Peninsula makes one of the largest contributions to sea-level rise, which means understanding this link will improve predications of sea-level rise.”
    The Antarctic Peninsula is so small relative to the Antarctic that the changes at the peninsula does not mean anything and can not be used for any predictions.
    In fact it is the whole continent (or whatever it is called) that influences the sea level. Look at a map.

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