Alarmists Gone Wild: Greenland losing 400 cubic km ice cubes per year!!!

Guest post by David Middleton



The thaw is happening far faster than once expected. Over the past three decades the area of sea ice in the Arctic has fallen by more than half and its volume has plummeted by three-quarters (see map). SWIPA estimates that the Arctic will be free of sea ice in the summer by 2040. Scientists previously suggested this would not occur until 2070. The thickness of ice in the central Arctic ocean declined by 65% between 1975 and 2012; record lows in the maximum extent of Arctic sea ice occurred in March.


The most worrying changes are happening in Greenland, which lost an average of 375bn tonnes of ice per year between 2011 and 2014—almost twice the rate at which it disappeared between 2003 and 2008 (see chart). This is the equivalent of over 400 massive icebergs measuring 1km on each side disappearing each year. The shrinkage is all the more perturbing because its dynamics are not well understood. Working out what is going on in, around and underneath a supposedly frigid ice sheet is crucial to understanding how it will respond to further warming and the implications of its demise for rising global sea levels (see article).


The Economist

375 billion tonnes per year… Oh my!

400 massive icebergs measuring 1km on each side disappearing each year… Oh no!!!

Wait a second… Those sound like big numbers… But how big are they compared to the Greenland ice sheet?

The USGS says that the volume of the Greenland ice sheet was 2,600,000 km3  at the beginning of the 21st century.

According to the “ice sheet goeth” graph, since 2001, Greenland lost about 3,600 gigatonnes of ice or about 3,840 km3 … That equates  to a 16 km x 16 km x 16 km cube of ice (3√ 3,840 = 15.66).  That’s YUGE!  Right? Not really.

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 less about 2 meters thick… Not even a rounding error compared to the average thickness of the Greenland ice sheet.

  • 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).  2 meters is about 0.15% of 1,500 meters.


Isopach map of the Greenland ice sheet. The first contour inside the white area represents an ice thickness of 1,000 meters. Source: Eric Gaba (Wikimedia Commons user Sting) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The thickness of the Greenland ice sheet is truly apparent on this radar cross section:


A really cool radar cross section of the Greenland ice sheet.   Source:

From a thickness perspective, 2 meters looks like this:


The top panel is zoomed in on the box in the lower panel.  Each square on the graph paper image represents 5 vertical meters.

Using The Economist ratio of 400 km3 to 375 gigatonnes, 2,600,000 km3  works out to 2,437,500 gigatonnes.  When some actual perspective is applied, it is obvious that “the ice sheet goeth” nowhere:


The ice sheet goeth nowhere.

Despite all of the warming since the end of Neoglaciation, the Greenland ice sheet still retains more than 99% of its 1900 AD ice mass.

Multiple Choice Quiz

Fill in the blank:

Alarmists are _________ perspective.

  • a) allergic to
  • b) ignorant of
  • c) willfully ignoring

225 thoughts on “Alarmists Gone Wild: Greenland losing 400 cubic km ice cubes per year!!!

      • What is the percentage of error on the measurements. It appears the the “loss” could fall within that boundary.

      • Also, as I recall the 2011-12 graph originally didn’t end at zero accumulation (it was originally a positive gain) either but was updated to zero sometime later in the year. Never saw an explanation for that update (not that they didn’t publish one, I just thought it was a strange update that year).

      • Summit camp, the ONLY permanent weather station in the interior that is measuring weather parameters.
        From Wiki:
        “The climate is classified as polar, and the weather is highly variable. Typical daily maximum temperatures at Summit Camp are around −35 °C (−31 °F) in winter (January) and −10 °C (14 °F) in summer (July). Winter minimum temperatures are typically about −45 °C (−49 °F) and only rarely exceed −20 °C (−4 °F). Annual precipitation is about 3,000 mm (118.1 in), much of which falls as sleet or snow, which is possible in any month. Inland, the snow line in summer is at an altitude of about 300 m (984 ft). The highest temperature at Summit Camp was 3.6 °C (38.5 °F), recorded on July 16, 2012; the lowest recorded temperature is −67.2 °C (−89.0 °F)”
        Average high deg C, June -11, July -11, Aug -14.
        Average mean deg C, June -15, July -13, Aug -16
        Average low deg C, June -19, July -15, Aug -21
        Mighty warm ice that melts at -11 C.

    • Lat – Glad David showed the top map of Greenland with the location of GRIP2.
      please see
      About half way down the data is :
      2. Accumulation rate in central Greenland
      Column 1: Age (thousand years before present)
      Column 2: Accumulation rate (m. ice/year)

       Age Accumulation
       1st   0.144043 0.244106
       last 2 48.9746 0.091739
              49.0034 0.091599

      So 48,856 years and there are no negative numbers for Accumulation. Or every time period has increased volume. On the summit, Greenland over the last 49,000 years has only gained ice.
      {changed to fixed font for table. Not sure it is any more clear. .mod]

      • For the last 3,000 years they have data points about every 30 years, but nothing more recent than 144 years ago. Does it really take that long for the snow to compress into ice?

        • It usually takes longer… particularly in Antarctica. It’s dependent on the snow accumulation rate.

    • But what does this actually show?
      For example, in 2011/12 (the red line) it suggests that there was no gain or loss of ice that year. In other words, as from 1st September 2011, ice accumulated, reaching a peak at the end of May/beginning of June 2012, and then lost ice through to 31st August 2012 such that by 31st August 2012 there was approximately the same amount of ice as there was on 1st September 2011.
      However, the black line (the mean0 appears to suggest that throughout the year, on average over a 30 year period, there has been a gain of about 380GT each year.
      If the mean is correct and each year ends with approximately some 350GT more ice than when the year started, it would appear that Greenland has gained some 10,500GT (ie., ~350 x 30) during the period 1981 to 2010.
      Am I missing something? Am I mis-reading this plot?

        The reference to 380/350GT should be 300GT.
        The reference to 10,500GT should be 7,200GT (ie., 300 x 24).

      • The chart shows gain from snow fall and loss from melting and sublimation. It does not include loss from glacial calving.
        The web page ( ) states: “Over the year, it snows more than it melts, but calving of icebergs also adds to the total mass budget of the ice sheet. 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.”
        Of course, this text has remained the same even though this year and last year were both years of large snowfall.

      • Thanks
        I should have checked their web page, it contains a useful summary. That said, I consider the plot ought to contain a better description of what it is showing.

    • latitude,
      to me that change means that this years increase is similar to the levels last reached in the 1980s.

  1. BTW
    Glacier calving is not the same as glacier melting
    – calving is a lot of ice reaching the sea
    – melting is the glacier RETREATING

    • Recycled.
      “When glaciers calve, alarmist have a cow.
      That explains all the bellowing!”

    • Ice cap loss and gain of mass is a function of precipitation and the calving of icebergs. That cause and effect relationship is separated by hundreds of years. Hence the change in ice mass today is likely due to the change in precipitation patterns hundreds of years ago. Assigning the cause of today’s ice loss on current CO2 emissions and climate is just plain silly.

      • Allencic – 2:22 pm
        Glaciers that aren’t advancing can’t calve icebergs.

        You don’t get it. If alpine glaciers recede it’s Global Warming, if continental glaciers advance, it’s Global Warming. Do you see how that works? Whatever happens leads to catastrophic disaster and CO2 and Climate Change are the cause.

        • As for “if”, if my aunt had balls, he’d be my uncle. Sea level rise is ~1mm per year.

    • But then doesn’t that result in the same loss of ice from the glacier? Whether it melts or runs off a cliff seems to me to be immaterial. Pls correct me if I am wrong.

      • Only if you think that taking your dog to a taxidermist is the same as taking him to a veterinarian, because they both return your dog to you when they are done.

    • If there wasn’t calving and melting, then all the water on the planet would end up at the poles–like Mars. That would lead to other problems.

  2. Scientists are happy to admit they were wrong — as long as it was wrong in the “worse than we thought” direction: “SWIPA estimates that the Arctic will be free of sea ice… by 2040. Scientists previously suggested this would not occur until 2070.”
    You never see blaring headlines in the other direction.
    Notice the current prediction is an “estimate”; the previous was a mere “suggestion”.

  3. The ultimate cherry pick is taking an arbitrary five year period and comparing it to an arbitrary three year period to come up with a 25 year into the future prediction of dire consequences.

  4. AFAIK one of the greatest problems with GRACE measurements is the problem of identifying where Greenland ends and the sea begins. It’s not an exact science, let’s put it that way.

    • Told you…
      However, one of larger errors in GRACE measurements, land–ocean
      leakage effects, restricts high precision retrieval of ocean mass and
      terrestrial water storage variations along the coasts, particularly
      estimation of mass loss in Greenland. The land–ocean leakage effect
      along the coasts in Greenland will contaminate the mass loss signals
      with significant signal attenuation. In this paper, the precise glacier
      mass loss in Greenland from GRACE is re-estimated with correction of
      land–ocean leakage effects using the forward gravity modeling. The
      loss of Greenland ice-sheets is −102.8 ± 9.01 Gt/a without removing
      leakage effect, but −183.0 ± 19.91 Gt/a after removing the leakage
      effect from September 2003 to March 2008, which has a good agreement
      with ICESat results of −184.8 ± 28.2 Gt/a. From January 2003 to
      December 2013, the total Greenland ice-sheet loss is at−261.54±6.12
      Gt/a fromGRACE measurements with removing the leakage effect by
      42.4%,while twothirds of total glacier melting in Greenland occurred in
      southern Greenland in the past 11 years. The secular leakage effects on
      glaciermelting estimate is mainly located in the coastal areas, where
      larger glacier signals are significantly attenuated due to leaking out
      into the ocean. Furthermore, the leakage signals also have remarkable
      effects on seasonal and acceleration variations of glacier mass loss in
      Greenland. More significantly accelerated loss of glacier mass in
      Greenland is found at −26.19 Gt/a2 after correcting for leakage
      Re-estimation of glacier mass loss in Greenland from GRACE with
      correction of land–ocean leakage effects
      Shuanggen Jin a,b,⁎, Fang Zoua,c

    • The GIA (glacial isostatic adjustment) is also a big issue. The GIA is often much larger than the asserted ice loss.

  5. Bit of an own goal, here, by the alarmists.
    Their *first* point, about sea ice, was cogent. It *could* disappear during the summer months, with unknown effects on weather systems. Unlikely, according to some, but debatable.
    Their, *second* point, however, about the Greenland ice sheet, is pure horse puckey.
    Putting the two side by side only weakens the first point, without making the second more credible. It seems the CAGW enthusiasts can’t resist talking ball hooks, *even when they’re right*!

  6. And what was the growth of the Greenland ice cap 1940-75? I do seem to remember a bit about WWII planes found tens of meters down in ice.

  7. The post Ice age warming began ~10,000 years ago and yet it continues. Ice ages have come and gone without the influence of human activity. And so it shall continue. Why would you NOT expect that the post ice-age warming to continue?
    Why would anyone think it would stop?

    • Well it has actually stopped, it is just that the temperature fall after the Holocene Optimum has been a kind 1400 year phugoid with successively cooler optima we are about to see how cool the next dip in temperatures will be.

      • Ian W,
        I number myself among the many of those who are skeptical that the earth is warming at this time, not to mention, skeptical of warming due to to human influence. More often I dismiss any melt report as hype, but here I wanted to express a different, related idea this time. I wish to reinforce the notion that the earth at one time was covered in ice and then it warmed, with no help from people.

    • Looking at ice core data from Antarctica, there is no significant trend over the Holocene. I was surprised since I’ve taken the “warmer” early Holocene pretty much on faith. It was technically very slightly warmer, but nothing to write home about. There’s a very weak correlation with increasing age. R-squared is about 0.008. Essentially no significant relationship between time and temperature in the Vostok data over the last 11,000 years. That was derived using a simple linear model in R. Vostok data has an increasing interval with increasing age.

  8. I love how they conflate Greenland ice sheet melt with loss of arctic sea ice. They discuss seemingly big numbers of one (nice work debunking this by adding the appropriate scale for perspective) and then offer it as unconnected and unsupported proof of the second. They then close with obligatory hat tip toward DOOM and it is very clear that the emotional response that they are trying to evoke is: BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID.
    This from the Economist, no less. I expect better from them.

    • One time maybe. In recent decades, no.
      Whether it is economics or global warming, the Economist has drunk the left wing kool aid.

    • The Economist does this sort of nonsense all the time these days. Has for quite a few years now.

  9. 3,840km^3 spread out over the sea surface area 510.082e6 km^2 gives a sea level rise of 7.528e-6 km
    =7,528e-6*1e3*1000mm=7.53mm if I have the maths right.
    over 16 years that’s 0.47mm/year

  10. Compared to the coldest time in the last 150 years, arctic ice has fallen.
    Oh the humanity of it all.

    • As I have said many times:
      Any scientist can calculate a value. It takes engineering perspective to let you know how big of a shit load that really is…or in this case…is not.

      • That is why we can engineer to 4 nines, and not have to worry about the next 4.

  11. Do any of you ever point out their mistakes to “them” in letter, or email form?

    • Not in quite a while. The general response is “thank you” and the “mistake” is never corrected.

    • Becky, while we may view the omission of perspective as “error”, I firmly suspect they do not, as it detracts from their alarmist narrative. Given the frequency of occurrence, the omissions of mitigating data or perspective appear to be intentional to mislead “useful idiots”.

    • I’ve often thought and still do think along the same lines as you Becky: no point in making such (VALID) comments here, when they’ll only be read, let alone taken seriously by like minded people – sceptics like us. What’s desperately needed is something that is all but impossible, at least for the short term: MSM (especially TV and radio) exposure of this site’s and similar site’s hard-facts and truthful content.
      Socialism has never worked, so we can only hope that soon it will end up doing what history has shown always happens – it will destroy itself. The useful idiots that are currently used to spread the fear and ramp up CAGW / climate change hysteria, must eventually realise at some time that they have been used and it will be their lives that will be compromised no less than the lives of other ordinary people, by this wicked, misanthropic scam…

      • Alan. Socialism does always destroy itself, unfortunately it seems take forever in term of human suffering and subjugation. Venezuela is a recent example.

      • Alan Vaughn:
        You have introduced a ‘red herring’ that Leonard Lane has picked up.
        The global warming scare is promoted by governments of all political types. It is a ‘band wagon’ that they are riding because it suites their various desires.
        Indeed, the scare was started by Margaret Thatcher (i.e. a vituperative anti-socialist) and her political party (i.e. the UK’s Conservative Party aka ‘the Tories) still promotes it.
        All politicians need to raise taxes but people don’t want to pay taxes so politicians seek a tax that people want to pay. Here in the UK we have one such tax that people want to pay; i.e. the National Lottery. When politicians fail to find a tax that people want to pay then they seek a tax that people will not object to paying. And who could object to paying a tax intended to save the planet for our children and our children’s children?
        Also, each national government has its own special interests in global warming but, in all cases, the motives relate to economic policies. In general, the USA fears loss of economic power to other nations while this is desired by those other nations. Universal adoption of ‘carbon taxes’, or other universal proportionate reductions in industrial activity, would provide relative benefit to the other nations by altering relative competitiveness. Unfortunately, if a few nations adopted the changes they would increase their manufacturing, transportation and energy costs and thus lose economic competitiveness and industrial activity to all other nations.
        Developing nations cannot afford technological and economic advances that would benefit them and also reduce their increases to CO2 emissions as they develop, so they are seeking gifted technology transfers and economic aid from developed countries as ‘climate compensation’.
        These matters have nothing to do with any political ‘ism’.
        We have truth on our side. Shouting about falsehoods damages credibility.

        Please try to keep on topic.

      • “richardscourtney” writes “You have introduced a ‘red herring’ that Leonard Lane has picked up”, and then proceeds to declare that since “governments of all political types” promote the global warming scare, then no particular political “ism” can be blamed. But that’s a non-sequitur, since there is rarely a “pure” “ism” in any government, but rather all governments have varying degrees of alignment with, and opposition against, that particularly heinous abuse of science.
        Dancing around the May Pole, as it were, distracting the reader from the clear pronouncements from U.N. one-worlders and leftists the world over, denouncing capitalism, declaring that abolishing capitalism is the way to fix the climate, demanding massive “progressive” taxes to fix the climate, etc.
        Collectivism of any sort is the political insanity which permits the acceptance of this false science, since it is precisely the sort of “problem” that demands a “collective” solution. Socialists and one-world-government types simply can’t help themselves when presented with such a “problem” demanding a solution.
        And it’s simply not rational not to recognize the affinity for collectivists and “global warming”.

      • Tom in Oregon City:
        Clearly, logic is not your strong point. You say

        “richardscourtney” writes “You have introduced a ‘red herring’ that Leonard Lane has picked up”, and then proceeds to declare that since “governments of all political types” promote the global warming scare, then no particular political “ism” can be blamed. But that’s a non-sequitur, since there is rarely a “pure” “ism” in any government, but rather all governments have varying degrees of alignment with, and opposition against, that particularly heinous abuse of science.

        Anybody can see the non sequitur is yours.
        It matters not whether there is a pure “ism” when governments of all political types promote the global warming scare.
        Please put down the ‘red herring’ and discuss the subject of this thread instead.

    • Becky:
      Please read this.
      I would be very grateful if you – or anybody – were to suggest a solution to the problem highlighted by your question.

  12. You need to have 400,000 cubic kilometres of LAND ICE melting to raise global sea level by 1 metre.

  13. It is amazing to me that the vast majority of climate scientists seem to be completely unaware of the fact that global warming increases snow and ice accumulation on ice sheets and glaciers, reducing sea-level, and offsetting ice loss through melting and iceberg calving. They frequently refer to “the two ways” in which warming influences sea-level: by melting of grounded ice, and by thermal expansion. They seem not to know that the process of accumulation of snow & ice on ice sheets and glaciers is at least as important in its effect on sea-level.
    Decreased sea ice coverage in the Arctic and Southern Oceans increases water evaporation. The additional evaporation increases “lake-effect/ocean-effect” snowfall downwind. Some of that snow falls on the ice sheets and glaciers, increasing ice accumulation, and offsetting meltwater losses.
    (Digression: the increased evaporation has other effects, too. It cools the ocean by evaporative heat loss — a negative/stabilizing climate temperature feedback. It also causes more snowfall on other land, increasing albedo and snowpack, decreasing land temperatures, and prolonging winter. It also apparently increases cloudiness, increasing albedo at altitude, and probably further cooling the surface, though clouds and their effects are very complex, and poorly understood.)
    Snow accumulation has a HUGE effect on grounded ice mass, which in turn affects sea-level.
    The magnitude of ice accretion from snowfall on ice sheets was illustrated by the team which salvaged a WWII P-38 (now called “Glacier Girl”) from under 268 feet(!!) of accumulated ice, 50 years after she landed on the Greenland ice sheet. That is an astonishing number. 268 feet of ice in 50 years is 5.4 feet of ice per year, which is equivalent to more than 80 feet of annual snowfall. That snow was mostly from evaporated water, removed from the Arctic Ocean.

    • daveburton says:
      “They frequently refer to “the two ways” in which warming influences sea-level: by melting of grounded ice, and by thermal expansion. They seem not to know that the process of accumulation of snow & ice on ice sheets and glaciers is at least as important in its effect on sea-level.”
      They know but it does not fit the narrative and thus their objective of continued funding. The Arctic was warmer than average for most of this winter and what did we see? Greater than average accumulation of snow on the vast majority of Greenland. Contrasts in the temperatures of air masses are a critical component in creating precipitation but that is just “weather” and has nothing to do with climate in their minds apparently.

  14. “.. the Arctic will be free of sea ice in the summer by 2040. Scientists previously suggested this would not occur until 2070.” 2070, really? It used to be 2016.

      • I have with my boot a few times. Old Army sergeants saying: “I’ll put my boot so far up your a$$ you’ll taste Kiwi for a week.”

  15. Matt Ridley had a good post on Greenland ice some years back:

    Is there a single journalist out there who bothered to ask the obvious question: what percentage of its ice mass is Greenland losing each year, so how long have we got before the 20 feet engulf us all?
    Not that I could see. So I looked it up.
    The new study says Greenland lost 385 cubic miles between 2002 and 2009. Sounds a lot.
    Greenland has 700,000 cubic miles of ice. (
    So it’s losing 1% per century, 0.01% per year. Funny that number never appeared in the news reports.
    For Pete’s sake, journalists, do your job.

    • At the rate of one percent per century, the GIS would be gone in 10,000 years, but since climate is cyclic, there will be more and probably colder Little Ice Ages during that interval in which the ice sheet will gain mass.
      IMO the 11,000 year-old Holocene, even should it last another ten thousand years just hasn’t been and won’t be hot enough to melt the whole GIS. In the Eemian, which was warmer and lasted 16,000 years, the Southern Dome melted about 25% more than it has so far in this interglacial, but the Northern Dome remained largely intact.
      However, should the Holocene last another 20 to 40,000 years, as some think possible, then the GIS could melt completely. The SD did so before in a longer, warmer interglacial, possibly twice.

    • Apparently they think their job, these days, is to tell you how/what to think. Forget facts, those are so patriarchal.

  16. ROFLMAO! I love this line from the economist, “around and underneath a supposedly frigid ice sheet”. So now Warmists are doubting that the Greenland Ice Sheet is frigid, merely just common speculation they insinuate. I really wonder what goes on inside their supposed grey matter.

    • I’m guessing that they are trying to argue that going from -30C to -29.99C means that Greenland is no longer frigid.

    • RW same thing that goes on in NYC snow, its gets grey, granulates, and melts away. Nah, couldn’t be correlation is not necessarily causation. So I guess we don’t know what goes on in their “supposed grey matter”.

  17. Everybody who knows anything about earth science (third grade and up) knows that we are in an interglacial period. What happens in interglacial periods? Yup – glaciers melt.
    The only time that glaciers don’t melt is when we are in a glaciation period – what laypersons used to refer to as an “ice age”. It sucks to be a human during an ice age. It’s much better to be a human during an inter-glacial period.
    Since the initiation of the Pleistocene, our planet has lived in a bipolar state – either a glacial period, or an interglacial period, or in one of the brief transitions from one state to the other. For the last 2.4 million years.
    The very worst thing “man-made global warming” can do is just more of the same … continue melting the remnants of the same glaciers that have been melting the last 15KY or so … just as we’ve been doing anyway.

  18. Alarmists are already far too much entangled in false reports to find a save way home to normality.
    a) allergic to
    b) ignorant of
    c) willfully ignoring
    d) far from reality

  19. This years winter maximum was about the same as other recent years. What is “unprecedented” however is how slowly Arctic sea ice is melting this year.
    The 30-year median melt in April is 1.175 million square kilometers. This year it was only 730,000 sq km. March melt was also lower this year.
    As predicted here, sea ice extent is headed for the normal range. It’s already higher than on April 30 this year than it was in 2016 and 2015. Unusually cold Arctic SST, which even NOAA has grudgingly acknowledged but downplayed, is the main reason for the slow thaw, but air temperatures in the region are also back close to average.
    Griff could still luck out on his assertion that this year was “sure” to set a new record low, if there are yet again August cyclones in the Arctic, but he has already been shown wrong that the ice would stay well below normal all year.

    • Last autumn, the Arctic had very much time to lose much heat from the upper reaches of the Arctic Ocean. Does no one notice what the Arctic really is? The biggest sink for the excess heat on the earth. And the longer the Arctic Ocean remains open in its peripheral regions, the greater the heat loss. Nevertheless, on the side of the NOAA is written, the ice sheet of the Arctic would lower the earth temperature. How can this happen when the ice isolates the water surface from the atmosphere? The albedo effect with thick ice is negligible in the arctic dark winter, since simply with such a non- insulation. In the arctic night there is no more heat in the atmosphere, which can be radiated. And also in Summer, except a few weeks at the ice minimum, the ice isolated the warmer water from the atmosphere, contrary to open water surfaces with a little frost in the atmosphere. But is the ice thinner, the heat release can happen also in late fall and early winter. At the time of the last real ice age the ice of the Arctic was about 3 times as thick as today, but the ocean below it was about 2-3 degrees warmer. What was not written after 2007 and 2012? But no, there were the years 2008 and 2009 and after 2012 came 2013, each year with an amazing rebound of the ice, where previously the early death was predicted. This year is even more striking, because the freezing in the 2016 fall and early winter was slower than ever and the Arctic Ocean is therefore very cold this spring and early summer. And therefore, the melting in the arctic is at a very slow pace.

      • Griff was told that this year might be like the rebounds from low ice previously, eg 2013. Ice was low in both 2015 and 2016, although not new records, so it could rebound rather than remain low for a third year. With the El Nino over, that might even be the way to bet. But actual extent will depend on the WX in August and September.
        Basically Arctic sea ice extent has been flat for a decade, with some years lower, eg 2007, 2012, 2015 and 2016, others higher, eg 2009, 2013 and 2014, and the rest in between.

      • i think it will likely be observed that the ebb and flow of arctic sea ice extent, both summer and winter,drive the amo .

  20. One has to ask what alarmists hope to accomplish with exaggeration and prevarication, other than risking their credibility. I presume that they think that the typical voter is too dumb or lazy to question the claims. Of course, that is an insult to the “common” person liberals pretend to represent.

    • Fear, Get enough people frightened of something they will demand that the Government does something about it. See the DDT response or the ozone hole thing. Tried and true tactics.

    • And yet we have Paul Ehrlich and his dismal record of incorrect prevarication carrying on with his sweet-ass career. Wrong about everything. Lauded a hero by the human haters.

  21. I remember reading maybe 20 years ago now that the planes slowly ‘sank’ through the snow and later ice getting to 268 feet below the surface level. Along with some additional snow falling on top for 50 years. Obviously this area of the icecap didn’t get 80 feet of snowfall per year, making 5.4 feet ice per year. Recent ice cores tells us this basic fact.
    The 2 Grace satellites are measuring gravity anomalies in the ice and bedrock below, so relying on Grace alone to measure ice balance alone may be in error if the underlying bedrock to great depth is changing density. The isostatic conditions are changing as well with LIDAR measurements to the actual surface so is difficult to get a real mass ice balance over all of Greenland.
    The coastal glaciers are receding in some area’s as is obvious but the ice cap is relatively unchanged and would take thousands of years to melt, especially at the higher elevations in the interior.

    • Yep. The P-38’s mostly sank into the snow.
      The problem with GRACE and bedrock is glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA). As ice sheets melt, the underlying crust rises (post glacial rebound, PGR).
      The raw data from GRACE actually indicate that the Antarctic ice sheet is growing and Greenland is fairly stable.
      The ice mass loss in Greenland is the result of subtracting the GIA from the raw GRACE data. The net ice mass loss is generally less than or equal to the GIA.

      Amazing GRACE
      Greenland is alleged to have lost between 93 and 191 gigatonnes of ice per year from 1992 (ten years before GRACE was launched) and 2011. If we assume 1 Gt of ice = 1 km^3 of ice and that the current volume of the Greenland ice sheet is ~5 million km^3 and that Greenland continues to melt at a rate of 142 km^3/yr over the next 90 years… The Greenalnd ice sheet will lose a bit more than 0.3% of its ice volume. ~142 Gt of ice per year equates to about 0.003% of ice mass loss per year. At 142 Gt/yr, Greenland will be ice-free in 35,211 years.
      GRACE (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment) consists of two satellites, launched in 2002, that measure subtle variations in Earth’s gravitational field. GRACE is the ideal tool for measuring changes in Earth’s polar ice caps.
      Figure 9. GRACE Mission (Source University of Texas).
      One of the most prolific authors on GRACE has been Dr. Isabella Velicogna, UC Irvine (one of Sheppard’s co-authors). Back in 2009 Dr. Velicogna published this paper in GRL:
      Increasing rates of ice mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets revealed by GRACE.
      Dr. Velicogna concluded that the ice mass-loss was “accelerating with time.” She found that “in Antarctica the mass loss increased from 104 Gt/yr in 2002–2006 to 246 Gt/yr in 2006–2009.”
      Since the launch of GRACE, Dr. Velicogna has participated in several papers on GRACE and ice mass loss estimates for Antarctic and Greenland. Each paper has presented a more dire situation than the previous one, yet GRACE has not actually measured a significant ice mass loss in Antarctica. The actual GRACE measurements indicate a net mass gain (44 ±20 Gt/yr) from October 2003 through February 2007.
      Figure 10. Total Mass Difference: TMD = Actual GRACE measurements. TMD – IJ05 and TMD – ICE5G = GRACE measurements adjusted for GIA (Riva et al., 2007).
      Furthermore, the GIA-adjusted Total Mass Differences (TMD) from the TU Delft publication are significantly lower than those of Velicogna 2009. GIA is the abbreviation for “glacial isostatic adjustment,” sometimes referred to as post-glacial rebound (PGR). The areas of the Earth’s crust that were covered by thick ice sheets during the last glacial maximum were depressed by the ice mass. As the ice sheets have retreated over the last 15-20,000 years, the crust has rebounded (risen) in those areas. So, the GRACE measurements have to be adjusted for GIA. The problem is that no one really knows what the GIA rate actually is. This is particularly true for Antarctica. Riva et al., 2007 concluded that the ice mass-loss rate in Antarctica from 2002-2007 could have been anywhere from zero-point-zero Gt/yr up to 120 Gt/yr. Dr. Riva recently co-authored a paper in GRL (Thomas et al., 2011) which concluded that GPS observations suggest “that modeled or empirical GIA uplift signals are often over-estimated” and that “the spatial pattern of secular ice mass change derived from Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) data and GIA models may be unreliable, and that several recent secular Antarctic ice mass loss estimates are systematically biased, mainly too high.”  So, there’s no evidence that the Antarctic ice sheets have experienced any significant ice mass-loss since GRACE has been flying.
      The GIA has generally been as large or larger than the asserted ice mass-loss. In 2009, Velicogna asserted that Antarctic ice mass loss “increased from 104 Gt/yr in 2002–2006 to 246 Gt/yr in 2006-2009.” In the current paper, supposedly showing accelerated melting, they claim that Antarctica is lost an average of 71 Gt/yr from 1992-2011. Both of those estimates add up to about 1,400 Gt from 1992-2011. This would mean that Antartica didn’t lose any ice before 2002 or after 2009. The steepening of the trend occurred in mid-2006. So there were 5.5 years of +72 Gt/yr and 3.5 years of -70 Gt/yr measurements. Velicogna didn’t repeat the mistake she made in 2006, when she actually published the pre-GIA (PGR) measurements…
      Figure 11. Antarctic ice mass from GRACE. The blue curve is prior to GIA/PGA adjustment (Velicogna and Wahr, 2006)
      Before the GIA adjustment, GRACE indicated a gain in ice mass. This means that from 2002-2006, GRACE was measuring a mass gain of 72 ±76 Gt/yr. Note: the error bar of the GIA is larger than the measured anomaly. From 2006 to 2009, GRACE recorded a net loss of 70 ±76 Gt/yr. Now, there should be some PGR or GIA. However, prior to Thomas et al., 2011 PGR/GIA had been model-derived. Now it appears that PGR/GIA is actually much smaller than the models indicated and its distribution is highly variable.
      But… Let’s assume that the Velicogna GIA/PGR adjustment is correct anid ice mass loss did accelerate from 2002-2009. Where did the water go? The rate of sea level rise has decelerated since 2002. Where did all that meltwater go?
      Figure 12. Decelleration of sea level rise during global warming hiatus.
      More fun with numbers… Let’s assume that Antarctica is losing 190 Gt of ice mass per year. 190 Gt sounds like a really big number, doesn’t it? 360 Gt of ice melt will yield 1 mm of sea level rise. 190 Gt is good for ~0.5 mm/yr of sea level rise. The volume of ice in the Antarctic ice cap is ~30,000,000 km3. 190 Gt is roughly 0.0006% of 30 million km3. GRACE is measuring no net change in the ice mass; yet a 0.0006% annual change is being calculated from the PGR adjustment. At 0.0006% per year, Antarctica will have lost 0.06% of its ice mass by the end of this century (99.94% of Antarctica will not have melted)! And sea level will have risen by… (drum roll)… 46 millimeters!!!…{ SARC} Almost 2 inches!!! Very extreme!!! {/SARC}
      A recent geoid-corrected sea level estimate using GRACE measurements (Baur et al., 2013) indicates that the actual seal level rise is about half of what Jason/Topex indicate. The GRACE value agrees with another recent and equally unpublicized NOAA study of tide gauge data.

      • David Middleton

        Yep. The P-38’s mostly sank into the snow.

        A frequent claim, but the “physics” of the airplanes does NOT support this myth.
        A piece of metal, when liad directly on a ice mass (and slightly heated) WILL slowly sink into the ice mass as its pressure slowly melts the ice below the metal, the ice becomes water and moves, and the metallic mass moves down and again presses against more ice lower down. A very slow process, and depends on the metal being very heavy (compared to the ice) and very dense (with a high mass to contact surface ratio.)
        A WWII P-38 is neither. Many that crash-landed in water stayed afloat for long periods, and these P-38 crashed because they were lightly-loaded (no guns, ammo, bombs, or cargo) for the long flight AND were out of gas! (No fuel forced them down.) They landed in smooth, “regular” glide slopes on the hard ice, and were essentially undamaged in body, lower body, nose, tail and wings. They would “float” above the ice, UNTIL more snow landed on top of them. The P-38’s would NOT sink in, but would be stable because the plane weighs less than the ice you are assuming it is “submerging” into by “pressure”. Further, the intact wings, body, and tail surfaces would RESIST further drops – even IF you assume that the full weight of the plane is on the small wheel area. (I will grant a near-certainty that they would sink 4 feet down when the tires deflate.)
        No, the planes are 81 meters down because the ice increased in height by that much since WWII.

      • No, they are 81 feet down because 81 feet of ice accumulated over them. The way glaciers work is snow falls on the top, and ice is squeezed out the bottom.
        There is no evidence that the glaciers are 81 feet taller than they were during WWII.

        • 85 meters: 24 meters of snow on top of 61 meters of ice. The crash site experiences some summer surface melting. Some (not most) of the overburden was due to the P-38’s sinking.

      • If sinking the weight of the engines would have meant the plane would have been found nose down. It was found level.

      • RACookPE1978:
        You say to David Middleton

        Yep. The P-38’s mostly sank into the snow.

        A frequent claim, but the “physics” of the airplanes does NOT support this myth.
        A piece of metal, when liad directly on a ice mass (and slightly heated) WILL slowly sink into the ice mass as its pressure slowly melts the ice below the metal, the ice becomes water and moves, and the metallic mass moves down and again presses against more ice lower down. A very slow process, and depends on the metal being very heavy (compared to the ice) and very dense (with a high mass to contact surface ratio.)

        Sorry, but David Middleton is correct, and no heating and/or melting is required for a mass to sink through solid ice because of a material property of ice which was first discovered by Michael Faraday (of ‘electricity’ fame).
        The property is why ice is slippery, why ice skates work, and is one of the reasons for doubt about paleo data from gas analyses of ice cores.
        At all temperatures down to about -40°C all ice is coated with a few molecules thickness of liquid water.
        So, the weight of an object resting on an ice surface pushes the object down into the liquid layer. This causes the liquid layer to displace downwards so the object sinks further.
        The sinking is slow but can be increased by increasing the pressure the object applies to the liquid layer (e.g. by increasing the objects mass or reducing its vertical cross-section).
        A nice demonstration of this effect can be used to amuse children at Christmas parties.
        Place an ice cube on the top of a wine or bear bottle.
        Attach two similar weights to a length of cotton thread; one of the weights at each end of the thread.
        Place the thread across the ice cube so the weights hang down opposite sides of the bottle.
        After some time the thread is seen to have entered the ice cube.
        Eventually the thread exits the bottom of the ice cube.
        The top and sides of the ice cube show no evidence that the thread sank through it.

      • RACookPE1978 and David Middleton:
        This is an addendum to my above post. It adds detail that could confuse the clarity of my above post if it were not separate.
        The empty plane would be lighter than ice so would move up (n.b. not down) through solid ice. This is similar to the reason why at any level in an ice core the ‘gas age’ differs from the ‘ice age’ often by centuries.
        But the plane would not be empty. When covered with snow (firn) it would fill with melt-water during summer melt season. Hence, its bulk density would then be greater than that of ice (duralumin and steel are denser than ice) so it would sink.

  22. Studies have found that:
    1) The Greenland Ice Sheet may have receded tens of kilometers within its present day margins during the early and mid Holocene.
    2) In many locations the ice sheet and mountain glaciers reached their maximum extents since the early Holocene during the Little Ice Age.
    Why should anybody be surprised that the ice sheet is getting slightly smaller again?

    • Why should anybody be surprised that the ice sheet is getting slightly smaller again?

      People who are unfamiliar with Quaternary geology have an excuse to be “surprised that the ice sheet is getting slightly smaller again.”
      Science “journalists” generally have about the same level of scientific literacy as the general public… So, they have the same, lame excuse.
      However, there is no excuse for climate “scientists” to be unfamiliar with Quaternary geology.

    • “The Greenland Ice Sheet may have receded tens of kilometers within its present day margins…”
      The present day margins shown in the Greenland map at the top of the page are bogus.'4345_map_zoom.png
      The map dot is well within the large green ice-free zone surrounding the ice cap. On the map, anyway. Here’s a shot I took of the same area in 2004.'4345_real.jpg
      So much ice it’s overtopping the mountain ridges and flowing down into the fjords.

  23. Hey, the good news is that Al Gore’s ice free Arctic summers are postponed by a further 26 years! I guess Al missed the scientists saying 2070. All of this feels like 1984 to me where statements can be redrafted historically at will.

  24. ‘Even worse that we expected’.
    It seems we always get these catch-phrases after a long period of nothing. Just to make sure we don’t go around believing our lying eyes.

      • You can be willfully ignorant by refusing to look at anything that might challenge what you want to believe.

        • “C” wasn’t “willfully ignorant.” It was “willfully ignoring.” You can’t willfully ignore something if you are ignorant of its existence.

      • If I willfully refuse to read a book, I’m ignorant of everything within the book.

      • They aren’t ignorant of the fact that there are people who disagree with them (book). They are however ignorant of the arguments used by the people who disagree with them because they refuse to actually look at those arguments(contents of the book).

        • If:
          Alarmists are ignorant of perspective.
          Then they can’t be:
          Alarmists are willfully ignoring perspective.

      • So true. This information has been put in front of them many times.
        Facts and data are an enema to them.

    • I think the difference is that I used the ratio of 375 gigatonnes per 400 cubic km (ice has a lower density than water). 1 gigatonne of water = 1 cubic km of water. Had I used a 1:1 ratio, I would have come up with same number you did.
      Either way, 3,600 gigatonnes is nothing compared to 2.4 to 2.6 million gigatonnes.
      [But the actual density of very thick static (ice cap) ice differs greatly from that of thin, fast-moving glacier ice, and both from “frozen” thin layers of sea ice. .mod]

      • Also ice becomes slightly more dense as it gets colder.
        But no matter how you do the calcs.. the graph is still basically a dead flat line.
        The 3600 Gt number is from GRACE, which is highly suspect over active volcanic regions,
        Greenland has a massive intrusion of the Icelandic sack underneath the northern end.
        Take those numbers with a grain of salt !

      • ps. I started with a larger volume from some reference somewhere. used the same density as you did.

        • Funny… Your ice mass looks like it’s about the same as my ice volume.
          Of course, there are a wide range of estimates for Greenland’s ice mass and volume.

      • iirc, I started with 2.72 million km³.
        Don’t know where I got the value from
        As you say.. lots of different estimates.
        I will use the value of around 2.4 x 10^15 tonnes from now on, so we match. 🙂

        • Estimates of the volume of the Greenland ice sheet vary from 2.6 to 5.5 × 10^6 km^3. The difference between 2.6 and 5.5 million cubic kilometers of ice is quite a bit larger than 3,600 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 0.15% reduction in the Greenland ice sheet during the 21st century can be identified with such robustness [/Sarc].

  25. This post does a great job addressing the Economist’s reference to ice mass loss in Greenland (pointing out that the Economist communicates the loss in absolute, not percentage terms).
    Two points on this:
    1. Is there a person with relevant background (Anthony himself for example) who could make this point visible to Economist readers, in a comment section, Twitter feed, or (absent something better) in a short letter to the editor?
    2. Perhaps this post could be supplemented to address the Economist’s claim that “Arctic” sea ice extent has dropped by “more than half”? I am a casual student of all this, but I had thought that 1979-present satellite data showed a decline much,
    much smaller than that (even putting aside the apparent non-representativeness of 1979 as a benchmark). So I was surprised to see that claim. Perhaps the percentage decline is smaller in the winter than in the summer, and the Economist is talking about the latter when it makes its “more than half” statement?

    • I now see that the article does have a comment section. A shortened version of this article there would be great. (The tone and tenor of comments there already is surprising — a healthy dose of challenge and skepticism. This suggests that it would be productive to add the facts above to the discussion.)

  26. SWIPA estimates that the Arctic will be free of sea ice in the summer by 2040. Scientists previously suggested this would not occur until 2070.

    Well, not really.
    Arctic summers ice-free ‘by 2013’ (as predicted in 2007)
    Scientists in the US have presented one of the most dramatic forecasts yet for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice.
    Their latest modelling studies indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years.

    • NSIDC has extent GREATER than 2006, 2015, 2016, and it will probably shortly overtake 2004, 2007, 2014.
      MASIE has sea ice extent above 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2016, and probably catching 2013 in the next couple of days.

      • dmi also changed how it measures arctic sea ice extent last year .not sure if the new algorithm has been applied to the previous years displayed on the chart .

  27. Graph looks incorrect compared to the stuff from Denmark itself. See graph from “Latitude”

  28. “The shrinkage is all the more perturbing because its dynamics are not well understood.”
    Oh, my. It’s going to be a catastrophe because they don’t understand what’s going on. Give me a break!

  29. This is exactly when we need Griff (BTW where has he/she/it been lately? Maybe took some vacation?).
    Anyhow, Griff, besides being a polar bear expert, a de-certifier of polar bear experts (didn’t like Susan Crockford), Griff knows all about ice. Actually the less ice there is, the more he knows about it. And (this is very important) he/she/it is CONVINCED global warming only happens in the Arctic, not the Antarctic (or both).
    Anyhow, we need him in this conversation.

  30. (in fact, I miss Griff so much, I’m going to post for him/her/it)
    Actually, all the Greenland ice has already melted (this was reported in the Guardian just the other day). Greenland has been renamed “Ireland” and is now being farmed for the first time in human history (I would provide a link for this, but my notes from the Mother Ship didn’t include one).
    The resulting sea level rise has been devastating. People in NYC used to go to Fire Island for fun & sun & sea. Well, there are no more fires, and sea has risen so much (you can actually hear it if you stand next to the water), the only thing above water is a long thin strip of what used to be mountain peaks. Interestingly, South Bay is just to the north of this.

  31. “400 cubic km ice cubes per year!!!”
    Nooooo! Think of the vodka! Won’t somebody please think of the vodka?

  32. I’ll say C: Willfully Ignoring.
    As long as there are scientists digging through permafrost to figure out how the Vikings lived there before when the permafrost wasn’t there,,,,,

  33. For the quiz you forgot “d) all of the above”.
    Great article. And since there are credible reports Greenland is gaining not losing ice mass, I think we can dismiss this report as yet more contrived lying.

  34. Actually, the report is intelligently written — with close reference to the Manual on Scientific Alarmism.
    1. Predictions must be sufficiently scary to ummm … scare people. Check!
    2. Predictions must be close enough to justify impetus for action. Check!
    3. Predictions must be sufficiently remote so that those responsible won’t be around to be held accountable when the predictions fail. Check!
    Note: “It’s worse than we thought” is so universally applied as to be unnecessary in any manual.
    Come 2040, it will be miraculous if anyone can remember this prediction. However, with luck, the children of certain scientists will have made it through higher education. We have to think of the children.

  35. The bigger they open their mouths, the larger chunks of humble pie they will have to swallow, sooner or later.
    I am a hard copy subscriber to the The Economist. I am compiling an old fashioned scrap book of news paper clippings on ‘global warming’ to become a coffee table book for my children from which I hope they can learn something about a fundamental flaw in human nature that never changes: group think. Even the most intelligent are vulnerable.
    Of late, hardly a weekly publication of the The Economist exists that does not include something on ‘global warming’ and its impact of destruction and pending gloom. They have swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. Pity, as it does still remain an excellent publication IMO.
    Oh – and their other gripe is Brexit. Man, are they sour about that

  36. It may be rude of me to say this, but I am waiting for the moment when I run into someone having a panicky, hysterical panic attack over Greenland losing a chunk of ice (which becomes an iceberg) in the spring/summer calving season. If that ever happens, I do hope that I have a glass of ice water or iced tea to throw in that panicking idiot’s face. I know: that’s a rude thing to do. But I will enjoy it.

  37. d) for deranged, dastardly, despicable, dishonest, disturbed, demented, delirious, disoriented, discombobulated.
    Fill in the blank:
    Alarmists are _________ perspective.
    a) allergic to
    b) ignorant of
    c) willfully ignoring
    d) mendaciously excluding

  38. Glaciers grow only at the top – from snowfall that accumulates from year to year. Glaciers melt at the top and the bottom. Top melting is episodic and depends on variable we normally call ‘weather’ – temperature, sunlight, wind. Glaciers melt at the bottom from geothermal heat that slowly but steadily flows to the surface from deep in the rock.This heat is caused by the radioactive decay of minerals (mostly uranium and thorium inside the earth), and is for all intents and purposes constant over millennial time scales.Only geological processes over geological time scales can alter this heat flow. The maximum temperature of the rock on which the glacier sits is set by the melting point of water ice to 0 °C. The constant presence of ice water at the interface lubricates the downhill flow of the glacier. AFAIK, this process has not been empirically examined, and contributes an unknown (but probably significant) amount to the glacial melting process. On the other hand, water produced by surface melting can melt its way into the glacier when it can refreeze or join the subglacial rivulets or fill the microscopic pores left in the ice from the initial snowfalls, ‘aging’ the ice. into a less porous form.
    Too many unknowns…some are unknowable.

  39. Did one of these cubes fall on someone? I don’t think anyone was hurt.
    ‘SWIPA estimates that the Arctic will be free of sea ice in the summer by 2040. Scientists previously suggested this would not occur until 2070.’
    Anyone who reads knows this is a felonious lie. They have been predicting it would be gone every year for the last 10 years. NOW! Not 2070.

  40. Lately the Economist has gone off the deep end on science and politics. I’m canceling my subscription.

  41. For god or evil statistics is always used to present numbers in a biased way since you use the numbers and grafs to put an emphasis one some part off the data. That way it is allways important to do a reality sheck as done in this article and it goes both ways. Even if the data presented in a graf is correct as fare as you now, it is importen to do every sheck you can to ensure that it really is so.

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