Can Humans Melt the Antarctic Icecap?

Can we puny humans produce enough energy to melt the huge icecap? Some math helps.

Antarctic ice on October 6, 2015

Guest essay by Julius Sanks

When discussing climate with people who do not have technical backgrounds, I have learned much of the climate discussion is a foreign language to them.

Phrases like “Dalton minimum” or “Atlantic multidecadal oscillation” make their eyes glaze over. Once, after I explained what causes wind, the reply was, “my head hurts.” So, I no longer try to explain atmospheric science. Besides, I am an engineer, not a meteorologist. I have had better luck by sharing simple examples that let people reach conclusions on their own about human versus natural influence. Telling them I can show them the math if they want to see it adds credibility, because few, if any, alarmist publications intended for the general public include any math to support their claims. Describing the energies that drive weather, and therefore climate, is a good way to do this.

So, I take them through a few examples of how much energy is involved and how miniscule human activity is by comparison. Done properly, this lets a non-STEM person grasp the huge amounts of energy involved.

One of my favorites is Anthony’s essay that debunks the Hiroshima equivalent alarmism:

Another excellent example is the amount of energy in an average hurricane. According to NOAA-OAR-AOML, an average hurricane releases 200 times the world’s electrical energy production just to produce the clouds and rain.

There are about 70-100 tropical cyclones per year worldwide. Seventy storms would average 14,000 times the world electricity production every year.

These types of examples are good for communicating with nontechnical people. They let people relate atmospheric physics to their own life experience and everyday understanding of the world in which they live — even if that understanding might be skewed or incomplete.

And then there’s the ice. We are supposedly melting the ice; the literature is filled with papers making this claim. These papers invariably whine about human activity warming the planet, but they never seem to get around to discussing how much energy is actually required, or how it gets to the ice. But do humans really generate enough energy to melt significant amounts of ice?

A case in point is from a recent Grist article:

Ice Apocalypse

Rapid collapse of Antarctic glaciers could flood coastal cities by the end of this century.

By Eric Holthaus

November 21, 2017

In a remote region of Antarctica known as Pine Island Bay, 2,500 miles from the tip of South America, two glaciers hold human civilization hostage.

Stretching across a frozen plain more than 150 miles long, these glaciers, named Pine Island and Thwaites, have marched steadily for millennia toward the Amundsen Sea, part of the vast Southern Ocean. Further [sic] inland, the glaciers widen into a two-mile-thick reserve of ice covering an area the size of Texas.

There’s no doubt this ice will melt as the world warms. The vital question is when.

The glaciers of Pine Island Bay are two of the largest and fastest-melting in Antarctica. (A Rolling Stone feature earlier this year dubbed Thwaites “The Doomsday Glacier.”) Together, they act as a plug holding back enough ice to pour 11 feet of sea-level rise into the world’s oceans — an amount that would submerge every coastal city on the planet. For that reason, finding out how fast these glaciers will collapse is one of the most important scientific questions in the world today.

…Antarctica is a giant landmass—about half the size of Africa—and the ice that covers it averages more than a mile thick. Before human burning of fossil fuels triggered global warming, the continent’s ice was in relative balance: The snows in the interior of the continent roughly matched the icebergs that broke away from glaciers at its edges.

Now, as carbon dioxide traps more heat in the atmosphere and warms the planet, the scales have tipped.

A wholesale collapse of Pine Island and Thwaites would set off a catastrophe. Giant icebergs would stream away from Antarctica like a parade of frozen soldiers. All over the world, high tides would creep higher, slowly burying every shoreline on the planet, flooding coastal cities and creating hundreds of millions of climate refugees.

All this could play out in a mere 20 to 50 years—much too quickly for humanity to adapt.

…There’s a recurring theme throughout these scientists’ findings in Antarctica: What we do now will determine how quickly Pine Island and Thwaites collapse. A fast transition away from fossil fuels in the next few decades could be enough to put off rapid sea-level rise for centuries. That’s a decision worth countless trillions of dollars and millions of lives.



Holthaus is in fact reporting on a piece that appeared in Nature. The original is here:

Now, 11 feet [3.353 meters] of sea level rise is a lot of water, which means a lot of melted ice. How much ice? And how much energy is needed to melt it? We can use some high school physics in a Fermi analysis to establish a benchmark of sorts that nontechnical people can understand. To do this, we need to agree on some basic numbers and then use them to examine the situation in Antarctica.

This assumes the ice is at standard temperature and pressure (STP — essentially air pressure at mean sea level and temperature at 32°F/0°C). More on that later.

First, let’s examine some basic volume and mass definitions. Some values are rounded.

1 liter of water has a mass of 1 kg, by definition.

Freeze it and the volume increases. 1 kg ice is 1.09 liters, or 0.92 kg/liter.

One cubic km = 1012 liters.

So 1 km3 of ice = 9.2×1011 kg. This is our basic unit of mass for melting the ice.

A generally accepted value for the total ocean area is 3.618 x 108 km2. Raising this surface by 1 mm requires 361.8 Km3 of additional water.

Raising the ocean by 3.353 meters requires 361.8 Km3 X 3353 mm = 1.21X106 Km3 of liquid water, which comes from 1.32X106 Km3 of glacial ice.

How much energy is needed to melt 1.32X106 Km3 of ice?

The question is important because, regardless of ice thickness, whether it is on land or is a shelf, wave action, collapse due to instability, or temperature gradients, there is a specific amount of heat energy that must transfer into any mass of ice before it can melt. This is basic physics, and it holds regardless of how the heat transfers (e.g., advection, conduction, etc.). The only debate, then, is how much of that heat comes from human activity versus natural forces, and how did human activity cause its portion of the heat to arrive at the ice? And if Holthaus’s article is correct, the ice will melt in 20 to 50 years. This gives us a rate of heat transfer, and that can give us insight into how credible it is to blame human activity.

So, now it’s on to the energy:

It takes 333.55X103 J to melt 1 kg of ice.

Doing the math, we see it takes 3.07X1017 J to melt a cubic km of ice. This is our basic unit of heat energy for melting any large amount of ice in Antarctica, or anywhere else.

Now, back to the two glaciers. We have determined how much ice is involved in that 11-foot ocean rise: 1.32X106 Km3. To melt it, the ice must receive 1.32X106 Km3 X 3.07X1017 J, or 4.05X1023 J. This is true regardless of what process gets the heat to Antarctica. A steady melt would require 2.03X1022 J per year to melt it in 20 years, or 8.1X1021 J per year to melt it in 50 years.

We can argue until the cows come home about how that much heat can reach the glaciers. But for our nontechnical friends, it’s interesting to compare the energy requirement with how much energy humans produce. In other words, if humans set out to deliberately melt the Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers, could they even do it?

It should be noted the Antarctic ice sheet is only 2.74 percent of the planet’s surface. If human output excites the atmosphere evenly, a reasonable consideration is only that percentage of energy is directly acting on the ice. But let’s attack the problem more directly.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2016 the world produced 84.412479 quadrillion (84.412479X1015) BTU. That converts to 8.906X1019 J, consisting of fossil fuel (the largest component), nuclear, and renewable. And if we used all of the world’s energy to do nothing but melt the ice, we could not do it in 20 years, or even in 50 years. We could do it in about 4,500 years. Here is the math:

4.05X1023 J ÷ 8.906X1019 J = 4,547.5 years.

That’s just to melt two glaciers. What would it take to melt all of Antarctica?

Per the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Antarctica contains about 30 million km3 of ice.

So, for Antarctica, we need 3.07X1017 J X 30X106 km3 = 9.21X1024 J to melt everything.

How many years would it take?

9.21X1024 J ÷ 8.906×1019 J/year = 103,413.43 years.

When talking to your non-STEM friends, just round it off to 100,000 years. This number, and Anthony’s Hiroshima analysis, makes me think human influence on the weather, and therefore climate, is so miniscule it cannot be measured with existing technology.

But these durations are clearly minimum numbers, and not very good at that. Why? Because they rely on some invalid assumptions:

  • It assumes all the ice is at STP. This cannot be true. Average surface temperature is approximately -49°C, so the energy “well” is much deeper than at STP. Specific heat of ice is 2108 J/kgK or 103.3 kJ to raise the temp of each kilo of ice to 0°C. That does not include the heat of fusion, 333.55 kJ/kg. Therefore, it takes additional energy just to warm the ice to a melting point. Not much is known about temperatures deep in the ice, but NSIDC’s THERMAP data indicate temperatures are below 0°C, at least down to 500 meters. Deep in the ice, there is enormous pressure, but the temperature is unknown. H2O’s phase diagram shows eleven different types of ice and numerous triple points. If exotic types of high-pressure ice are present, it’s likely their mass per unit volume differs from type I ice at STP. That would mean the energy requirements differ for exotic forms of ice.
  • Obviously, it is not possible to apply 100% of our energy to melt the ice. We would be limited to a much smaller amount, with correspondingly longer times to melt.
  • The ice will try to re-freeze. This causes a feedback loop, extending the melting program. We can only prevent this by keeping water and air temperatures in contact with the ice above freezing. That diverts energy from doing the melting.

I know, I know. This is a very simplistic analysis that ignores the complexities of actual heat transfer. But that’s the point; non-STEM people can follow it if they know a little math.

And yes, the alarmists would argue human emissions are indirectly causing heat to transfer to Antarctica, and this type of analysis is therefore irrelevant. So what? They must show how human emissions transfer that heat, and how much heat is being transferred.

My goal here is to show the enormous energy levels involved and how ridiculous it is to blame humans for any significant ice melt. That’s my hypothesis; let the alarmists come up with the null.

Now let’s build some power stations and melt Antarctica!

H/T to Grady Gillis for sharing some ideas, and especially for saving me from a very basic unit conversion error.

Julius Sanks is an engineer and manager with experience developing weather forecasting systems and environmental satellites.

260 thoughts on “Can Humans Melt the Antarctic Icecap?

  1. Where did the heat come from to melt the Laurentide Ice Sheet then, in less than 10,000 years? And it was a lot more ice than Antarctica is. Just asking?

    • Large amounts of ice in low-temperature areas tend to evaporate more than melt. If there was an extended time of low precipitation, much of that ice sheet probably just turned directly to vapor.

    • Where did the heat come from to melt the Laurentide Ice Sheet
      At the time CO2 levels were low. And the IPCC tells us that CO2 controls warming. So from this we know that when CO2 levels are low we will get warming.

      • Yet the Team shamelessly attribute the melting of the NH ice sheets to a rise in CO2. Seriously.
        From ~180 to 260 ppm, which of course occurred because the planet was warming. The CACA Team confuses cause and effect.

      • I consider myself a skeptic (to say the least). However, I find the current article quite distasteful.
        You have created a strawman to demolish, while ignoring Alarmist arguments. Alarmists say that the CO2 that we produce (even though it’s a small fraction of all CO2 produced) causes more of the sun’s heat to stay on earth, rather than being lost back into space.
        The heat that the Alarmists say stays on earth is MUCH larger than the energy we produce ourselves, certainly enough to melt these glaciers. I think they are wrong, but your presentation hasn’t aimed at countering their argument. Shame on you.

      • USIssuesCom,
        I think what Julius has presented here has merit for the following reasons: 1) it gives non-technical people a feel for just how massive the ice sheets are and how much energy is stored in them. This is done by relating it to the energy humans consume – at least as a starting point. 2) It lays groundwork for a different foundation of looking at the claimed problem – and that is energy vs. temperature. Others, myself included, have expanded the discussion in posts here to include analysis of the possible impacts of additional stored thermal energy in the system – whether from CO2 heating or otherwise.
        As it relates to what the public is fed, there is a lot of hand-waiving in the “science” around climate. On top of that there are claims that just fail the scrutiny of basic physics. I think it is fair to say that what drives a lot of people here is the desire to find a way to apply basic science – or the math and science they do know, to an otherwise extremely complex subject with a lot of unknowns. Can we rule-in or rule-out scenarios in the Alarmist’s Narrative?
        Perhaps more will come out in the discussion to show I’m wrong – but so far my analysis shows there is no physics pathway to catastrophe. (I’m referring to my posts further down in the discussion).

      • usissuescom is having a hissy fit because Julius Sanks wrote an article that puts the amount of man-made energy into perspective. According to usissuescom, Sanks is only allowed to write articles on themes approved by usissuescom, failing which Sanks is to be shamed.
        Sanks also wrote about science illiteracy. We’re not all as bright as Sanks and it might take us some time to do the necessary calculations, but being literate on basic climate science we have at least heard about stuff like Stefan-Boltzman and Beer’s Law. Therefore we would be able to calculate to within an order of magnitude how much retained energy it takes to raise the earth’s black body temperature by 1K. Knowing this, we would then be able to disparage or commend Sanks using reason and science. But that would never have occurred to usissuescom because it is easier to hurl insults based on insinuation and the presumption of one’s own moral superiority.
        I must admit that while wrong in so many ways, it is very, very tempting to say to usissuescom, “shame on you.”

    • Earthling2 has never heard of sublimation, in which water ice does not MELT into water. It sublimes into water vapor as does dry ice, also known as frozen carbon dioxide.
      It requires specific conditions, yes, but it happens a lot more than is taken into account.

      • @Sara;
        If by “specific” you mean “special”, not really. Ice will sublime to water vapor at any temperature as long as the relative humidity is below 100%. My in-laws live in Montana and at their location it snows lightly but steadily 3 or more days a week during the winter. They don’t get completely buried because the outside air relative humidity is around 30% and the snow converts directly to water vapor.

      • D,J, no, I didn’t mean ‘special’, just specific. In the normal spring, in farm land, I will see ice remains in roadside ditches. The air will be thick with water vapor, but not enough to form a fog, because the ice is slowly eroding into water vapor. I think it’s a specific temperature, maybe 32.6F – something like that. I never tested the air and ice temperature differences to get a reading. I should have done that in high school.
        But I also see it on a day like today, when the air temperature is just slightly above freezing and the snow that fell last night is subliming into the air without creating runoff.
        Thanks for your feedback, though.

      • It happened a lot during english winters! I would hang out the washing and it would freeze into stiff boards but gradually dry anyway. That was sublimation. Towels came in dry, fresh and soft…lovely. I miss seeing that much where we live now in Australia…it can happen here though…we do sometimes get temps down to -5/-6C.

      • To Annie (below): Many years ago we lived in Superior, WI, where winters can be severe and temperature shifts come suddenly as winds shift from northeast (directly from Lake Superior) to southwest (from mainland Minnesota). Our neighbors told us once of having hung out some wet sheets while the weather was breezy but above freezing, say 40 degrees F. A cold front surged through, the temp dropped very quickly to maybe 10 DF, the winds immediately froze the sheets, and they broke! Pieces of white cloth, stiff with ice, snapped off, blew away, and landed somewhere in the next block. Is the story true? I don’t know; it happened before we moved there. Knowing Superior weather as I do, though, it sounds at least plausible.
        The day we moved to Superior, about the tenth of June, was hot and humid–low 80s–with a light southwest breeze. Across the highway, next to the lake, workmen were naked to the waist, hefting loads and moving things. My wife and I had stopped by the police barracks in eastern Superior to get Wisconsin driver licenses and plates. The process took about an hour. When we came out, the workmen were cursing a blue streak! The wind had changed and was now coming in, gusty and strong, straight NE from the ice still lying in Lake Superior. The temp was now in the low 40s and felt much colder. I’m sure that wind was also helping the ice to melt, but it had already taken months and was by no means done. As far as I know, humans had nothing to do with it . . .

      • If you want to experience sublimation put water into an ice tray then put it into a deep freeze and forget about it for 6 months. When you come back to it most, or all, of it will have sublimated and you will have no, or little, ice to put in your whisky. Personal experience just 2 weeks ago.

    • Earthling2..
      Where did the heat come from to melt the Laurentide Ice Sheet then, in less than 10,000 years? And it was a lot more ice than Antarctica is. Just asking?
      Sea level was +/- 50 metres below present ( they say.. not many tide guages around back then). Ergo smaller oceans, say 50% of Earth’s surface v 71% now. Less ocean surface area–>less heat absorbed–> reduced evaporation –> less snow. Larger ice free land surface area –> more heat absorbed–> higher surface (air) temperatures over land. Any way you cook it always seems to boil down to water is the climate control knob.

  2. Simple enough that even Bill Nye could understand …..But of course he and the rest won’t ….
    Their paycheck might evaporate .

  3. ALL you have to ask the Alarmists is a simple question. WHAT is the average DAILY temperature of the Continent of Antarctica? The answer is MINUS 59 degrees F. You would need to raise that average daily temp almost 100 degrees F to melt the ice cap. How much do they expect the temp to rise in the next 100 years? 2 to 4 degrees C. DUH, even the dumbest alarmist should be able to firgure that one out.

  4. Can Humans Melt the Antarctic Icecap?
    Give me the budget and I can do it.
    We have the mining technology to separate a few cubic km of ice, say 5. Stick a jet engine on it and send it to the equator. Recover the jet engine (it will be the first to be melted free if you direct the waste heat back to the ice).
    1.32 x 10^6 Km^3 is a lot of ice. But give me 50 jet engines (one a week) and I can send all that ice to the equator in under six years.
    I’ll have it melted in a quarter century. And most of the energy used is renewable, solar!

    • Interesting and I confess I had not thought of it, because the alarmist claim is we are melting the ice in situ, not shipping it to warmer climes. Are you sure about the math? Dividing the ice into units of 5 km^3 yields 264,000 chunks of ice. Dividing by 52 (52 weeks in a year) results in 5077 weeks, or about 97.5 years if you use one engine per week. Nor have you addressed the energy involved to actually cut and move the ice or. Or to maintain the engines, or replace them. And what is the energy to return them for another run? And I have a question: given the ice is moving and per the original article is maybe 2 km deep, how exactly do you cut it up into chunks suitable for your jet engines? I’m seriously interested in the mining technology you mention, because it’s so different from building satellites.

    • After the first couple, the tropics are going to start cooling noticeably. That will slow the rate of melting for all of the later ice cubes.

    • Move Antarctica to the tropics and it will melt in only 5 million years. In the meanwhile a large chunk of the tropics is going to be sitting at 0 C, with much of the world even colder.

    • Interesting and I confess I had not thought of it, because the alarmist claim is we are melting the ice in situ,

      Citation please. I think they usually claim we ‘melt’ the ice, without specifying or knowing where.
      I think this headpost was really bad, because only fools think Antarctic ice is ever melted in situ. The Zwally incident shows how difficult it is to measure the changes in Antarctic ice, let alone measure its amount. So let’s just look at the sea level. It is not speeding up so much…

      • I am puzzled by your request. I provided a cite in my essay. Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers are supposedly melting in place. That’s in situ by definition. They aren’t being shipped anywhere for future melting. There is considerable wailing in the literature about Thwaites. Note the quote in my cite that it is supposedly the “doomsday glacier.” Evidently the world will end if it ever disappears.

    • Top of the head calculation by me was wrong, it seems.
      I need about 900 jet engines.
      To be honesat, I did say others had to give me the budget so I wasn’t being that precise.

    • M Courtney
      Another problem, most of the ice is on land how are you going to separate that and move it?

    • That’s quite a folly. Each jet engine will produce quite a bit of water and a lot more steam. Unless you have the very specialized technology to capture and relocate the melt and steam, the steam will condense out of the air in a matter of seconds. I think you underestimate the effort.

  5. How much solar energy does the world receive?

    This theoretical potential represents more energy striking the earth’s surface in one and a half hours (480 EJ) than worldwide energy consumption in the year 2001 from all sources combined (430 EJ). link

    One EJ is 10^18 joules

    So, for Antarctica, we need 3.07X10^17 J X 30X10^6 km3 = 9.21X10^24 J to melt everything.

    So, 9 x 10^24 / 0.4 x 10^21 = 20 x 10^3 (x 1.5 hours)
    It would take about 30,000 hours for all the available solar energy to melt all the ice in Antarctica. That’s only a few years. Sheesh!
    By the same token, if we devoted all the world’s energy to melting Antarctica, we could do it in a mere 20,000 years.

    • Of course if you were, somehow, able to concentrate all of the insolation falling on the planet unto Antarctica for 3 1/2 yrs, what do you suppose would happen to all the liquid H2O on the rest of the sunless Earth?

      • It would receive a crust, a few meters thick, of solid DHMO. It could take a long(!) time to melt… geologically long.

    • Commiebob
      …”It would take about 30,000 hours for all the available solar energy to melt all the ice in Antarctica. That’s only a few years. Sheesh!”…
      That’s a little over three years. By focusing all the sun’s energy on Antarctica, (under 5%of Earth’s surface) how much ice would accumulate on the other 95% without of sunshine for 3+ years??

    The mass of the Antarctic ice sheet is about 24,292,550 Gt. 24.3 million billion tons. At ExxonMobil’s 1962 rate of 7 million tons/day, they could have melted itin just 9,507,847 years.
    (Is a /sarc tag necessary?)
    [Yes, the mods require the /sarc tag. We have found that it will actually be 9,507,846 years. .mod]

  7. It has been reported before that if all the present and known (unexplored) reserves of all fossil fuels were burnt all at once and the resulting heat energy directed at the Antarctic ice cap it would melt only 0.3% of the ice. Not much chance of a big melt is there?

  8. Why not just point out that Antarctica is well below freezing nearly everywhere nearly all the time. And by well below freezing you mean minus 30 or 40. Then point out that the time between snow falling in the interior and calving into the sea as ice bergs is years decades or even centuries later and that world temperatures have nothing much to do with it. Any ice mass balance change is a function of how much snow falls and how much ice calves into the ocean many years into future.
    Antarctica melting is one of the bigger canards that never seems to get challenged.
    He who controls the language controls the debate.

    • Steve Case’s reply seems profound, because for ice to melt, it has to be above freezing. So, where in Antarctica does the temperature ever stay above freezing for any length of time, over a large enough land area, to a great enough depth, … to allow melting to occur for any significant volume?
      I’m vaguely remembering something about liquid water in ice cracks, at a temperature well below freezing, but I think even this is not significant to count as any melting worth considering alarming.
      … off to look up temps of Antarctica now.

      • Yup. The West Antarctic Peninsula and bits of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean coasts soar to -5 to 0 degrees C in summer.

      • Robert Kernodle – at 4:08 pm
        Thanks for the response.
        From my file of tag lines and smart remarks:

        “Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious” – George Orwell.

      • if I can help
        Northern Hemisphere North Pole Summer av T 0 c Winter -40 C
        This is probably why the Arctic sea ice melts in summer –But
        Southern Hemisphere ie Antarctica
        South Pole Summer -28 Winter -60c
        At sea level Summer -12c Winter -45C
        ie It would take a great lot of heat to even get Antarctic summer sea level temperatures just up to oc But Eric Holthaus is a piker just focusing on two islands He needs to think big like one of our academics did in an article in the Melbourne Age a couple of years back who opined that all the ice in Antarctica would be gone within a decade.
        Its that kind of crap that the poor old public have to go on as they don’t and cant be expected to read learned journals
        Antarctica is so far away and beyond their ken that if a professor says its likely to melt fairly soon that’s what they will accept
        Makes you wonder why the MSM doesn’t exercise some editorial fact checking of the most basic kind before publishing such tripe.

    • No wonder there are 3 weather stations alone in the West Antarctica peninsula which comprises 2-3% of the total land mass whereas there are only 10 in the rest of the continent. Gavin Schmidt directs his agency to harp on how West Antarctica is warming. NASA never tells you that the other 10 stations have shown NO warming in their 60 odd year histories. As for the west Antarctica warming apparently it is because of undersea volcanos the same thing that is melting Greenland from underneath.
      However even though Greenland is melting from underneath and always has, Dont worry new snow and ice added from the top will keep Greenland ice nice and cozy for the next 100000 years. The same will probably happen in West Antarctica as well or those 1.5 million penguins that they just found will have to go on a long march.

  9. How about covering the edges of Antarctica with soot, over enough area to get the desired 11 feet of sea level rise?
    Bear in mind that during the Holocene Climatic Optimum, sea level was about two meters higher than now, without benefit of 400 ppm of CO2. Rather CO2 was probably about the same as “pre-industrial” levels, ie ~280 ppm.

  10. “…..According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2016 the world produced 84.412479 quadrillion (84.412479X1015) BTU. That converts to 8.906X1019 J, consisting of fossil fuel (the largest component), nuclear, and renewable. And if we used all of the world’s energy to do nothing but melt the ice, we could not do it in 20 years, or even in 50 years. We could do it in about 4,500 years. Here is the math:
    4.05X1023 J ÷ 8.906X1019 J = 4,547.5 years…..”.
    Ummmm….the next major ice age is going to be here by then, isn’t it? Color me unconcerned.
    Even as a non-scientist, it is posts like this that keeps bringing me back to WUWT. It is postings like this that makes the alarmist AGW narrative a little more silly and harder to swallow every day. Keep up the great work Eric, Anthony and all other posters.

  11. Yes, it would take a long time to melt the Antarctic ice with a blowtorch. But we have found a better way. Putting CO₂ in the air has created a radiative forcing of about 2 Wm⁻². Earth area 5e14 m², 3.15 e+7 sec in a yera, gives a heating of
    2 * 5e14 * 3.15e+7 = 3.15e+22 Joules/year
    On your figures, it would take 9.21e+24 / 3.15e+22 = 283 years to melt the lot if that heat can be applied.
    Well, I won’t see it, but the forcing won’t stay at 2 Wm⁻² either.

    • How did you calculate this, Nick? Is your calculation based on the assumption that all warming since 1850 or 1880 or some particular date is due to increased CO2? Are you pretty sure that this is the case, that CO2 took control of weather in 1850?
      A simple lie of omission, not your first, not your last…

    • Nick,
      Read the latest WUWT post by Dr.Antero Ollila,” Challenging the scientific basis of the Paris Agreement.”
      You quote the RF of CO2 added to the atmosphere as 2 Watts per square Metre.
      Go to the Notes under Figure 1.
      According to AR5, Theo RF in question was 2.29 Watts per square metre in 2011, increased to 2.44 Watts per square metre in 2016 by NOAA.
      This RF figure has gone from .58 Watts per square metre in 1950 (UNIPCC) to the 2.44 Watts per square Metre in 2016.
      Now look at the second equation detailing the RF calculation for 8.5 Watts per square metre used for COP21.
      The base line scenario for COP 21 is the worst case scenario RCP8.5 of the IPCC.
      Why don’t they use your preferred RF?

      • Nick,
        Erratum: My third paragraph should read “ …. the RF in question was….”, not “ ….Theo RF in question was…”

      • Herbert,
        I’m not sure of your point here. Yes, I rounded the current (2016) forcing down. The values you quote would give a shorter melting time. The RCP8.5 scenario envisages a forcing of 8.5 Wm⁻² in 2100, not now.

    • From CD above: “…..According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2016 the world produced 84.412479 quadrillion (84.412479X1015) BTU. That converts to 8.906X1019 J, consisting of fossil fuel (the largest component), nuclear, and renewable.
      You say: Earth area 5e14 m², 3.15 e+7 sec in a yera, gives a heating of
      2 * 5e14 * 3.15e+7 = 3.15e+22 Joules/year
      Your claim is CO2 produces 353.7 times more energy in one year than the entire world?
      3.15E22 / 8.906E19
      Please explain how a J over Sardinia effects the ice in Antarctica?

      • “Please explain how a J over Sardinia effects the ice in Antarctica?”
        The effect of GHG forcing is gradual but persistent. Mixing time in the atmosphere is measured in days within a hemisphere, a bit longer between hemispheres. Antarctica is a sink for heat – transport processes (air, ocean) will get it there.

      • Antarctica is a sink for heat –
        The big FAIL in all these calculations is the lapse rate. Antarctica isn’t cold simply because it is at the South Pole.

    • Nick,
      Serious question. I’m not questioning your math (or the previous calculations because I’m not going to go through them), but your estimate of heating is 3.15e+22 Joules/year. based on this, you divide 9.21e+24 / 3.15e+22 to get 283 years. My question is, if all of this heat directed at Antarctica to melt it in 283 years, what happens to the rest of the planet during this time? If this heating is averaged over the entire planet, how much heating is actually happening in Antarctica and how long would melting take?

      • Phil,
        I’m following the same approach as the article, which was sub-headed
        “Can we puny humans produce enough energy to melt the huge icecap? Some math helps.”
        We can produce enough energy, with GHG. The question is whether it can be transported to where it can be effective. As I said above, heat is pretty mobile generally, and the Antarctic sink is always there. However, there are local barriers; mainly, the low thermal conductivity of ice, and also circulation patterns around the continent.

      • I agree the article calculation is stupid but so is your calculation Nick, you have every joule of heating hitting Antarctica. Can I suggest you at least make the calculation homogeneous Antarctica is 9% of total Earth surface so for a back of envelope calculation apply 9% of the heat only. I suspect it’s less than that because although it will sink heat there it doesn’t see much heat hence why it’s frozen in the first place.
        The reality is that even that small correction takes your time out to 2000+ years and that is probably one of the least things I would worry about for the coming 2000 years.
        The timelines on CAGW are enormous and it is pointless to panic about it, we have monitoring in place and if it becomes a problem real scientists and engineers will deal with it.

      • Oh the other interesting number is Antarctica sea ice would lift sea level by 70m (70,000mm). Assuming the absolute worst case of the 2000 years that means sea level rise reaches 30mm per year or just over 1 inch per year which as extreme as it is would give you many decades to work on moving and adjusting.

    • “if that heat can be applied”
      Any suggestion how to concentrate the heat from the whole planet in West Antarctica? Particularly since Antarctica is rather isolated from the rest of the world climatically.

      • “Any suggestion how to concentrate the heat”
        Heat is mobile, and it moves down temperature gradients. In fact, in moving from hot to cold it can drive heat engines, as with Hadley cells, say. Much Arctic sea ice melts every summer, and it isn’t just because of the Arctic sun. A lot of heat is transported from the south.

  12. Apparently I miss the point. I don’t believe in the CAGW dogma, but on the zealots’ terms, the energy that would be needed to melt the ice caps would not come from human activity directly.
    The extra heat is supposed to come from a change in the amount of solar energy that is trapped by the atmosphere. The source of the energy is the sun and the human activity is to modify the atmosphere in a way that is supposed to trap a higher percentage of the sun’s energy. I don’t think we doubt that there is a little more CO2 in the atmosphere than would be there at equilibrium at current ocean temperatures? What we doubt is that the feedback effects have been accurately modeled. The large positive feedback of water vapor and the large negative feedback of cloud formation, among others.
    By analogy, imagine that you have a valve on a fire hose. By putting a small amount of effort into rotating the valve, you may unleash an awesome flow of water. The kinetic energy of the flowing water doesn’t come from the human doing a tiny amount of work turning the valve, it comes from the potential between the high and low pressure regions on either side of the valve. Adding CO2 is supposed to be like opening the valve.
    If the author is trying to claim that humans are incapable of generating the amount of energy needed to melt the ice caps, it seems that this will be a weak argument that they can swat down with ease. It’s obviously true, but it’s also irrelevant. So I am missing the point? Please explain.

    • As I said, it’s a simple Fermi analysis to explain how much energy is involved to people who do not have scientific backgrounds, so they can understand how much ice is there and how much energy is involved to melt it. Of course the actual mechanisms that move heat to Antarctica are different. I have no interest in trying to debunk predictions based on computer models I cannot access. But at the end of the day, if an alarmist claims human activity, and only human activity, will melt Thwaites and Pine Island to raise the ocean 11 feet in 20-50 years, the person must explain how human “emissions” affects the weather to the point that 4.05X10^23 J reaches those glaciers.

      • I confess that I barely skimmed the content after seeing the headline “Can we puny humans PRODUCE enough energy to melt the huge icecap?”
        The headline practically begs the alarmists to scoff at the premise that humans need to produce the energy that would melt glaciers, otherwise it can’t happen. I don’t mean to be overly critical, but I think this is more likely to give ammunition to those who claim “skeptics” just don’t understand the science.
        I’m about as sympathetic a reader as you will find to any argument disputing CAGW. If it strikes me as indefensible, how is it going to be treated by the hardcore CAGW faithful? I get what you’re trying to say now, but I am sure that you can’t rely on the storied goodwill of the CAGW alarmists to overlook your flawed headline and read all the way to the end.

    • The “point” is a red herring — a hypothetical situation posed in order to disprove that it is false.
      Your account above is the correct situation.

    • “The extra heat is supposed to come from a change in the amount of solar energy that is trapped by the atmosphere”
      Solar energy isn’t “trapped” by the atmosphere. It is almost exclusively “trapped” by the ocean and lost to space by way of the atmosphere. What GHG do is to (very) slightly increase the thermal gradient required to convect the heat from the ocean to TOA.

  13. Of course whst the alarmists are claiming is that we wicked humans have triggered an avalanche of feedbacks that will melt the ice and ruin the climate.
    Which on the face of it is also bunkonium.
    That avalnche of feedbacks has never existed and has yet to even partially show up.

    • Have the Warmians ever specified what they mean by “feedbacks”?
      I ask because I have yet to see anything that qualifies as feedback.

  14. However, my experience is that even with data they CAN understand, they just throw up their hands and walk away with a “Well, we gotta do SOMETHING”…..

    • Sorry, my bad. It’s “minuscule,” and it’s in the OED Compact Edition (1971), Volume I, page 1806. Etymology goes back to 1893 for the relevant definition. What is your source that it isn’t a word? And regarding Sara’s question about what motivated this, no, it has nothing do do with dinosaurs. It just occurred to me to wonder what it would really take to melt the ice and whether it’s credible that humans are doing it. And thank you for the complement.

      • Thanks, Julius, for your response to my question. It’s an interesting article.
        Math confuses a lot of people (like Warmians) because unless they can use a calculator, they don’t “get” it.

  15. 103,413.43 years to melt all of the Antarctic ice, huh? Well, if we silly humans (/sarc) haven’t gotten busy colonizing other worlds by then, the planet will most likely have returned to full ice cover, so it’s a moot point, isn’t it?
    Is this exercise inspired by the findings of the fossilized remains of dinosaurs and other critters in the dry interior valleys of Antarctica?
    It’s moved a couple of times due to plate tectonics. That’s the reason I’m asking, and at one time, did have a tropical or subtropical climate (ouch! that word!), but where I live now used to be the delta that fed into a shallow interior sea a very, very long time ago. I have a shrimp fossil I found on a field trip down to Braidwood, IL.
    That’s a good article, and if it makes a Warmian’s eyes glaze over, fine by me. The length of time is most important, never mind the caloric levels required. My guess is that by 100,000 years from now, we’ll be in the midst of another glacial maximum and/or colonizing other worlds because – well, Earth is SO old hat by then. Such a backwater planet!
    The solar system will have moved a good distance in relation to the rest of the galaxy, too, so the night sky will be different. And then there’s that whole thing about plate tectonics and volcanism, which may be far more active with the magnetic poles flipping, as they’re starting to do. That’ll make some serious changes the Greenbeans don’t take into account.

    • Antarctica was on the Equator in the late Precambrian, 650 Ma:
      And at SH mid-latitudes during the Cambrian:
      Then moved partially north of the Equator again in the Ordovician:
      Then back to mid-latitude SH again in the Silurian:
      And kept slipping farther south during the Devonian and Carboniferous:
      To reach near its present position in the Permian:
      Despite being near the South Pole, it had dinosaurs in the Mesozoic Era because climate was so warm then, as during the Cretaceous.
      The early Cenozoic Era (Paleocene and Eocene Epochs) was also warm, which is why marsupials fossils are found there, uniting the mammals of South America with those of Australia:
      But its present glaciation began in the Oligocene, c. 34 Ma, when deep oceanic channels opened up between Antarctica and South America and Australia, creating the Southern Ocean.

      • Chimp,
        Thanks for those. I have a degree in geology (from the third quartile of the last century) and studied plate tectonics. Most diagrams in textbooks at that time were essentially basic line drawings. Don’t know your reference, but these are much more visibly understandable.

      • Phil,
        They’re from Scotese’s Paleomap Project, and probably aren’t cutting edge any more.
        Tectonics was in its infancy in the third quartile of the last century. We keep discovering new plates, largely thanks to GPS measurements. For instance, the Sunda Plate used to be thought of as the SE corner of the mighty Eurasian Plate, but it was fairly recently discovered to moving independently of Eurasia.
        The junctions among plates large and small there help explain the terrible earthquakes and other shocks to which the region is prone.

      • The short version would be that Antarctica has been at high southern latitudes consistently since the Carboniferous, slipping out of the temperate zone during the Devonian. Before that, it was largely tropical, sometimes partially in the NH. Previously in the Proterozoic Eon, it spent some time completely in the NH.
        But while Pangaea and Gondwana broke up after the Triassic Period, Antarctica largely stayed put, as South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India and Madagascar broke away from it.
        The world is unlikely to warm enough soon in geologic time to melt all that ice, so the continent might have to move north again for the sheets to melt.

      • Chimp,
        Thanks for that. My interests used to be (I guess you could say, still are) in structural geology and Ig/met petrology. Went off in a different direction but still enjoy discussions or comments that relate to geology (great distraction from the dismal “climate science”).

      • Phil,
        Unfortunately “climate science” is even corrupting geology, at least of the academic and government varieties. Petroleum and other private, not so much.
        To me it’s exciting that we can now directly measure continental drift and not just infer it from maps, rocks and fossils. And we can date sea floor spreading from the submarine ridges.

      • Well maybe Antarctica will melt after all if the plate tectonics move it to the equator in 300 million years from now.

      • Alan,
        Some predictions for tectonic movements out to 250 million years in the future show Antarctica still at high southern latitudes, but at least one does indeed see it drifting northwards into the tropics.

  16. Julius. Thanks for clarifying alarms by simple perspective.
    PS Recommend clarification of “by definition”. Yes the km was originally defined by 10,000 km from equator to pole. Then the kg was set as the mass of 1 litre of water at its melting point.
    However, more accurate measurement found water had its maximum density at 3.98̊C. At its triple point of 273.16 K, liquid water has a density of 999.793 kg m^3 at the pressure of 611.655 Pa. Mass was set by the Pt Ir kg artifact.
    The New SI will redefine mass based on constants.
    See: GLP 10 Good Laboratory Practice for the Purity of Water NIST 2017
    See The IAPWS Formulation 1995 for the Thermodynamic Properties of Ordinary Water Substance for General and Scientific Use
    Draft Resolution A: On the revision of the International System of Units (SI)

    • I don’t think it matters because the seriously huge numbers about ocean rise from glacier melt and total ice in Antarctica are estimates with unknown error, and are many orders of magnitude higher than any revised definitions of the metric system.

  17. If you melt that much ice, it will absorb a lot of CO2. Adding that much below-4-degrees water to the oceans will cool them, increasing the draw-down of CO2.

    • Crispin,
      An interesting point, adding another difficulty to those who would stokes the fires of man made global warming!

  18. JS, to me this is an interesting article … making me think about that southernly nether region of our “mortal coil”, about which typically I do not give much thought.
    Of note: for general perspective, high school geography informs us regarding some comparative landmass measurements:
    [1] the Antarctica landmass, as shown in the foto above, is net 13,000,000 km2 … and I will estimate that, including all of its peripheral ice shelves, sheets and etc, the total ice-covered area is about twice that [26,000,000 km2]
    [2] in comparison, Russia, the largest continental land mass on our planet and one with which I am a bit more familiar, totals out at net 17,000,000 km2
    Note to self: Antarctica is a LARGE area!
    [3] in further comparison, Greenland [a part of the Danish kingdom], which is also covered largely with ice, and, from which the great majority of northern Atlantic icebergs are calved, has a geographical landmass extent of 2,200,000 km2.
    As a non-climatologist, I am stressing my imagination regarding the realization of a plausible climate model which could result in the melting of substantial volumes of Antarctic ice … given a landmass of this extent … at its particular range of latitude … where much of life on the remainder of the planet could survive such a “heat wave”.
    Hmmm … maybe I just need to think a bit more outside of my box.
    Again, very interesting article. Thanks much.

    • Johnny Cuyana

      [1] the Antarctica landmass, as shown in the foto above, is net 13,000,000 km2 … and I will estimate that, including all of its peripheral ice shelves, sheets and etc, the total ice-covered area is about twice that [26,000,000 km2]

      Going to politely disagree with you there: You’ve underestimated the areas.
      Antarctica is 14.0 Mkm^2 in land area, 98% of which is permanent ice fields. (Only the coastlines of the Peninsula are ice-free.)
      This 14.0 Mkm^2 of permanent land ice is surrounded by 1.4 Mkm^2 of shelf ice – which is NOT reported in the totals of the “sea ice” around the outside of the land ice and shelf ice.
      Now, the variable sea ice around Antarctica is increasing – been increasing near-constantly since 1992. (2016 and 2017 were below average, but Feb-March-April 2018 have already exceeded the day-to-sea ice extents of 2017 by more than 1/2 the area of Greenland.) Antarctic sea ice varies between a low of 3.0 Mkm^2 to an average high of 18.7 Mkm^2.
      Aside: In June 2014, it is useful to remember that just the “excess” sea ice around Antarctica exceeded the entire area of Greenland!
      (Greenland is actually 2.06 Mkm^2 in area, with the southern coastal mountain ranges ice-free part of the year. 95% of Greenland is ice, snow, or ice caps. The Antarctic sea ice anomaly in June 2014 was 2.16 Mkm^2.)
      So, the total ice on and around Antarctica is 14.0 + 1.4 + 18.7 Mkm^2 = 34.1 Mkm^2 (at average sea ice maximum in September each year). (Peak Antarctic sea ice maximum was 20.2 Mkm^2 sea ice extent in Sept 2014.)
      True, this is an area larger than Russia.
      And Canada.
      It is also an area larger than all of the other land masses and islands south of the Equator.

      On another side note, it is interesting to notice that every other continent is reported with land areas to the decimal place of the square kilometer. Antarctica is so poorly mapped that its land area has to be “rounded off” to the nearest digit of millions of square kilometers. But nobody is taxing that unmapped land, and nobody can claim it for use or mining, so – as a recent Secretary of State phrased it – “What difference does it make?”

      • wait until the Chinese start declaring that Marie Byrd land is theirs because no one has claimed it. 1.6 million km2

      • RACook1978, thanks for the additional precision … and improved perspective.
        Indeed, Antarctica is a very large area of land, ice and etc; a combined area larger than I had estimated. My numbers were off the top of my head and estimated from the foto; where, perhaps, in retrospect, I should have done an online search.
        The point of my original posting — in response to the topic of this article — was/is that, for such a truly large area, my imagination was being stressed on how one identifies a plausible climate model that could explain a truly massive ice melt over said area. Your improved precision … increases my stress level. [Haha!]
        Again, thanks for reading my post and providing your useful comments.

    • The huge East and little West Antarctic Ice Sheets cover an area of almost 14 million square km and contain 30 million cubic km of ice.
      Around 90% of the fresh water on the Earth’s surface is held in these ice sheets, an amount equivalent to 70 m of sea level rise in the world’s oceans. But this water has been locked up in the ice for 34 million years, and is liable to remain so for millions or tens of millions more. The Carboniferous Ice Age lasted about 100 million years.

  19. Papers from the scientists studying those two areas reported, quite plainly, that ALL the melting is occurring deep under water, from warm water coming from somewhere unknown — and has been in process for 300 to 1000 years. This was discovered with new underwater drone technology.
    Later papers extolling further development of the drones, allowing much deeper exploration, found that geothermal vents under the ice sheets had been discovered since the earlier papers were published. These put out a large amount of “surprising warm” water.
    All three papers were featured in this blog a couple or so years ago.

  20. “A generally accepted value for the total ocean area is 3.618 x 108 km2…”
    “Now, 11 feet [3.353 meters] of sea level rise is a lot of water,…”
    If the ocean only went up 1 meter you would need 3.618E8 km^3 so your volume needed to fill is too low I think.
    the surface area (3.618E8 km^2) X the depth (3.353m) gives 1.213E9 km^3 not 1.21X106 Km3.
    Therefore, using standard alarmist wording “It is worse than you think”.

    • You are not computing your units correctly. km^2 X meters ≠ km^3, but you claim it does. Units must be consistent. So you convert 3.353 meters to km, which is 3.353X10^-3 km. The unit computation becomes km^2 X km = km^3, and the arithmetic final order of magnitude is 10^6, not 10^9.

  21. So, if I understand correctly, this is about convincing people of an idea by using some math even if that math really has no bearing on the question, it’s just used to dress up the argument. This is a lovely illustration of why it’s so important to be skeptical of “skeptic science.”
    The issue the writer focuses on is the melting of the glacier. The press release says, “collapse.” These are very different ideas, and the whole energy argument presented is moot.
    Much of the melt is from contact with warmer ocean water. If there weren’t a lot of melt somewhere, Antarctica would be growing at a rate equal to all the precipitation is receives (minus evaporation). So, it’s a balance, more or less – melt and accumulation. However, the balance is not evenly distributed. The worry, as I understand it, is that a large chunk that is now above sea level will break off, making sea levels rise rapidly. No one knows when this might happen, only that it’s a risk. “As early as…” is one of those silly phrases journalists use.

    • When you hear an alarmist whining that the math isn’t appropriate, that’s your first clue that they don’t actually understand the math, but are desperate to prove that we are all going to die anyway.
      Yes, warm water will melt ice, but there is a limit to how much warm water exists. As the ice melts, it rapidly cools the “warm” water until the water reaches the point where it can no longer melt ice.
      There is no risk of a large section of the Antarctic, or any other glacier breaking off. Not now, not in the next 100K years.

      • And since in a 100,000 years most of North America will be covered in very thick ice I daunt we will be worrying about rising sea levels

    • To prove humans are causing the collapse, the alarmists must show how much energy is actually needed to trigger the collapse, how that energy actually causes the collapse, and how human activity has moved the energy to the ice. I see nothing in alarmist writing to explain that. They generally whine about temperature gradient but do not go into the reason the gradient exists. Because they know everyone understands temperature, but few understand heat transfer. As a comparison, consider Larsen A and B breaking off. Was that actually due to human activity, or was it due to simple structural failure as the ice pushed farther and farther into the ocean? Have any alarmists disproved the structural failure hypothesis?

      • Julius Sanks
        “I see nothing in alarmist writing to explain that. ”
        Just because you don’t see something in writing doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. For a start, you could read the article.
        For those who wish to keep their ideas, there’s not much incentive to look at the evidence for other ones, is there?
        A “structural failure” in a glacier? You mean do they develop cracks? Yes.

      • Kristi, I actually read that paper. If it’s the one I’m thinking of, DeConti and Pollard were discussing the Aurora Ice Sheet. it whined about temperature but said nothing, absolutely nothing, about energy transfer. Temp gradient affects energy transfer but it is not the only variable. WUWT contributors had already challenged it, so I looked for something else. And my comment addressed the possibility that structural failure, not human activity, caused the Larson A and B ice shelves to break off and float away. Perhaps “collapse” was not the correct word. But as those shelves calved, there was much wailing by people who thought that would be some sort of catastrophe.

      • Kristi, ah, now I see you were referring to the paper I cited. Yes, I read it. I never post any link I have not checked for myself. That said, I’m pretty sure it refers to the Deconti & Pollard paper about Aurora Ice Sheet.

      • Julius,
        It’s not really important whether it’s humans or not if it’s likely to happen. But the idea of trying to quantify the amount of energy necessary to do it doesn’t seem very helpful. For one thing, it would be extremely difficult, given that the ice can lose mass through evaporation, which requires a great deal of energy, or melting in the air or in the water at a range of pressures. And still, how would you deal with the scenario in the paper, in which ice melts, ponds, and drains into cracks, enlarging them, so that one day the glacier finally melts enough at its toe in the sea that it cracks under its tremendous weight. Whoosh.
        No one can say that Larsen A or B broke off because of humans, but it caught scientists off-guard because they weren’t expecting it to happen as soon as it did.
        We still have a lot to learn about Antarctica. Tough place to study.

    • Kristi Silber,

      The issue the writer focuses on is the melting of the glacier. The press release says, “collapse.” These are very different ideas, and the whole energy argument presented is moot.

      I’m just curious in what your (or the press release’s) definition of “collapse” is. Sections of Antarctic ice shelves have broken off recently, but have been doing so for centuries (or millennia). No ice sheet (either east, west, or Greenland) has collapsed as a result. Are you saying that the “whole energy argument presented is moot” because of something said in a press release?

      • Phil R,
        From the article in Nature,
        “DeConto and co-author David Pollard, a palaeoclimatologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, developed a climate model that accounts for ice loss caused by warming ocean currents — which can eat at the underside of the ice sheet — and for rising atmospheric temperatures that melt it from above. Ponds of meltwater that form on the ice surface often drain through cracks; this can set off a chain reaction that breaks up ice shelves and causes newly exposed ice cliffs to collapse under their own weight.
        “They found that by including all of these processes, they could better simulate key geological periods that have long puzzled scientists. Before the last ice age began 130,000–115,000 years ago, for instance, sea levels were 6–9 metres higher than today — yet atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels were about 30% lower. And 3 million years ago, when CO2 levels roughly equalled today’s, the oceans may have been 10–30 metres higher.”

    • Kristi Silber:
      “Much of the melt is from contact with warmer ocean water.”
      Warmist’s claim this warmer ocean water is human caused via emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. Please explain how atmospheric CO2, whether human sourced or natural, can warm the ocean under an Antarctic ice shelf. If you can explain a mechanism for tropical waters to become warmer due to human caused extra atmospheric CO2, what is the transport time for these warmer waters to be carried to the Antarctic? Has enough time passed since CO2 passed 350 ppm (the claimed “safe” level of CO2) for significant quantities of warmer water to have been carried to Antarctica yet? Would much warmer water produced get caught up in El Nino currents and thereby release the extra heat into the atmosphere?
      I thought Global Warming Theory was that increased atmospheric CO2 would return some extra escaping IR radiation back toward the surface. This was supposed to result in a little extra bit of surface warming, which would result in a little extra H2O evaporation. It is the extra water vapor that is supposed to produce a significantly warmer atmosphere. So I ask, How does warmer air move extra heat into the ocean?
      If the extra heat is going into evaporation of water, it is not going into the oceans. Since extra water vapor would result in increased cloud cover, less sunlight would then reach the surface of the ocean. Since sunlight is the main source of warming for the oceans, extra clouds would result in cooler oceans. Extra water vapor would also result in extra snowfall in the interior of Antarctica (and Greenland), sequestering extra water for a very long time. Cooler oceans and increased ice is a recipe for lowering sea levels.
      I don’t think extra CO2 has the effect the theory claims.

      • To top it all off, to have extra evaporation you would need to show that atmospheric water vapour has increased. Hansen the then director of GISS for NASA had a H2O measuring project for 20 years. After he couldnt show any increase he shut the project down in 2009. The bottom line is H2O is a global constant in the atmosphere. CO2 does not force more water vapour. The Global warming hoax falls like a melting ice cube in a glass in the tropics.

      • When they claim that the oceans have warmed, the alarmists never give their “estimates” in terms of temperature. There is a reason for this, when they convert their scary energy measurements to temperature, it works out to just a few thousandth’s of a degree. They idea that a few hundred probes, individually accurate to a tenth of a degree can be used to measure the temperature of the entire ocean to a thousandths of a degree is so ludicrous, that only a climate scientist would be able to make it with a straight face.
        Finally, to my point. Just how much extra melting is a thousandth of a degree supposed to cause.

      • Warm air makes the ocean warmer (or lowers the water’s release of heat to the air). Kind of like a kiddie pool on a warm day vs. a cold day, even in the shade. That’s my understanding.
        CO2’s temperature effect is on the atmosphere, and the rest follows from that in a giant, complex system that has elements of chaos as well as patterns, rules and predictability.

        • Please do not confuse temperature and heat; they are not the same. Air does not warm the ocean. The ocean controls air temperature close to the surface. The the ocean’s specific heat is about 1000 times greater than that of the air. So the air cannot hold enough heat to influence the ocean’s heat. That is why temperature changes in coastal regions are generally more mild than inland, away from the ocean’s influence, and why there is a daily land and sea breeze.

      • KS,
        Antarctica’s ice sheets did not “collapse” during the integlacials much warmer and longer-lasting than the Holocene. It’s simply not going to happen, not matter with how much life-giving plant food humans enrich our air.
        A model divined that the little West Antarctic Ice Sheet could have collapsed during the Eemian, but there is no actual evidence that it did:
        But in any case, the vast East AIS is rock stable.

      • Kristi Silber April 17, 2018 at 2:37 pm:
        “Warm air makes the ocean warmer (or lowers the water’s release of heat to the air). Kind of like a kiddie pool on a warm day vs. a cold day, even in the shade.”
        Odd example. Kiddie pools are used for relief from summer heat. In my experience, a kiddie pool in the shade loses heat even on the warmest day, via evaporation. It’s why many real pools have plastic covers. Sunlight warms water, but contact with air only cools open water. (Yes, tap water often comes out below room temperature, and then warms to near room temp if left out in a glass. But that warm room air is warming the water via heat conduction through contact with the glass. That’s why a cool beverage warms faster in a metal “glass”. If warm air only contacts the surface of the water without interacting with the water’s container, evaporative cooling predominates over conductive warming.)
        Nor does downwelling IR from atmospheric CO2 warm the ocean, as that IR is absorbed by the surface
        molecules, resulting in increased evaporation. (Sunlight warms the ocean, and the kiddie pool, because most of the spectrum of sunlight penetrates below the surface.) The evaporated molecules carry heat away from the water.
        Also, lowering the water’s release of heat to the air would matter only if the water was being heated by some other means. Since extra CO2 in the atmosphere won’t increase the sun’s output, there are 2 main possibilities for extra heating of the oceans :
        1. Reduced cloud cover via a warmer atmosphere. However, Global Warming Theory postulates catastrophe via increased atmospheric water vapor, except in deserts. No extra water vapor, no catastrophe. Increased water vapor means more cloudiness. (Just at a higher level in a warmer atmosphere.) Of course, deserts lack an ocean for sunlight to warm.
        2. Increased glacial melt water entering the oceans. However increased glacial melt water entering the ocean in the past is blamed for causing global cooling by interrupting transport of warm subtropic water to higher lattitudes. I note that the concern over melting the Antarctic ice shelf turns on warmer water reaching the Southern Ocean.
        So I ask: How, according to Global Warming Theory, does increased atmospheric CO2 increase the temperature of the polar oceans? Without such a mechanism, humans need not worry about CO2 emissions melting Antarctic ice.

      • Sanks: “Air does not warm the ocean.”

        If the temperature of the air above the surface of the ocean is higher than the ocean surface temperature, heat will flow from the air to the ocean.

        • Without getting into the calculus of heat transfer, a tiny amount of heat energy will transfer along the temperature gradient. Not enough to matter, because of the huge differences in specific heat. The ocean transfers far more heat into the atmosphere than air to ocean.

    • “The worry, as I understand it, is that a large chunk that is now above sea level will break off”
      You don’t understand it. It won’t “break off”. What can theoretically happen is that a glacier that is based on rock below sea-level can, if more than 90 % of the ice height at the glacier front is below sea-level, and the depth to bedrock increases faster inland than the thickness of the glacier does and there are no thresholds or pinning points calve out rapidly (meaning within a few thousand years or so).
      Note that this is theoretical. There is no convincing data that it has ever happened. If it it had it should have left some humunguous IRD deposits it the Southern Ocean, like Heinrich Events on steroids but nothing like that has ever been found.

    • KS, the post makes a valid point. As for Thwaites and PIG collapse in the Amundsen Embayment, see guest essay Tipping Points over at Judy Curry’s Climate Etc or on ebook Blowing Smoke. For a more recent equivalent see guest essay Totten Glacier at Judith’s. Its all based on bogus assumptions. You seem an intelligent but sadly misinformed person. Those essays will correct some of the misinformation.

      • ristvan,
        What is the point of calculating how much energy it would take to melt a chunk of glacier, when the worry is that it might crack and split and fall in the ocean? That’s one thing I’m talking about, but no one has commented on my most important point: The writer is explaining how to argue a point by making it SOUND “sciency” and mathematical and therefore trustworthy, when it’s a bunch of nonsense. It’s just numbers, without any connection to the processes that actually happen. The forces acting on Antarctic glaciers are not the same as seeing how many joules it takes to melt a giant ice cube at a given air temperature. The writer wants to convince people a large sea level rise is ridiculous when no one (with any sense) argues that it’s because Antarctica will simply melt.
        To me this is the same as distorting the truth in order to argue your point. Evidently that’s okay with a lot of people here.

      • Kristi, it’s clear you have completely missed my point. I was only trying to compare human energy production with the energy required to actually melt a large amount of ice. Nor do I think you understand how glaciers behave. They are on land. As they get more H2O at higher altitudes they flow downhill. When they end up over water they create ice shelves. They do this on lakes as well as on the ocean. When the ice shelf is large enough, it calves due to mechanical failure. If they suffer from more heat and less moisture they shrink, generally uphill, because the glacier’s toe is thinner than the ice above. I have never heard of any glacier to “crack and split and fell into the ocean,” as you put it. And thanks for your ad hominem attack by claiming my math is “nonsense.” I made no claim about temperature; yet you accuse me of it. I did not claim sea level rise is “ridiculous;” yet you accuse me of it. If my math is “a bunch of nonsense” as you say and you know what you are talking about, you should be able to show me some math that disproves mine. And cite a specific case in which a glacier “cracked and split and fell into the ocean.” If you cannot do that, I laugh at you.

    • There are several problems with Kristi Silber’s worry “that a large chunk that is now above sea level will break off”. A chunk with a volume of 1.32 million cubic kilometers will not break off all at once–what tremendous forces would be needed to push it into the ocean?
      But even if we imagine many smaller chunks breaking off over a period of years, and floating in the southern sea as icebergs, melting them would pull the same amount of heat out of the surrounding ocean water as was calculated in Julius Sanks’ article. This would mean that the surrounding ocean would become colder, and would freeze earlier in autumn than it would if the ice remained over land. The resulting sea ice would tend to block further “chunks” from breaking off.

      • Steve Zell,
        “A chunk with a volume of 1.32 million cubic kilometers will not break off all at once–what tremendous forces would be needed to push it into the ocean?”
        The matter of large bodies of cold, fresh water melting at the poles was one focus of a recent paper arguing that climate models have been biased. It’s quite an interesting argument they lay out. Even so, many people here would dismiss it, I suspect.

    • If we get to that point, just move the ice systematically to someplace you want fresh water, via ship, letting it melt in transit. I can just see the job posting now: Wanted, Ice Miners. Will train.

  22. Sorry, Julius, but this is a totally silly analysis. The fact that the energy in a hurricane dwarfs our power generation capacity should have been a clue. The energy in the earths atmosphere dwarfs our own actual energy use because the energy input from the sun dwarfs everything, and drives everything. The sun has plenty of energy to melt all the ice on the planet. It’s back to school for you Julius.

    • How about just disproving my math? You actually argue the sun, not humans, is the cause. I think you have missed my point, which was to challenge the notion that humans are to blame for any ice melt.

      • Your math may be correct, but it’s irrelevant. No one has ever argued that it’s the heat from combustion that is warming the atmosphere. It’s the heat from the sun that will melt the ice, if it’s to be melted, and that’s a notion that I’m highly skeptical of.

      • “You actually argue the sun, not humans, is the cause.”
        As Tom says, no-one expects waste heat from combustion to melt the ice. What may do it is radiative forcing from anthropogenic GHGs (ours). Heat from that dwarfs combustion, so yes, your calculation is pointless.

      • Nick has not explained how there would ever be close to enough heat to melt the surface of Antarctica before the rest of the planet was frying in 60C heat.

      • The claim that the energy of human activity, industrial or otherwise, is responsible for melting glaciers, ice sheets, etc. has never been made. The actual claim is vastly different:
        addition of greenhouse gases from human activity results in increased greenhouse effect which retains SOLAR ENERGY in the earth system longer, resulting, in part, in higher temperatures that melt more ice than would otherwise melt.
        This has nothing to do with the energy use/release, or heat production, of human activity, only with the CO2 and other gas releases into the atmosphere from human activity.
        The particular melting reported by Eric Holthaus has been linked to geothermal vents by some amount of evidence and by warm water from outside the Antarctic by hypothesis.

      • AndyHce April 17, 2018 at 5:23 pm
        What warmer water?
        Antarctica is not melting. Any glacier retreat in West Antarctica is due to subglacial volcanoes.
        The continent has gained mass all during the rise in CO2. While Arctic sea ice declined from 1979 to 2012 in the dedicated satellite record, Antarctic sea ice grew from 1979 to record high in 2014. Freak WX events and the recent super El Nino caused less Antarctic ice since then, but CO2 had nothing to do with it.

    • I found it rather entertaining and my sense of the environmental zeitgeist is that many people overestimate the power of mankind compared to nature in an abstract sense. These simple calculations show the energies involved in the natural world dwarf our output which you seem to understand already so understanding why you object to the essay is a mystery. Perhaps Julius can write a follow up essay for STEM folks in reading comprehension.

    • Obviously not all of them as the IPCC summarises papers.
      However, if you are actually interested in the environment it may make sense to actually read the IPCC reports. It may surprise you to know that the sceptical peer-reviewed papers are included.
      For example, the alarm over AGW comes from models of the climate that say we are warming the world dangerously. However, the IPCC reports that the models over-estimate the warming. The very epitome of climate change scepticism!
      See the last report, look at Box 9.2 form IPCC AR5 (the last report; Climate Models and the Hiatus in Global Mean Surface Warming of the Past 15 Years
      If you care about the environment look at the science, not press releases from partisan groups.

  23. Antarctica froze over completely about 33.6 million years ago when CO2 was 1,200 ppm. I mean that is a long, long time ago and CO2 was many times higher than it will ever get to in today’s world.
    Why did it freeze over and turn into one big glacier when CO2 was so high? Well, it is at the south pole where it gets very little sunlight compared to other places on the planet. Simple enough.
    It did melt back by about half from 27 million years ago to 14 million years ago, but that is because the Antarctic Circumpolar Current was disrupted by the small left-over continental cratons between South America and Antarctica. These cratons are now well out into the Atlantic thanks to continental drift and are now the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands.
    Now the Sun is capable of melting out Antarctica. The total solar energy received by the Earth from the Sun each year is about 3.865 X 10^24 joules so that is a good 100 times more that the calculations above assume. But if we took all the energy the Earth receives from the Sun in a year and put it all into Antarctica, well the rest of us would freeze to death within 2 days.
    So, millions of fricken’ years, the early part of it when CO2 was in the 1,200 ppm range.

    • Any way you stokes it, history/reality says 1200ppm CO2 in the atmosphere won’t melt Antarctica ice.

      • 1200ppm CO2 would be a good thing. Optimum for plants. Greenhouses are that level. No human has died in a greenhouse except by natural causes. We need more CO2 NOT less. I love watching the Bloomberg CO2 9 decimal places clock go up every milli second. Unfortunately it only increases 2ppm per year. such a puny amount. The plants are crying for more.

  24. What about the fact that Antarctica is dark for much of its winter and will cool as it radiates away energy without being replenished by the Sun.
    Another calculation that shows the insanity is to consider that if all of the ice on the planet melted, the increase in energy by reduced reflection when averaged across the surface would not even be enough W/m^2 to achieve half of what the IPCC claims is caused by doubling Co2 alone. When you do the calculation, you must take into consideration that 2/3 of the planet is covered by clouds and reflects about the same as ice anyway.

    • Ya since the total albedo is 30% how much of that is reflection by Antarctica? Has anybody figured it out?

      • of course, it was done.
        And is answer is: pretty much zero, for a very simple reason : the polar areas are small, relative to the whole Earth,
        You can calculate yourself, with undergraduate notion of trigonometry, or just basic formula for circular segment area for the relevant angle (~23.5° ).
        Answer : ~1% of the sun rays reach the polar zone

  25. OK. Now that the issue of melting in the Antarctic has been solved, lets us move on to the next problem.
    And that is; “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin. And will the direction of rotation affect the rotation of the earth.

    • Hmmmn. Direction of rotation of the pin? Same as, or different from, the conventional (north pole) view of the earth looking towards the solar system ecliptical plane?
      Or direction(s) of rotation(s) of the angel(s) on the head of the pin?
      What is the latitude of the pin?
      Is it (or one or more of the angels) rotating perpendicular to the earth’s surface, or at an angle to the earth’s surface?
      And, as always, what are the masses of the angels and pin? Bic, fountain, or feathered?
      Are we to assume the pin (or one or more of the angels) are to be rotating about their center of mass, or slightly off of their center of angelic mass?

      • now, that is outrageous domination of angels over pin, and discrimination against devils, and LGBTetcphobia,as you failed do mention them.

    The ice doesn’t have to melt for the sea level to rise; it just needs to break up and fall into the sea. The map shows how much ice in Antarctica is being exposed to an awful lot of freshly-arriving warm water.
    I doubt there’s any aspect of the science and maths the global community of publishing climate scientists is not aware of.
    But hey, reassurances from know-alls are always popular.

    • Stephanie Hawking

      The ice doesn’t have to melt for the sea level to rise; it just needs to break up and fall into the sea. The map shows how much ice in Antarctica is being exposed to an awful lot of freshly-arriving warm water.

      Er, uhm, no. Dead wrong.
      Only the very ends of the few coastal glaciers are “over water” around the Antarctic continent. You are arguing the impossibility of an land area covered with ice the size larger than Canada or Russia, covered with solid ice the height of the Appalachians will be melted if some of the ice on the edges (Hudson River/New York harbor, San Francisco Bay, or Puget Sound) melted.
      Yes, the Pine Island Glacier is large. Yes, parts of it do extend out over the water. But is is little, compared to the continental ice.
      By the way, in August in both 2016 and 2017, for the first time ever in recorded history, the Arctic sea ice in the Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk did not melt all the way out.
      More ominously, in 2017, the sea ice in the Gulf of St Lawrence remained solid for weeks longer in July and August than ever before. (It did refreeze back the same date as average. but we need to see how much thick, multi-year ice remains through this year down at latitudes 48, 58, and 60. )
      The average Hudson Bay daily sea ice extents for 2016-2017-2018 are higher now than in recent years.
      Does the absurdity of what you wrote become apparent?

      • I prefer the judgement of experts. You don’t know what you are talking about and thus you are quite at home here.

        • I prefer the judgement of experts. You don’t know what you are talking about and thus you are quite at home here.

          Please specify which facts you have decided you disagree with because they do not meet your prejudices and desires.

      • “I prefer the judgement of experts.”
        Stephanie prefers an appeal to authority over facts.
        It appears to me that those who rely simply on the weight of authority to prove any assertion, without searching out the arguments to support it, act absurdly. I wish to question freely and to answer freely without any sort of adulation. That well becomes any who are sincere in the search for truth.
        – Vincenzo Galileo
        “The map shows how much ice in Antarctica is being exposed to an awful lot of freshly-arriving warm water.” – Stephanie
        ► Antarctic winter sea ice extent sets new record in 2014 – NOAA

      • I prefer the judgement of experts
        Experts are worse than the average population at predicting the future.
        The average population at least has the common sense to recognize that no matter how much you know, there is still an infinity of things you don’t know.

      • I prefer the judgement of experts
        Experts are worse than the average population at predicting the future.
        The average population at least has the common sense to recognize that no matter how much you know, there is still an infinity of things you don’t know.

      • An expert is someone that thru careful study has come to know more and more about less and less. Until after a lifetime of study they know almost everything about almost nothing.

      • Stephanie Hawking
        April 16, 2018 at 8:39 pm
        Your appeal to authority followed by ad hominem attack is the refuge of one lacking convincing arguments.
        But stick around, Stephanie! You might actually learn something of real value…

      • “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
        –Richard Feynman
        Please cite those whom you imagine to be experts.

      • @Stephanie Hawking
        Typical social science claptrap believe me I know an expert or believe consensus views. That in itself tells you what is wrong with soft science fields and why so many of them are getting into trouble.

      • The ice doesn’t have to melt for the sea level to rise; it just needs to break up and fall into the sea. The map shows how much ice in Antarctica is being exposed to an awful lot of freshly-arriving warm water.
        I prefer the judgement of experts. You don’t know what you are talking about and thus you are quite at home here. – Stephanie Hawking

        Good, since you like the experts, you might want to read what the experts say about your warm water theory and how it is able to breach the Southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current front!

        Why has the sea ice cover surrounding Antarctica been increasing slightly, in sharp contrast to the drastic loss of sea ice occurring in the Arctic Ocean? A new NASA-led study finds the geology of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are responsible. – Son Nghiem (NASA/NOAA/JPL/Caltech team leader)
        Location of the southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current front (white contour), with -1 degree Celsius sea surface temperature lines (black contours) on Sept. 22 each year from 2002-2009, plotted against a chart of the depth of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. The white cross is Bouvet Island.
        Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

        Study Helps Explain Sea Ice Differences at Earth’s Poles

      • SH, how do you know they are experts? How do you know that we aren’t?
        Sounds like you, like most alarmists, declare to be experts, anyone who says what you want to hear.

    • It wont “break up and fall into the sea”. You want to read up on glaciology. What could theoretically happen is that a glacier which is resting on rock below sea-level can, if more than 90 % of the ice height at the glacier front is below sea-level, and the depth to bedrock increases faster inland than the thickness of the glacier does and there are no thresholds or pinning points calve out rapidly (meaning within a few thousand years or so).
      This is strictly theoretical. There is no convincing data that it has ever happened in West Antarctica (and in East Antarctica it isn’t even theoretically possible). If it it had ever happened it would have left enormous IRD (Ice-rafted debirs) deposits int the Southern Ocean. Nothing like that has ever been found, not even in Pliocene layers when the West Antarctic was probably periodically ice-free.

    • I repeat: The ice doesn’t have to melt for the sea level to rise; it just needs to break up and fall into the sea. The map shows how much ice in Antarctica is being exposed to an awful lot of freshly-arriving warm water.
      Here some simple explanations:
      No answer has contradicted this with evidence. Just amateur opinion.
      The old “Appeal to lack of Authority” argument.

      • I must say that it is fascinating how Steph considers news magazines to be authoritative.
        Regardless, the vast, vast majority of ice in Antarctica is miles away from the sea. And wouldn’t drop off and fall into the sea, no matter how much floating ice was melted.

      • Stephanie,
        1) The article is about floating ice shelves. If they melt, their is no increase in sea level. None. No cause for alarm, regardless of the cause during this naturally warming interglacial period.
        2) The article references a subsurface magma plume that may be melting a local area of the glacier from below. It has absolutely nothing to do with ‘man made global warming’.
        3) The 2nd article asserts underwater warm water currents are melting the west antarctic glaciers. From Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 407, 1 December 2014, Pages 109-122
        the subsurface beneath the glacier is being warmed by a geothermal dome. No man made warming needed.
        4) The article is more of the same…. warming from below is melting the glaciers. They predictably attribute it to man made global warming but Antarctica is a geothermally active area overlaid by glaciers. Honest evaluations must take this into account but the AGW funding industry cannot afford to do so.
        GEOPHYSICS 10 July 2015
        High geothermal heat flux measured below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
        You have indicated you ‘listen to experts’ so I have provided a couple of peer reviewed papers to illustrate my points and refute the alarmist newspaper articles you referred to. These peer reviewed expert articles clearly contradict your alarmist magazine stories, as well as your ‘amateur opinion’.
        I encourage you to please stick around, you may yet learn something!

    • SH, can you show that the amount of freshly arriving warm water is greater than in past years?
      Or are you one of those know-alls who doesn’t need to actually look up anything.

    • Hmmmn. Those “under water level” regions of the Antarctic continent are “underwater” BECAUSE the weight of the thousands of meters of icecap sitting ABOVE water level for tens of millions of years (when CO2 has been much higher than now) have compressed the solid rock under the icecap down.
      Now, water pressure increases as one goes deeper, but rock is “usually” stronger than water at resisting steady compressive loads. Thus, no part of the icecap is “floating” at all on water, but the ice is solid all the way to bedrock below. The seawater – at 2 to 4 degrees at the surface, -2 to -4 degrees very deep, cannot penetrate between the bedrock and bottom of the icecap because the forces “down” (between ice and rock) are greater than the forces “sideways” between water sideways into the supposed crack.
      Under a mountain glacier, the melting water does flow down to the tunnels and rivulets under the icecap – but that’s because the ice is shallower (a few tens of meters) and so has less force “down”. Further, a mountain glacier is characterized by movement and continues downward erosion and grinding. Where movement occurs, the ice is NOT solid nor continuous, but is always ruined with lateral and lengthwise (flow-direction) flaws that allow movement of water, ground-up rock, and ice blocks.
      Where the glacier is very thick, it is also not characterized rivers of water underneath.
      The very rare occasions when glaciers “run” are intermittent, in steep regions where the water can run down, get trapped momentarily (days or weeks) behind , then float limited sections of the glacier for limited quick travel. Most reports allow 2-3% of the observed time.

    • The figure Stephanie Hawking shows is worthy of some discussion. However, I think this figure is actually more helpful:
      Take a look at the bottom part of the figure, which shows a profile of Antarctica which includes ice below and above sea level.
      Stephanie was not clear (to me) with her point in bringing up this figure, but I’ll assume it is why Alarmists often mention the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). (I’m not referring to Stephanie here – just using her figure to address what Alarmists usually do with it.) Notice that WAIS is grounded but the ground the ice is on is below sea level by 500-1000 meters. The ice shelves (floating) around WAIS do provide some protection for the grounded WAIS – but the ice is exposed to the oceans. Many know this, and some do not. The Alarmist narrative is that if the ice shelves collapse (which they seem to all do periodically), then WAIS could be unprotected, and it too could “collapse” (or break up). We then hear about how much the sea level will rise, etc., etc.
      How many articles are there on the topic of ice sheets that include the comment: “… and if all the ice melts….” (followed by the list of tragic consequences). This is a ridiculous fear and I’ll explain why – at least ridiculous for it to happen in even a thousand years. The WAIS concern is similarly flawed, but at least there is something there to work with and the Alarmists have a point about the ice being grounded below sea level. So why is this actually not a real concern then?
      Ice shelves and ice sheets are very different. Ice shelves are by their nature structurally weak compared to grounded ice. Remember for an iceberg to float, due to the density difference between ice and water, a chunk of ice will always be 90% underwater and 10% above water. Said another way, the water must be much deeper than the chunk of ice is tall to float it. (For whatever dimension ends up being the height based upon its shape.) From my figure, you can see that WAIS is 500-1000m below sea level but also another 1500-2000m above sea level.
      Those who have concerns about WAIS point out that channels are being generated by water under the ice. This happens in some areas but the size of these channels is miniscule compared to the size of WAIS. The further in the channel gets inland then the less water circulation there will be and what is more likely to happen is that the water will freeze. A 5-10 foot deep channel of water will be covered with 8000-9000 feet of ice perhaps at -50C. The Antarctic bottom water is typically -0.8 to +2C. (I don’t know why people refer to water a few degrees above freezing as “warm”). While sea water freezes at ~-2C (depending upon salinity), remember that once the water freezes the ice has very little residual salinity. Ice in the 2nd and subsequent years continues to reduce salinity through cracking and other processes. The melting point returns to around 0C. So the water near the ice or that finds its way under the ice will have a very difficult time thermodynamically to do any melting. It will be already below 0C or even at 2C is thermodynamically week. The energy flow from the water to the ice will cool the water – and if the ice gets close to 0C then it will take a long time to melt as thermal energy moves slowly with small temperature gradients.
      Recent exploration of the Ross Ice Shelf earlier this year shows that ice is forming under the shelf – not melting.
      So the ice is cold enough to freeze the water beneath it. And this is a shelf – not a sheet! There is 500-1000m of water under the sheet.
      If melting under the ice produced any local structural weaknesses then at most, you would have a column of ice 9000 feet tall slump a few feet into the water channel – driving the water out an/or freezing it. There is just now way WAIS can break up like an ice shelf. You would need water depth that is approximately 110% the height of the ice sheet such that the ice could float away. These ideas are put forward by people who have never thought about or studied structures. I don’t see the physics involved in a “break up” of the sheet. (This should be good news – but Alarmists fight it!)
      Furthermore, Alarmists talk about ice melting as if it could happen in isolation from the rest of the “global climate”. When ice melts, it cools the air or the water that melts it! When ice is made, the air or water around it gets warmer! Where does the heat come from or go to respectively otherwise? A lot of melting ice will make the atmosphere much colder!
      I want to thank Julius for putting together the blog post. I was actually working on something similar. I’ll just sprinkle in a few points from what I was working on.
      Alarmists talk about a warming world. We are told that the “global average temperature” is now ~16.5C. Some fear that the “global average temperature” will go up by 4C by the end of this century. Using the approach that Julius used, let’s take a look at a few things. First, how much ice could we melt if we could trade all of the heat energy in the atmosphere with the ice sheets. Let’s start with 16.5C. I’ll give you my assumptions and values used in the calculations. Feel free to change the values – you will see that the story doesn’t really change.
      We need to determine the energy in the atmosphere above 0C (since that is the melting point of ice). To do this we need the mass of the atmosphere, the specific heat and the average temperature. I refer you to the figure below which shows a vertical atmospheric temperature profile.
      The x-axis gives you the temperature and the y-axis on the left gives you the altitude in km. The red line shows the temperature as you go from the ground up to the top of the thermosphere. What should be immediately noticed (and interesting) is that it is only the air below around 8,000 feet (2.5km) that is above 0C. The top of the thermosphere is excepted as it has almost no mass and no direct thermal coupling. The mass of the atmosphere is 5.15×10^18 kg. 75% of the mass of the atmosphere is contained in the troposphere. I’ll assume 35% is in the first 2.5km, where temperature is greater than 0C. So, the mass we will use is 1.8×10^18 kg. I’m going to use 8C as the average temperature below 2.5km – it appears to actually be lower, but 8C is conservative. The specific heat of the atmosphere is 1,005 J/kg/C. So, we therefore have:
      1.45×10^22 Joules in the atmosphere available to melt ice.
      Of course, atmospheric energy exists in gradients/bands – and we could never actually get all of this energy circulating over the ice sheets to exchange all of the energy. But because it is an absurd impossibility it also serves as good limit to understand the absolute maximum of what could happen. The reality of course will be much less.
      As for the ice: Here are the numbers I used: Antarctica 3×10^7 km3 at -57C average. Greenland 3×10^6 km3 at -30C average. Specific Heat of ice: 2,108 J/kg/C. Heat of fusion of ice: 3.34×10^5 J/kg/C. So therefore, we have:
      1.36×10^25 Joules in the ice below 0C. It will take this much energy to melt all of the ice to water at 0C.
      So, if we mix all of the energy in the atmosphere with the ice we can melt enough ice to raise sea level by 2.8 inches. I skipped some steps to save time – but I used 220 feet of total sea level rise if all of the ice melts (the commonly accepted figure) and used the ratio of the energies between the ice and the atmosphere. The energy in the ice below 0C is over 900 times that of the atmosphere above 0C. My assumption (for finding the absurd limit) is to assume that we can concentrate the energy of the atmosphere such that it all goes to melting a quantity of ice. It is also possible that the energy would just warm the ice and melt none of it.
      So, we could get ~3 inches of sea level rise if we traded all of the thermal energy in the atmosphere above 0C. Here is something else to consider. To do this would bring the atmosphere of Earth below 2.5km to 0C! This is about 6C colder than the coldest point during a glacial period!
      If the atmosphere heats by 4C in this century, you could trade that energy for 1.4 inches of sea level rise to cool the atmosphere back down.
      A lot more could be said, but I’ll wait to see if there is interest to discuss.
      Did I make any mistakes in the calculations or logic?
      Ps – another interesting point to consider: For any quantity of ice in Antarctica at -57C, if you melt it to water at 0C and call the energy “E” Joules. Then if you add another “E” Joules to that water it will boil! Melting ice at -57C takes a lot of energy! 75% of which is just to transition state.

      • William,
        As we know, it is the ocean that absorbs most of the solar energy and is most responsible for our weather. Before the atmosphere could warm up by 4 degrees, wouldn’t the oceans first need to do so? Similarly, in order for the atmosphere to cool by 4 degrees, the surface water of the ocean will need to cool again, meaning that all of that heat in the ocean needs to be counted toward the heat to melt the ice.
        I’m not sure how to estimate the volume or mass of ocean water that would be heated, since only the surface layer warms. If the temperature gradient goes rapidly down to 2C about 200 m below the surface and the area of the ocean surface is 5.1×10^14 square meters, then the surface layer would be about 10^17 cubic meters at about 10^3 kg/m3 density, thus ~10^20 kg. The heat capacity is about 4×10^3 J/kg-K, so for each degree of warming, you add 4×10^23 J to the surface of the ocean. For a 4 degree rise, that’s 1.6×10^24 J
        In other words, the heat added to the oceans to raise the temperature of the atmosphere is a couple of orders of magnitude greater than the heat stored in the atmosphere itself.
        Accepting your number of 1.36×10^25 J to melt all the ice, we ought to be able to melt around 12% of the ice cap, and that certainly would cause some SLR on the order of 8 meters I reckon.
        But it’s nonsense to think that there could be any physical mechanism to move all that heat to Antarctica, so I’m definitely not arguing that there is any risk of this happening. I’m just saying that the CAGW faithful are not going to be moved by your sermon.
        I would hasten to say, don’t trust my math or my science!

      • Rich,
        Thanks for your good points. I wanted to say more – but felt I already had a long post and wanted to take this in smaller chunks based upon engagement. My goal is to try to inject some basic scientific sanity to the Alarmist Narrative the public (largely not technical) is fed. A large plank in the Narrative is “all of the ice melting” – or “a lot” of the ice melting such that we lose cities to floods – and the suggestion is that this could happen suddenly or in a short time from now. The range of possibilities is large: between the current 1mm/yr eustatic rise and the nightmare of tens or hundreds of feet in a lifetime. Without dedicating our lives or careers to studying this, can people with science backgrounds analyze these claims for sanity? Analyze it not to “drain” the subject and resolve the issue to 3 significant figures – but determine which scenarios are even plausible. Let me work my way to your points by developing the ideas a bit more…
        The Narrative often focuses on the 4C rise this century – so I started by using that and making some assumptions around it for the analysis. I don’t like how climate science operates but I use what it offers and try to inject something into it that I think is more rational. I contend that climate science is on the wrong track in general because it transacts in temperature. The metric should be energy in Joules – not temperature in degrees. The science should aim to determine the net increase or decrease of energy in the Earth’s “Joule Bank” – and know which “accounts” (atmosphere, sea, ice) this energy is being distributed. As you might know, even in an adiabatic system (where no net energy enters or leaves the system) we can see warming or cooling of the atmosphere and seas and increase or decrease of ice mass. The energy on Earth is distributed over a wide range of temperatures and stored in currents that are in constant motion – at least with air and water. Evaporation of sea water at the equator trades energy between the air and water. This water being deposited as snow/ice at the poles transfers energy between the water and the air. Where a lot of ice is being made, the air will come away warmer. Where it is melting the air will come away cooler. So, we can see temperature changes and other effects without any net change in energy in the system.
        The Narrative largely pivots around ice melting – since that offers the most potential for catastrophe. So, my assessment looks at the energy contained in the ice (below 0C solid) vs. the energy contained in the atmosphere and the oceans above 0C. This is the framework. Assumptions can be tweaked around this to see if more valuable insights can be obtained. I already presented the atmosphere and ice. Here is my assessment of the oceans:
        Assumptions: 1.4×10^21 kg ocean mass, average temperature of 3C and specific heat of 3,993 J/kg/C. This yields 1.68×10^25 J above 0C.
        Putting it together (along with a normalized value to the Atmosphere):
        Source Energy (J) Normalized
        Atmosphere: 1.45×10^22 J 1
        Ice 1.36×10^25 J 935
        Oceans 1.68×10^25 J 1,157
        So, all of the energy in the atmosphere can barely affect the ice. The oceans have enough energy to melt all of the ice and a bit more, but to do so would bring the oceans very close to 0C.
        Of course – and this is the important thing – there is no plausible scenario that can cycle any significant amount of the energy in either the atmosphere or the oceans to the ice. What we really need to know is how much energy is going into the “Joule Bank” every day (or year) as a result of CO2 driven heating – or from whatever the cause is. We are not given this. We get the 4C rise in 100 years story. You point out and I agree this won’t happen in isolation – meaning the seas will warm as well. But we can look at what possible impact that additional 4C can have on the ice. We can assume the Joule Bank gets enough energy in 100 years to raise the temperature 4C. So, I work with this information knowing it is not the full picture – but to flush it out as very weak and not able to produce catastrophe.
        Now on to your point(s): what about the oceans? Neither you nor I can resolve that entirely, but we can do some analysis based upon reasoned assumptions. A quantity of energy that can raise the atmosphere by 1C can raise the average ocean temperature by 0.0003C. My assumption is that the energy is stored in the entire mass of the oceans. If you prefer to assume it only gets stored in the upper 200m that is another valid way to approach it. The temperature change will be greater since the mass is less, but the number of Joules of energy stored will be the same.
        So how much does the temperature of the ocean rise relative to atmosphere temperature rise? I don’t know. Maybe someone reading can jump in and add to this. For a coarse assessment, I’m not sure it matters. If the atmosphere will rise 4C in 100 years per IPCC, then assume the same energy goes into the oceans. Assume 3x goes into the oceans if you prefer. Then the 4C from the atmosphere could melt 1.4 inches of ice in 100 years and the energy from the oceans could melt another 3 x 1.4 in = 4.2 inches for a total of under 6 inches in 100 years. This assumes that energy all gets transferred to the ice and the transfer goes to fully melting some quantity of ice – not just making it less cold.
        Feel free to play with the assumptions. You can see that it is difficult to get to a catastrophic scenario, unless we have some big errors in the assumptions. What is the storage ratio between ocean and atmosphere for new energy in the system? If the ocean to atmosphere ratio is 200:1 then maybe this needs to be thought over. But so far, I believe I’m taking a series of compounded assumptions that are all very favorable to the Narrative and yet we come away with no path to the catastrophe.

        • Certainly, William, no path to catastrophe because there is no plausible way to transport even a tiny fraction of the heat.
          But you seem to be arguing that you can raise the atmospheric temperature by 4 degrees and let the ocean temperature only increase by a tiny amount. If the mechanism is that the atmosphere is heated primarily by the surface (ocean or land) that has absorbed incoming solar radiation and is radiating IR back, then clearly the atmosphere has to be cooler than the surface, not warmer.
          I don’t see how to imagine that the lower troposphere will be 4 degrees warmer, but the ocean surface water will not also need to be 4 degrees warmer, at least at the interface. Which means that a huge amount of heat must go into the ocean with its much higher heat capacity compared to the air, in order to put a small amount of heat into the atmosphere and raise its temperature by 4 degrees.
          If your “heat bank” contains enough joules to melt all the ice, and I suspect that it does, taking into account the total amount of heat in the ocean that could theoretically be removed by cooling it to just above freezing, then the alarmists are not disarmed by your argument. We’re back to them saying that there is plenty enough heat to melt the icecaps and we’re saying sure but there’s no mechanism to transport the heat.
          Our argument must be that the heat can only be transferred by mass transport in contact with the ice. When the ice is insulated from any contact with ocean currents by sitting on top of a continent, and there is far less insolation than is lost by radiation, that is a recipe for a permanent ice cap. It would not be the same if the south pole had no continent. Then there would necessarily be some kind of ocean current transporting heat.
          Maybe I’m a pessimist by nature, but I don’t think it is possible to persuade the CAGW faithful that their dogmas are wrong based on reason. It’s hopeless to get them to see that they need to assume unrealistic things in order to get the results they fear. They do not test their theories with observation and adjust their theories. They proceed from the conclusion that their theory of doom is a given and then assume ever more implausible explanations for why the observations are wrong because the theory has to be right. “This apparent evidence of an impending ice age is entirely consistent with a warming climate, don’t let your lying eyes fool you!”

      • Sorry Rich (and All) – my table didn’t format properly. Let me try again.

        Source          Energy (J)          Normalized (E)
        Atmosphere:     1.45x10^22 J              1 J
        Ice:            1.36x10^25 J            935 J
        Oceans:         1.68x10^25 J          1,157 J
      • Rich,
        I’m going to try to address all of your points – thanks for the challenge. I’m using average temperatures because that is how Climate Alarmism is presented to us. I can use it nicely and translate this to energy in Joules. Using energy, we can stay at a high level without getting into the weeds. In reality, the physical phenomenon never operates according to the averages – the behavior is according to the instantaneous variable values at a localized or regional point. You can find all over the world, every day, the condition that the air above the ocean is warmer than the water and you can find the opposite. I’m trying to not get lost in the very complex details of how the energy moves, and instead look at the energy in bulk – without sacrificing the accuracy of the result. When I say accuracy, in this case I mean if I assert that the net possible melting is small by doing the bulk energy analysis then I’m expecting it to hold up to scrutiny of a more detailed analysis that takes all of the complex processes and specific thermodynamics into consideration.
        In my previous post I use the example of the following over the next 100 years: 3 units of new energy goes to the oceans and 1 unit to the atmosphere – with all 4 units being equal in Joules. 1 unit raises the average temperature of the atmosphere by 4C or the average temperature of the oceans by 0.0003C. In this example the atmosphere warms by 4C and the oceans warm by 4 x 0.0003C or 0.0012C. It is exactly the higher heat capacity you mention that allows the heat energy to be absorbed with less movement of temperature. At the detail level maybe the top 2 inches of water gets much hotter and this will then support the physics of the more complex mechanisms you mention. But the beauty of this approach (I think – and hope) is that it doesn’t really matter how the energy gets distributed in the water with its corresponding temperature effect. Determine the mass of the ocean water you want to see affected in this model and apply the energy to it to get the temperature you would expect. The key is just knowing the amount of new energy stored in the system (“Joule Bank”).
        This approach is meant to examine the future Alarmist Narrative catastrophes with respect to the conditions we have now and examine the changes feared in the Narrative. Today we have an average temperature of the air and oceans and we have a certain amount of ice. Some amount of ice has been melting for thousands of years – and we can figure out what has happened roughly over the past 100 years. We can look at the forecasted rise in average atmospheric temperature and average ocean temperature. I just want to use what the IPCC forecasts for example. The point is to use their numbers and then show how the scenarios they fear can’t happen with their numbers. Unfortunately, I can’t find any forecasts for ocean temperature rise! Maybe I need to look harder. Usually we just get a digested figure stating a sea level rise. Lacking the information, I’m thinking about what a reasonable storage ratio is between ocean and air for new energy entering the system. Even at 10:1, using the 4C figure for atmosphere, then it translates to under 16 inches sea level rise in 100 years. That is about double the past 100 years and is based upon the completely absurd assumptions that all of this extra energy exchanges with ice – not just to make it less cold but to melt it.
        Some Alarmists are hardened in their views. I don’t do this with the expectation of reaching those people. I hope to be able to reach people who are reasonable. On this forum there are a lot of strong arguments (for and against) – but in general most media presented rebuttals of the Narrative are extremely weak. I wouldn’t mind being an arms merchant for those who get in front of the camera. So, I look for better arguments that are scientific but simpler.
        We are constantly quoted incremental Watts/m^2 (Power) of retained solar heat due to CO2 concentration. We just need climate scientists to integrate this over time and area … essentially give us the energy retained – not the power. Unfortunately, the incremental power has a very wide range of estimates – essentially a large range of uncertainty. So, they don’t really know. (I’ll take it as an action item to try to calculate the additional energy from their power estimates… but maybe not in time for this thread.)
        There has got to be a way to rule in or out these catastrophic scenarios – because I’m tired of people trying to scare me with them!
        Does this explanation help my case in your eyes?

  27. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the IPCC has chosen the next lot of purported scientists to maintain the CO2 Meme, naively or otherwise, for the coming AR6.
    The output, of course, will be driven by the army of political activists.

  28. Just adding enough heat to melt ice isn’t going to do the job. The average temp in Antarctica is about -58 F (-100F in winter), so you’re going to have to warm up the arctic by 58 + 32 = 90 degrees just to get to the melting point of ice.

      • i should have separated the sections
        you should talk in C or K; ;;;;;;;; C=(5/9) *(F-32) ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;1delta C =1delta K ;;;;;;;;;;;;K = C+273

  29. Antarctica averages 2500 meters in elevation. The lapse rate means it is on average at least 15 C – 20 C colder than sea level temperatures. The average temp of the earth is 15 C at sea level. Much lower at the piles.
    Meaning that Antarctica cannot melt no matter how much heat you throw at it. The lapse rate will simply wick the excess heat back into the atmosphere and redistribute is around the globe.

      • The majority of people drowning in Norway are grown men with their trouser fly open (and alcohol in their blood stream……)

      • Depends, if the sea level rises a few millimetres a year most people would be able to avoid drowning unless they plan to tie themselves to a post with the sea just below their bottom lip, but they are likely to die from exposure and lack of food and water first.

  30. Considering the Antarctic mountains proxy, it was 20c warmer and the ice sheet is said to be stable at that time, if a valid reconstruction, and valid stable ice sheet, it would take some doing, even setting off nukes there would not melt it, you would need the entire US arsenal, 6800 warheads, maybe the 7000 Russian ones too?, but post explosions all that melted ice would create one heck of a cloud system on this planet and cause the sheet to be bigger than when you started trying to melt it maybe.
    Any other less catastrophic way we might do it could take 10s of thousands of years, or longer

  31. Ice cores show that historically, CO2 emissions rose several hundred years after a warming event. The CO2 came from warming water. That seems to indicate that an increase in CO2 cannot warm ocean water fast enough to produce the claimed changes on this short a timescale.

  32. Judge Alsup got close to this in his question 5 in the California Kid’s Climate lawsuit. 5 Apart from CO2, what happens to the collective heat from tail pipe exhausts, engine radiators, and all other heat from combustion of fossil fuels? How, if at all, does this collective heat contribute to warming of the atmosphere?

    • It doesn’t (except UHI), and no warmunist claim it does (well, I shouldn’t write “none”, as for sure some nutty, physics illiterate does, but you get the idea).

      • Dr. Walter Orr Roberts, President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1972:
        “I suspect that one of the very most important studies over the next two or three decades will be the study of what the added heat pollution, the added dust burden, to the atmosphere by man’s activities, what that actually does or will do to the climates.”
        Survival of Spaceship Earth – featuring Maurice Strong and friends, with no guest appearance from carbon dioxide.

  33. If I were to melt the Antarctica Ice cap, because, … well… whatever reason…
    I won’t do it that way.
    I would dump it in the sea, and have the ocean melt it. So I would just push it there, by a combination of physical and chemical methods (chemists, because some lubrication would help a lot)
    I would use the potential energy of this water/ice falling, as most of it is hundred of meter higher than the ocean. This potential energy is magnitude too low to melt the ice (9.81 J par kg and meter of chute, even a 1 km chute gives only 9.8 10^3 J) , but well enough to help pushing it into sea.
    I would use current and wind energy to tract iceberg away from antarctica. No need to have ice go to a precise point, we just need it to disperse (beware, ships, we don’t care about you,…)
    This would be a mega-mega-project; and would cost tremendous amount of money and nuisances, but won’t require all the energy of the human world to be done.
    Now, It of course won’t happen all by itself, not even if CO2 were to multiply by 10

  34. *blinks* Explaining wind is hard? Really? Tell them to get a fishbowl, a tennis ball, a dowel rod, some water, and some food coloring. Ram dowel rod through center of tennis ball. Fill bowl with water. Insert tennis ball in bowl. Start spinning. Add drops of food coloring. Boom, simple and obvious representation of wind against the surface of the earth. Things like temperature variance, density and pressure changes, and cloud albedo obviously add additional chaos to the system, but the concept remains the same.

    • You are talking about a continental system of land, shelf ice, and sea ice larger than all other land areas south of the equator. Combined. Your simplistic fishbowl is not convincing.

  35. I actually think that climate change is highly debatable, but even I can see the flaw in your argument.
    The climate change argument is NOT that humans are creating energy that is melting the polar ice caps. The climate change argument is that human pollution is increasing the heating efficiency of the Sun on the earth. As you obviously know, purely from an energy perspective, the sun is more than powerful enough to melt the polar ice caps.

    • Yes, the energy does come from the sun, but the amount of energy in the atmosphere is a known value, within the limits of measurement.
      How long it would take that energy to melt the Antarctic ice cap is a value that can be calculated.
      As has been done here. You have not pointed out a valid flaw.

  36. After a very short Google search on “Antarctica” in the news this morning:
    Antarctica Continues To Melt In Winter Despite Subzero Winter Temperatures
    Complete with diagrams:
    And the ever present warning about sea level rise:

    Meltwater – water released by the melting of snow or ice – can destabilize ice shelves in several ways, ultimately leading to sea level rise.

    • Are you a complete idiot and can not read. The process occurs only on the backside of mountains and it could add to destabilizing areas that already have issues no problem. What they won’t do is melt the entire continent of Antarctica or break it up that only happens in the CAGW comedy channel.

      • Who are you calling an idiot?
        I posted that article here because it is on topic about Antarctica melting.
        The headline:
        Antarctica Continues To Melt In Winter Despite Subzero Winter Temperatures
        is bullshit.

      • No, it doesn’t melt, but it does sublimate, which ice does even on Mars. Melting is actually a rather minor process in Antarctica and completely insignificant on a continental scale. The significant process is calving.

      • At no point have they suggested the entire continent will melt by the process. You would have similar titles like “USA mainland warmer this month” are you seriously going to read that as each and every point on each and every day of the month was warmer. The statement requires the reader to use some common sense.

    • The “Foehn effect” (or chinook wind) sometimes occurs in temperate areas with a high, steep mountain range crosswise to the prevailing wind, such as the Cascades in Washington State or the Pyrenees between Spain and France (for winds from the south).
      This doesn’t apply to Antarctica, because the mountain ranges in Antarctica are covered by a high, wide ice cap which forms a wide plateau over Antarctica. The prevailing winds around Antarctica are generally out of the west, forming a circle roughly parallel to the coast, so there wouldn’t be a Foehn effect except possibly on the lee (east) side of the Antarctic peninsula. Over the Antarctic mainland, the plateau is too wide and too flat to cause much compression and warming of air flowing northward from the South Pole along a meridian. Besides, air flowing from the South Pole is extremely cold to begin with, and it wouldn’t receive much solar heating at about 70 degrees south latitude when it gets to the coast!

      • the Foehn effect doesn’t care if the climate is temperate or not, and will happen just as well under tropics or in polar region. All is required is moist air carried by wind up and down a significant rise of land. continental Antarctic obviously doesn’t qualify (no moist air, to begin with), but antarctic peninsula does, so you should expect Foehn effect at some place there.

  37. The melting of the caps is entirely possibly; it just
    depends how many Mann eruptions earthlings will have.

  38. I don’t think anybody who has done calculations in this post is correct. The point about human induced global warming isn’t that we send a lot heat into the ice sheets – it’s that we send a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere. Since that CO2 is well mixed with the other gases, the entire atmosphere acts like a blanket to hold heat in. The value of that extra heat is about 2 Watts per square meter. Here is the calculation I come up with:
    Total extra heat due to infrared absorption =
    [ 2 Joules / second / m^2 ]
    [3 x 10^7 seconds/year ] x
    3.14 x (6.3 x 10^6)^2 [area of Earth as seen by Sun = 1.2x 10^14 m^2]
    = 6 x 10^23 Joules per year
    So, yes, mankind can melt the polar ice sheets.

    • I don’t think your calculation is any better.
      IF (big if…) world’s surface gets 2W/m² average, tropics will get maybe 3W/m² will, while polar region will get like 0.2W: that’s because, while polar region account for ~1/10 of earth surface, they only ~1% of sunrays
      And that’s only crude calculation, reality is even harsher to your hypothesis.
      In fact, per IPCC calculation, “global warming” down at surface level translates into “global cooling” up in the atmosphere, that is in the region of atmosphere which at 255K or lower temperature… which includes surface in polar region. So IF IPCC were right, then it there would actually NEGATIVE “forcing” over Antarctica … and in arctic as well.

    • “6 x 10^23 Joules per year
      So, yes, mankind can melt the polar ice sheets”
      Not correct, the total extra energy for this example at 2 W/m2 is 1.6 x 10^19 Joules per year. 2 W/m2 is not correct either because around 3.7 W/m2 at TOA and around 1 W/m2 at sea level. This doesn’t even take into account how much solar energy reaches the polar regions being about 100 times less.
      That is no where near enough to melt the ice at 1.6 x 10^17 Joules per year. At 1W/m2 this value further declines to 8.02 x10^16 Joules per year.
      The area of Earth is 5.1 x 10^11 m2, half that the sun radiates being 2.55 10^11 m2.
      Finally, latent heat may well be more than 1 J per second per square meter, so almost cancels this value out if not at all.
      1.6 x 10^17 Joules per year represents a value 34285941 (34 million+) times smaller than solar energy.

      • I have made an error above so corrected it below because it especially changes all the corresponding values.
        The area of Earth is 5.1 x 10^14 m2, half that the sun radiates being 2.55 x 10^14 m2.
        The total extra energy for this example at 2 W/m2 is 1.6 x 10^22 Joules per year.
        Added not shown before, the area of polar regions is around 9.6% of the Earth’s surface covering 1.54 x 10^21 Joules per year.
        One hundred times less solar energy becomes 1.54 x 10^19 Joules per year that is still orders smaller than required for slight melting of a 1 cubic km glacier at zero degrees centigrade. With the continent well below zero centigrade in Summer there is no melting from this increase in energy.
        Therefore 1.54 x 10^19 Joules per year represents a value 347145.2 (347 thousand+) times smaller than solar energy.
        BUT, this value becomes 7.70 x 10^18 Joules per year at 1 W/m2. (714290 times smaller than solar energy)

  39. A neat educational exercise, but I’m not sure that it’s addressing the correct problem. As i understand it, the concern is that if all the water currently locked up in land-based Antarctic ice masses were transferred to the world’s oceans, that would raise the sea level substantially.
    Now the problem that the author tackles is to calculate the heat required to transfer this mass by turning the ice into liquid water so that the water would flow off the land and into the ocean.
    However, there are alternative ways of moving the ice masses, especially that of reducing the friction at the base of the ice masses (by ground level melting at the base of the ice masses) along with fragmenting the ice blocks so that they could slide off the elevated land and enter the sea and move away to become free-floating icebergs.
    As Archimedes famously recognized, such floating icebergs (as a first order approximation) would raise the sea level the same as if all the ice were turned into liquid water (ignoring, for the moment second order effects such as that consequent cooling of the ocean water would initially cause some compensatory lowering of the sea level due to volume contraction as the water approaches its maximum density at 4 degrees C, before its volume starts expanding again).
    And obviously, it would take much less heat to move ice to the ocean in mostly ice form, especially in conjunction with strategic location of such heating, most likely through volcanic activity, that could speed up the transfer to a feasible time period.
    Same for the “danger” of Greenland land-based ice sheets.
    However, this doesn’t help the CO2 alarmists’ crusade, since mechanisms such as volcanism have zero to do with atmospheric CO2 elevations. Their only hope of relevance is if they could show that the amount of surface melting from the tiny increases in surface temperatures arising over decades from possible CO2 increases could create drastic lubrication effects. Good luck with that.
    Seems to me that albedo changes from deposition of carbon particles would be a far more potent actor in high-latitudes surface melting than fractions of degree over decades changes in “global” surface temperature. But the political and financial benefit of such retargeting of efforts for the alarmists would drastically reduce the money from “villains” like the U.S. and Europe that have been lubricating their activities up to now.
    Nonetheless, a worthwhile object lesson to help people better appreciate large numbers.

  40. Even assuming your independent variable of 2W is valid, and I’m not sure it’s universally accepted, you are not explaining how the energy actually reaches and affects the ice. My analysis addresses energy that actually reaches the ice. Other energy is irrelevant. So while the sun does indeed send enough energy to melt the ice, most of that energy does not reach the ice. Also your blanket analogy is invalid. Atmospheric thermodynamics is far more complex than that.

    • Clearly, the increase in CO2 since the end of WWII has had no effect on Antarctica, except possibly to cool it.
      The South Pole hasn’t warmed at all in the whole time that records have been kept there. The mighty East Antarctic Ice Sheet is growing, not losing mass. It quit retreating over 3000 years ago, during the Minoan Warm Period.

  41. Certainly you are correct about the importance of how heat in the atmosphere makes its way to the ice. The albedo of the planet as a whole is 30%, I believe, so much of the heat is indeed not reflected away but makes its way to the surface. It’s not orders of magnitude as has been discussed here. Factor of a few.
    The 2 Watts per square meter comes from the measurements made many, many years ago by Tyndall and Arrhenius.

    • Ah, yes; from their greenhouse effect study in the 19th century. It’s not universally accepted. CO2 only absorbs a very narrow range of long wave IR. In terms of atmospheric heat, H2O has a much greater effect.

  42. Yes, the absorption bands of CO2, water, oxygen nitrogen, fluorocarbons, etc., overlap. But it is straightforward to integrate the effect that the various wavelengths have on the retention of heat on the surface.
    I respectively disagree about your statement concerning its not universally accepted. That is incorrect. If you want to debate these issues with respect to the Greenhouse Effect, you will lose the argument, I’m afraid. This is not arrogance or dismissiveness – I’d be betting on something that has won for a hundred years.

    • Erik: The energy theoretically added to the atmosphere through the so-called greenhouse effect – never measured actually, but theoretically possible – AT THE POLES, above the millions of square kilometers of ice cap now thousands of meters thick, is not sufficient to melt the Greenland icecap nor the far larger Antarctic icecap.
      You have multiplied an assumed, theoretical whole-earth radiation number of 2 watts times the entire surface of the planet (half of which is in the shade, all of which is covered by increasingly thick air masses as one reaches both poles, and all 360 degrees of the twilight disk every hour) … Then somehow – a earth-disk sized magnifying glass ?? – focused ALL of that assumed increase in energy on both of the poles (at the same time somehow) … and you STILL do not have enough energy to raise the temperature of the mass of the ice to above freezing, then absorb the heat of fusion to melt it, then KEEP ENOUGH STILL MELTED so it breaks away and then floats away to warmer ocean waters.
      See, the geometry of the earth means that both poles will stay “cold” even if – a big IF there! – the assumed 2 watts of increased radiation occurs.

    • A quick google will show that in fact it is not universally accepted, and some have questioned whether it was ever a properly structured experiment.

  43. Misuse of words: “Rapid collapse of Antarctic glaciers could flood coastal cities by the end of this century.”
    How can you use the word collapse and even rapid for something that takes 50 or more years.
    How would they decripe a building falling apart in a few minutes during an earthquake.
    Would that be a super duper extraordinary hyper catastrofic fast collapse.
    These glaciers are not collapsing, they might just be melting away or not.

  44. An excellent example showing how basic science should be used to check the reasonableness of statements.

    • The Antarctic Ice Sheet is growing. Humans couldn’t melt it or cause its glaciers to discharge more rapidly than ice mass increased, even if we wanted to do so.
      A thousand nuclear plants powering giant blow driers for a thousand years couldn’t do it. The AIS has endured for almost 34 million years, most of which were much warmer than now or than humans could possibly make the air. For most of the past 2.58 million years, climate has usually been colder than now, but before that, the world was hotter than now for about 31 million years. The AIS waxed and waned during that time, but never disappeared.

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