Claim: Antarctic Sea Ice Growth Caused by Meltwater

NOAA / NSIDC Antarctic Minimum Sea Ice Extent Source climate.gov

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to climate scientists, less dense meltwater on the surface of the Antarctic ocean reduced convection between the surface and ocean depths, leaving heat trapped in the depths.

One small area of ocean not changed by global warming

Date:May 6, 2020

Climate and marine scientists are observing pervasive warming of the ocean and the land surfaces across the globe. Since the middle of the 19th century, the average global temperature recorded on the land surface has risen by around one degree centigrade, and by 0.6 degrees across the ocean surface. Global warming has been most pronounced in the alpine regions and the Arctic.

A few years ago, Haumann and Gruber and various colleagues already discovered the reason for this expansion of sea ice in the Southern Ocean. They noticed that stronger southerly winds over this period propelled more of the sea ice that is being formed along the coast out into the open sea, enhancing the melting there. The resulting stronger conveyor belt enhanced the transport of freshwater from near the continent out into the open ocean. This is because when sea ice is being formed from seawater, the salt is left behind, whereas when the sea ice melts in the summer well away from the coast, the freshwater is released into the surface, reducing the salinity of the seawater there.

This reduction in surface salinity strengthened the vertical stratification of the seawater: the fresher, and in this part of the ocean lighter water stays in the upper 100 m, while the denser saltier water remains below. In general, the saltier and colder the water, the greater its density and the greater its depth in the ocean.

Smaller heat exchange between the water layers

The stronger stratification reduced the exchange of heat between the deeper layers and the surface water, causing the heat to remain trapped at depth. In addition, the air above the Southern Ocean during winter is generally colder than the temperature of the seawater. Combined with the reduction of the vertical exchange of heat in the ocean, this ultimately created the observed situation where the surface water cooled and the subsurface warmed.

In addition, the current study went only up to 2011. “We have observed a trend reversal since 2015. The sea ice around the Antarctic is now starting to recede at a rapid rate,” says the ETH Professor. “And this is very much in line with the overall trend of continuing global warming.

Read more: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200506123738.htm

The abstract of the study;

Sea‐Ice Induced Southern Ocean Subsurface Warming and Surface Cooling in a Warming Climate

F. Alexander Haumann, Nicolas Gruber, Matthias Münnich
First published: 06 May 2020

Much of the Southern Ocean surface south of 55° S cooled and freshened between at least the early 1980s and the early 2010s. Many processes have been proposed to explain the unexpected cooling, including increased winds or freshwater fluxes. However, these mechanisms so far failed to fully explain the surface trends and the concurrent subsurface warming (100 to 500 m). Here, we argue that these trends are predominantly caused by an increased wind‐driven northward sea‐ice transport, enhancing the extraction of freshwater near Antarctica and releasing it in the open ocean. This conclusion is based on factorial experiments with a regional ocean model. In all experiments with an enhanced northward sea‐ice transport, a strengthened salinity‐dominated stratification cools the open‐ocean surface waters between the Subantarctic Front and the sea‐ice edge. The strengthened stratification reduces the downward mixing of cold surface water and the upward heat loss of the warmer waters below, thus warming the subsurface. This sea‐ice induced subsurface warming mostly occurs around West Antarctica, where it likely enhances ice‐shelf melting. Moreover, the subsurface warming could account for about 8 ± 2% of the global ocean heat content increase between 1982 and 2011. Antarctic sea‐ice changes thereby may have contributed to the slowdown of global surface warming over this period. Our conclusions are robust across all considered sensitivity cases, although the trend magnitude is sensitive to forcing uncertainties and the model’s mean state. It remains unclear whether these sea‐ice induced changes are associated with natural variability or reflect a response to anthropogenic forcing.

Read more: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2019AV000132

Don’t you love climate science? When sea ice accumulates, scientists adjust the models until they get the right result. When the sea ice melts, well that is what you would expect from global warming.

68 thoughts on “Claim: Antarctic Sea Ice Growth Caused by Meltwater

  1. Only a complete contradiction to the Antarctica article last week.

    Placing a bet on every spot on the roulette table is actually profitable when it’s OPM and you keep the winnings.

    • They fail to mention that the Southerly winds move air away from the Antarctic and create upwelling which then provides seawater that freezes, and the brine indeed then sinks. However, clearly, the upwelling must be dominant over the sinking brine, making countercurrents locally, with the downward cold brine cooling the upwelling seawater, or the whole system would seize and the southerly wind unable to break the ice loose and move it northward to melt.

      Life is not as simple as they would like to think. As a scientist, you have to have ALL areas of your scientific knowledge present and ready to be related and accessed at any time. So often scientists only see their monocular world and forget to consider everything else. For instance, I have not mentioned the evaporative cooling that would slow the melting of the northward blown ice which would slow the melting.

      • And no mention of subsea volcanic activity. A known unknown best ignored? Can’t upset the model can we?

      • There is a long term 5yr cycle in the ride and fall in ice extent don’t know why) but the recent decline which is now recovering started in 2015. Don’t climate folk examine all the data? Look for 2021 to be back above the long term average.

    • Send them all down there to monitor the ice on a year round basis. It’s the only thing I can think to do about something so entirely irrelevant. Plus, we can protect these fine minds from China virus!

  2. http://cdn.antarcticglaciers.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/PIG.ai_-768×440.jpg

    Yes, we are expected to believe that warm ocean water sinks then flows under the surface water, under the sea ice, under the shelf ice to finally melt the ice cap glaciers at the grounding line – and this is causing sea level rise.

    Sea level is rising and has been rising ever since tide gauges started to record it in the early 19th century. So the water has to be coming from somewhere, and Antarctica and Greenland are good bets for that, but they aren’t melting, way too cold for that, but they could loose ice due to an imbalance of snowfall and calving of icebergs which has nothing to do with CO2, or warm ocean water defying the laws of physics.

    • “Greenland are good bets for that, but they aren’t melting, way too cold for that, but they could loose ice due to an imbalance of snowfall..”

      Steve, maybe its me but I spell ‘lose’, ie, to have something then not have it, say, ‘lose a knife’, ie: I dropped it in the woods.. versus ‘loose’ as in my lanyard which held my knife to my backpack, became loose and that’s why I I lost it.

      • Ed, this is all so much more urgent and interesting; to lose ones mind. Sounds like loooose as opposed to loss. I’ve lost my mind, but may lose it again if my head were loose. I think we should go with loose to loose at poker, and luse like use to lusen a nut. But I’m open minded, at the moment I’m wrong often.

      • EdB May 7, 2020 at 11:54 am
        So you found a mistake in my post. Congratulations. I’m guessing you figure that you’ve successfully debunked what I’ve had to say.

        Do you know what the expression “Go fly a kite” is a euphemism for?

        • I don’t think Ed was trying to debunk what you were saying. He was probably trying to point out that, if you don’t spell words correctly, you aren’t communicating successfully.

          In these times, with the abominations of spell-check and predictive texting, it isn’t always one’s fault if a word gets spelled incorrectly or even changed completely. However, using “loose” when you mean “lose” is a pet-peeve for a lot of people. Perhaps we should just change the spelling to “looze” or “luze” to accommodate those who can’t make the distinction between how it is written and how it is pronounced.

    • Re “Yes, we are expected to believe that warm ocean water sinks…” Yes, indeed. The process was described on WUWT years ago – – “Immaculate Convection”.

      • “According to climate scientists, less dense meltwater on the surface of the Antarctic ocean reduced convection between the surface and ocean depths, leaving heat trapped in the depths.”

        So does this meant we have finally found Kevin Trenberth’s missing heat?

      • Neil Jordan … “Immaculate Convection”
        Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
        It might have been years ago, but it’s news to me and damn funny.
        It’s going into my quotes and smart remarks file, that’s for sure.

        • MarkW May 7, 2020 at 6:22 pm
          Cold fresh water can easily be less dense than warmer salt water.

          You’re right, and anyone can demonstrate that an ice cube made with red food color dumped into a beaker of salt water will show that red tinted melt-water will float on top.

          What needs to be shown is that this phenomenon is occurring in the open Southern Ocean off shore from Antarctica.

          Last January there was an article
          https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200129174526.htm
          that said the warm water melting the ice at the grounding line was about two degrees Celsius. Not too surprising, as that’s the temperature of the deep ocean, but no mention of the salinity of the surface water surrounding Antarctica. If you have a link that demonstrates the salinity, temperature, and flow, of the various strata of the Southern ocean in the vicinity of Antarctic shelf ice and then show that this in a NEW phenomenon – that would be great. Until then, Immaculate convection is pretty darn funny.

          • My post was neither agreeing with or disagreeing with the premise of the paper. (Though anyone who has been around these parts for long knows where I stand in general.)
            I was just correcting bad science.

  3. Again thermodynamics is be ignored. Air with its puny heat content can’t possibly cause a significant rise in sea water temperature

    • The air doesn’t warm the water. The sun does. Always has.
      Warm air can slow down how fast the heat from the sun escapes from the water.

      • I know that. I would expect the main heat transfer would be via convection in the water

  4. “This sea‐ice induced subsurface warming mostly occurs around West Antarctica, where”…more than likely there are over 100 volcanoes

    New map of Antarctic geothermal heat suggests Steig & Mann 2009 weren’t measuring ‘global warming’

    https://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/new-map-of-antarctic-geothermal-heat-suggests-steig-mann-2009-werent-measuring-global-warming/

    ..amazing that they can always precisely measure things….where no one can go

    thank God for computer models

  5. Warmist “climate science” is as great as every religion out there. You can’t falsify any hypothesis; every single angle of it is unchallengeable. Ice grows because of global warming; ice shrinks because of global warming. In other words, it’s not science.

    • Some years earlier we “learned” from specal “scientists” , it cools because it warms. 😀
      Why haven’t we droughts when in rains ?
      😀
      Climate “scientists”, that causes buffeting….

  6. As Matt Ridley says, policy based evidence.

    If you want to show that more ice is a result of warmer conditions then you will be able to find the right data to show that.

    You can torture data to prove black is white and vice versa if you want to.

  7. They haven’t even managed to demonstrate a statistically significant warming of the seas, yet they are arguing over how to explain it.

    0.003C warming is so far below the accuracy of the instruments that you can’t say that it even exists.

  8. I don’t envy those that must spend their time reading the endless stream of crap that comes from the alarmist crowd. It’s always heads I win and tails you lose with the alarmists.This paper is so obviously and excuse for why their dire predictions of a virtually ice free Arctic aren’t coming true that it’s embarrassing. Did they leave out the megaton equivalency of that warm water running deep?

  9. Since there’s been more melting in the Arctic shouldn’t it have more sea ice? This alone seems to argue against the claims.

  10. First: Thank you, Mr. Worrall, for sharing the latest climate clown humor.

    Second: Nice job with the title capitalization! WUWT needs you to be its editor. Over and over, the writers of post titles fail to capitalize correctly. Regardless of whether that is commonly accepted in tech writing, to just rattle off a rambling title without properly capitalizing looks SLOPPY and makes the author appear to be LAZY.

    Third: Some Serious Science Rebutting the Climate Comics

    Winds Are Dominant Cause of Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheet Losses

    “From Climate Research News — Two new studies summarized in a news article in Science magazine point to wind-induced circulation changes in the ocean as the dominant cause of the recent ice losses through the glaciers draining both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, not ‘global warming.’ The two studies referred to are:

    Acceleration of Jakobshavn Isbræ Triggered by Warm Subsurface Ocean Waters’ by Holland, et al., published in Nature Geoscience. … [from abstract] Here we present hydrographic data that show a sudden increase in subsurface ocean temperature in 1997 along the entire west coast of Greenland, …

    And:

    Modelling Circumpolar Deep Water Intrusions on the Amundsen Sea Continental Shelf, Antarctica’ by Thoma et al., published in GRL. … [from abstract] Easterly winds over the shelf edge change to westerlies when the Amundsen Sea Low migrates west and south in winter/spring. This drives seasonal on-shelf flow, while inter-annual changes in the wind forcing lead to inflow variability on a decadal timescale. … .” – Anthony Watts

    (http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/10/03/winds-are-dominant-cause-of-greenland-and-west-antarctic-ice-sheet-losses/

    *********************

    Skeptic Paper on Antarctica Accepted – Rebuts Steig, et al.

    “In a blow to the Real Climate ‘hockey team,’ one team member’s paper, Steig et al Nature, Jan 22, 2009 (seen at left) has been shown lacking. Once appropriate statistical procedures were applied, the real data spoke clearly, and it was done in a peer reviewed paper by skeptics. Jeff Condon of the Air Vent writes via email that he and co-authors, Ryan O’Donnell, Nicholas Lewis, and Steve McIntyre have succeeded in getting a paper accepted into the prestigious Journal of Climate. …

    As WUWT covered in the past, these authors have demonstrated clearly that the warming is mostly in the Antarctic Peninsula. Steig et al’s Mannian PCA math methods had smeared that warming over most of the entire continent, creating a false impression. WUWT visitors may want to read this primer which explains how this happens. But, most importantly, have a look at the side by side comparison maps below. Congratulations to Jeff, Ryan, Nick, and Steve! – Anthony

    AbstractA detailed analysis is presented of a recently published Antarctic temperature reconstruction that combine[d] satellite and ground information using a regularized expectation-maximization algorithm. Though the general reconstruction concept has merit, it is susceptible to spurious results for both temperature trends and patterns. The deficiencies include: (a) improper calibration of satellite data; (b) improper determination of spatial structure during infilling; and (c) suboptimal determination of regularization parameters, particularly with respect to satellite principal component retention. We propose two methods to resolve these issues. …Rather than finding warming concentrated in West Antarctica, we find warming over the period of 1957-2006 to be concentrated in the Peninsula (≈0.35oC decade-1). … Overall, we find that the Steig reconstruction overestimated the continental trends and underestimated the Peninsula – though our analysis found that the trend in West Antarctica was, indeed, statistically significant. … Lastly, [ ] a shout out to other folks whose comments helped shape the paper by their comments and analysis. In particular, Roman, Hu, and Carrick . . . thanks!

    (https://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/12/01/skeptic-paper-accepted-on-antarctica-rebuts-steig-et-al/ )

    (Note: In the above two WUWT posts, there are links embedded in the text — to access them, go to the post.)

    • Yes, also look at the graph at the top of the page.

      We have observed a trend reversal since 2015. The sea ice around the Antarctic is now starting to recede at a rapid rate, …

      I’m sure there’s data to support the above statement.

      • The data show the assertion false.

        The 2017 record low was due to two freak WX events in the Super El Nino year of 2016. Since then, summer low sea ice extent has steadily increased, back into the normal range of 30 year base.

        All the time Arctic sea ice was declining in the satellite record, from its near century high in 1979 to low in 2012, Antarctic sea ice was growing, to its record winter maximum in 2014. So, contrary to the prof’s claim, the one thing that sea ice most clearly shows is that steadily increasing CO2 can’t be the cause of waxing and waning ice. Plant food in the air is supposed to well-mixed, ie the same in both polar regions, so how does its growth cause Arctic sea ice to decline and Antarctic to expand at the same time?

        Since continuous observations began at the South Pole in 1958, no warming has occurred, yet that’s precisely where CO2 should have the most GH effect, the cold air being so dry.

        • “where CO2 should have the most GH effect, the cold air being so dry”

          It isn’t that my understanding supports CO2 increases contributing greatly to warming but the basic GHE hypothesis depends heavily on increasing water vapor amplifying the (supposed) CO2 caused warming. The logical conclusion is therefore, since water vapor is not well mixed, that where there is little water vapor there will be much less warming. This is the opposite of the often blog declaration that Antarctic’s low humidity should, by GHE theory, give rise to greater warming. That expectation also fails to take Antarctic’s general high elevation into account.

      • Even if it was true, it would just mean that ice extent was retreating somewhat from record highs.
        This would just be ice levels returning to the mean.

    • They’re much too “virtuous” for that. Can’t you tell by the halos they’re holding over their heads? They’re so very, very virtuous that they have to lie in their research so we’ll know.

  11. It’s too bad the high speed rail project to nowhere was canceled in California. Jerry Brown could have funded two more miles of construction based on arm waving related to this article.

    • I don’t think it’s cancelled. Even if it never carries a revenue passenger, and eventually becomes linear monument to government waste, it’s too big union Yobs boondoggle for Sacramento to let that happen.

  12. I’m just glad climate science is not in charge of engineering, mfg., medical science, business, finance, repair services, agriculture, mining, construction, or transportation. It is in fact the whimsical lawn decoration of modern society.

    • ResourceGuy, maybe climate science is indeed in charge of the things you list, after all Prof Neil Ferguson, whose advice on corona the UK govt. were taking, was having an affair with prominent green activist Antonia Staats. (he recently resigned from the UK govt advisory group after it came to light that Staats was breaking his own social distance rules in order to illicitly see him).

    • ResourceGuy, maybe climate science is indeed in charge of the things you list, after all Prof Neil Ferguson, whose advice on corona the UK govt. were taking, was having an affair with prominent green activist Antonia Staats. (he recently resigned from the UK govt advisory group after it came to light that Staats was breaking his own social distance rules in order to illicitly see him).

  13. Uhhh . . . just exactly how does one do a “factorial experiment” using a regional ocean model (see abstract above)?

    All along, I thought that scientific experiments involved obtaining data from physical measurements, not computer-generated numbers (i.e., a model). Perhaps, as Humphrey Bogart famously stated in the movie “Casablanca”, I was misinformed.

  14. “Claim: Antarctic Sea Ice Growth Caused by Meltwater”

    Couldn’t read further … bent over with laughter.

    • Indeed. Martin Gardner used to say that sometimes the only sane reaction is the one of roaring laughter.

  15. Wow, who knew that fresh water, released by thawing, refreezes! These must be some 00 Stuporgeniuses to figure that out!

  16. This reduction in surface salinity strengthened the vertical stratification of the seawater: the fresher, and in this part of the ocean lighter water stays in the upper 100 m, while the denser saltier water remains below. In general, the saltier and colder the water, the greater its density and the greater its depth in the ocean.

    Smaller heat exchange between the water layers

    The stronger stratification reduced the exchange of heat between the deeper layers and the surface water, causing the heat to remain trapped at depth.

    If saltier, colder water sinks, how does the warmer fresher water get “trapped” below it? Anyway, this is an conjectured observation in a model. Has it ever been observed in the “real” world?

    • Surely more ice means less melt water?
      Is a southerly wind the same as a south wind, or opposite?
      Warm water freezes faster than cold water. Everyone knows that.The Mpemba effect.

      • Burridge&Linden claim the ‘Mpemba effect’ is not valid science:
        Henry C. Burridge & Paul F. Linden, “Questioning the Mpemba effect: hot water does not cool more quickly than cold”,
        https://www.nature.com/articles/srep37665 [2016]

        Southerly vs south
        Unfortunately, the term ‘southerly’ is sometimes used informally to mean ‘in a southward direction’. Meteorologists sometimes use the term, but AFAIK they always use it meaning ‘from the South’.

        “More ice” is a relative term, so does not necessarily prove less melting.

        But I am personally convinced, from geothermal surveys, that Antarctica’s melting glaciers, which are only seen near ‘hot spots’ is _not_ caused by excess CO2 in the atmosphere. In fact, the entire continent could be called a geothermal hot spot because the over heat flux is about twice the global continental norm

    • Warmer high salinity water is denser than colder fresh water.
      You have it wrong.
      The “trapped”water below the halocline is the warmer and saltier water.

      • Thanks for the reply, Anthony. I am somewhat skeptical about this because the experiment is performed in a computer model.

        Therefore, changing sea‐ice−ocean freshwater fluxes might be a major cause of the observed high‐latitude Southern Ocean temperature trends.

        To test this hypothesis, we undertake factorial experiments with a Southern Ocean configuration (Haumann, 2016) of the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS; Shchepetkin & McWilliams, 2009; see section 2). In these simulations we perturb the forcing (i) by changing freshwater fluxes from the sea ice to mimic trends in wind‐driven sea‐ice transport, (ii) by adding freshwater fluxes near the coast to represent the increased input of glacial meltwater, and (iii) by modifying the atmosphere–ocean momentum fluxes to assess the effects of wind‐driven ocean circulation and mixing changes.

        Has the trapped warm layer been observed and measured in the Southern Ocean? Where is the actual data?

        • “Trapped”, perhaps not. Warmer with depth, yes. Melt water is fresh and 0 Celsius when it appears (as should be obvious). It will mix with interstitial brine ( a lot in first year ice, none in glacial) and cools by exchanging heat with the ice around it. It will re-freeze if the adjacent ice is cold enough. But fresh/brackish melt water around zero will spread out over “warmer” sea water as long as the sea is salty enough. Normal salinity seawater at 2 C is denser than fresh at 0 C. There is a layer of warm dense water in the Atlantic that’s from the Mediterranean. It gets salty & dense and overflows past Gibraltar to find it’s density level in the deep Atlantic. Still noticeable as you approach the American side.

      • Anthony Banton posted:
        “Warmer high salinity water is denser than colder fresh water.
        You have it wrong.”

        Not necessarily. Just one example: sea-level pressure water with a salt concentration of 35 g/kg at 85 C will be less dense than fresh water at 20 C (995 vs 998 kg/m^3, respectively). Water density vs. salinity & temperature curve available, amongst many other sources, at
        http://butane.chem.uiuc.edu/pshapley/genchem1/L17/2.html
        and on-line calculator for such available at
        http://www.csgnetwork.com/h2odenscalc.html

        However, Mr. Banton’s statement is true over the normal ranges of temperature and salinity and pressure for Earth’s oceans, excluding ocean water near undersea thermal vents.

  17. “We have observed a trend reversal since 2015. The sea ice around the Antarctic is now starting to recede at a rapid rate,We have observed a trend reversal since 2015. The sea ice around the Antarctic is now starting to recede at a rapid rate,”

    2020 is above all of 2017, 2018, 2019…. so their statement is wrong from the start.

  18. “Don’t you love climate science? When sea ice accumulates, scientists adjust the models until they get the right result. When the sea ice melts, well that is what you would expect from global warming.”

    Even when it is a brief event, the melt is global warming. Remember the 2019 melt event that caused global warming orgasms in climate science and the media? All in the name of science. Science science science science science

    The hype
    https://tambonthongchai.com/2019/07/02/antarctic-sea-ice-collapse-of-2019/

    And the reality
    https://tambonthongchai.com/2019/09/28/sea-ice-extent-area-1979-2018/

  19. Surely more ice means less melt water?
    Is a southerly wind the same as a south wind, or opposite?
    Warm water freezes faster than cold water. Everyone knows that.The Mpemba effect.

  20. ‘ The strengthened stratification reduces the downward mixing of cold surface water and the upward heat loss of the warmer waters below, thus warming the subsurface.’

    Euhhh I’m missing a heat source?

    Best,
    Willem

    • Allegedly, the oceans further north. Bottom water is about 2 C. The winds around Antarctica push the surface water away from shore. Bottom water is pushed to the surface to bring the water back to level. Bottom water is replaced with water from further north. Repeat. Happens on coasts where the winds blow away from the shore.

  21. OK. So. It is warming and melting more ice into water and that is causing more sea ice to form? Did I get that right?

    Do they actually say these things out loud before they publish them? They sound kind of silly at best.

  22. Have F. Alexander Haumann, Nicolas Gruber and Matthias Münnich been down to the Southern Ocean /Antarctica and actually measured temperatures and salinity?

    Some empirical data to back their ” modelling” might give their thesis more credence…or not

  23. Last time I looked in my physics books ice melted when the temperature is above zero and water freezes when below. Hence melt in summer, freeze in winter. The two are reportedly half a year apart. So what is claimed is that the meltwater stays on top of rest of the ocean water for at least a few months in spite of waves and wind. Should be easy to confirm with observatons. But let me guess, no data?

  24. yes yes, the freezing up of things is created by the melting up of other things. and when co-mingled with proper intercourseinal covariance results in an intersectionality of properties that penguins don’t like.

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