No, Antarctica is NOT “Rapidly Melting”
The BBC, which in September 2018 announced its decision to censor any reports by climate skeptics, continues to propagandize for climate alarmists. On March 12, BBC “Science Correspondent” Jonathan Amos published an alarming article entitled “Greenland and Antarctica ice loss accelerating.” According to Amos, “Earth’s great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, are now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s thanks to warming conditions.”
The BBC was not alone, of course. Generic journalist NPCs around the world ran with the story. The Guardian’s version came with a predictably terrifying subhead “Losses of ice from Greenland and Antarctica are tracking the worst-case climate scenario, scientists warn.” USA Today offered its version on March 16, with a story entitled “Greenland and Antarctica are now melting six times faster than in the 1990s, accelerating sea-level rise.”
The source of these dire statistics was a report in the journal Nature, published in late 2019 and released online on March 12. The key findings were summarized by NASA/JPL, and come down to certain quantitative assertions that invite skeptical analysis.
Perhaps the most alarming sounding statistic was the following, quoting from NASA/JPL:
“The two regions [Greenland and Antarctica] have lost 6.4 trillion tons of ice in three decades; unabated, this rate of melting could cause flooding that affects hundreds of millions of people by 2100.”
This sounds like a lot of ice. “6.4 trillion tons.” But it’s not. This equates to 6,400 billion tons, which may also be referred to as 6,400 gigatons, which is 6,400 cubic kilometers. That would be an ice cube 18.5 kilometers on a side, or, to revert to the imperial system of measures, an ice cube 11.5 miles on a side. If you dropped this ice cube in the world’s oceans and let it melt, it would raise the level of the oceans by 18 millimeters – that’s 9/16ths of one inch. Over thirty years.
To focus on Antarctica, the report in Nature reported Antarctica losing, in recent years, 190 gigatons of ice per year, an amount that supposedly portends an ominous future for coastal cities around the world. But the total ice mass of Antarctica is generally estimated at 26.5 million gigatons. This means that the participating scientists claim they can observe a change in the total ice mass of Antarctica of one seven millionth per year. You can’t even make an easily comprehensible fraction for an amount this infinitesimal. Expressed using decimals, it’s .000007. Expressed as a fraction, it’s 0.0007%.
It doesn’t take a scientist to wonder if these scientists aren’t jumping to conclusions. This amount of change is way below the noise level. How on earth, using satellite-based imagers screaming through a polar orbit at nearly 20,000 miles per hour, observing a continent 5.4 million miles in area, covered with an ice sheet that is up to three miles thick, can these scientists claim with confidence that they’re detecting an annual change in the total ice mass of .0007 percent – and, worse, announce this to the world as if it’s terrifying?
This is the sort of reasoning that the BBC openly censors. But thank God for the blogosphere to debunk alarmist reports about the cryosphere. A good anthology of links and summaries of contrarian, non-alarmist findings can be found on the indefatigable Marc Morano’s Climate Depot website. Included on a recent post are articles by NASA glaciologist Jay Zwally claiming Antarctica is actually gaining ice.
One of the biggest obstacles to accurately measuring the volume of an ice sheet is that the underlying terrain will itself change, uplifting or subsiding depending on tectonic shifts and other geologic variables. Available online, from the Journal of Marine Science Research and Oceanography, is an article entitled “The Views of Three Sea Level Specialists.” The observations by meteorologist Thomas Wysmuller, formerly with NASA, are particularly helpful in understanding the difficulties with measuring Antarctica’s ice mass, as well as sea level trends.
With respect to sea level rise, Wysmuller explains that “the most influential driver of local sea level trend happens to be local tectonics,” and therefore the most accurate long-term measurements of sea level can only be found in places that are “tectonically inert.” He cites these areas as reporting a 1mm to 1.2mm rate of annual sea level rise over the last century, with scant evidence of acceleration.
Wysmuller provides an excellent example of how sea level data is manipulated by alarmists, by showing a chart from NOAA depicting mean sea level at Seward, Alaska. The trend line of the long-term tide gauges shows a supposed rapid rise in sea level, but when you observe the actual year over year data, it is clear that sea level was stable both before and after the Alaskan 1964 earthquake. At a magnitude of 9.3, this devastating earthquake caused the coastal land to fall by 0.9 meters. But what is reported is the long-term trend line (red on chart below), with the long-term C02 PPM line (green) helpfully superimposed.
It is impossible to refute every argument made by climate alarmists, because there is a perpetual onslaught of propaganda connecting virtually any topic to climate change. But voters and politicians have an obligation to look past the hype and perform their own critical reasoning. Six-point-four-trillion-tons. That sounds like so much, but it’s literally just a drop in the ocean.
And as for Greenland, why is it called Greenland? Because in “Old Greenland,” back in the tenth century and for a few hundred years thereafter, parts of this harsh land were green. To this day there are ruins of churches, anchoring settlements where thousands lived until the little ice age drove them out. And what about “thermal expansion” of the oceans? Then why is there no indisputable evidence of sea levels rising? And why wouldn’t increased evaporation in a thermally expanded, warmer ocean, offset the thermal expansion? These questions deserve discussion and answers. But the BBC, along with most other mainstream and online media, suppress discussion, and suppress answers they don’t agree with.
Former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, when talking about his policy positions, was fond of prefacing a remark with the phrase “science says…” But using the words “science says” as a way to gain credibility and stifle debate is not scientific. The lifeblood of science is skepticism. It is supposedly the lifeblood of journalism as well. And when it comes to climate change, “science” knows a lot less than its self-proclaimed spokespersons claim.
It’s easy to wonder if the sheer volume of panic being spread on the issue of climate change is a conspiracy. But it doesn’t have to be a conspiracy to be this pervasive, it just has to fit the world view of a critical mass of special interests. And that it does. Anyone who believes in socialism, or just in bigger government, will favor the climate alarmist narrative. Anyone who believes in globalism and the withering away of national sovereignty will be similarly attracted to climate alarmism. As for private opportunists, from rent-seeking multinational corporations to local environmental impact consultants, climate alarmism is a gold mine.
Worst of all is not just the censorship of skeptical voices, but the demonization of skeptics. For example, a Google search on Thomas Wysmuller reveals links to several websites devoted to nothing but smearing and defaming him and everybody like him. But it is the documented facts and logical integrity of Wysmuller’s arguments that must be considered, not the attacks on his character made by his ideological enemies. And on that note, perhaps these left-wing slime slinging websites is the best way to quickly learn who’s willing to tell the other side of the story; perhaps it’s where we find the good guys.
This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.
* * *
Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
To help support more content and policy analysis like this, please click here.
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!