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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Unstoppable meltdown in Antarctica - and at WUWT, with a doozy of chart

Sou | 11:01 PM Go to the first of 42 comments. Add a comment

Anthony has taken another trip to Antarctica. This time he is complaining about an article in the Guardian, written by Suzanne Goldenberg. What Anthony seems to be complaining about is that the time scale of the projected total collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheets isn't in the headline, which reads:

Western Antarctic ice sheet collapse has already begun, scientists warn
So there is an indication of time - it's already started. Anthony's upset though. He reckons his deniers will only read the headline and get too scared to read any further. He's really scared that deniers won't read as far as the fourth sentence in the article, which is about the resulting four metre rise in sea level:
But the researchers said that even though such a rise could not be stopped, it is still several centuries off, and potentially up to 1,000 years away.

Abused by buried facts

Anthony thinks that if you have to read beyond 75 words of an 880 word article, then the next few words can be regarded as "buried".  He wrote:
Truly an abuse of the headline. Buried below the headline in the article, there is agreement with Revkin:

Anthony was referring to a five-year old article in DotEarth, which was about two papers published in Nature early in 2009. At the time (March 2009), Andy wrote about a paper in Nature, which modeled the West Antarctic ice sheets and reported that:
In this simulation, the ice sheet does collapse when waters beneath fringing ice shelves warm 7 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit or so, but the process at its fastest takes thousands of years. Over all, the pace of sea-level rise from the resulting ice loss doesn't go beyond about 1.5 feet per century.

Obviously as far as Anthony Watts is concerned, some models are good!

Collapses to the West and the East

What Suzanne Goldenberg was writing about in the Guardian today was a new paper by Eric Rignot and colleagues. This is the same Eric Rignot that Andy Revkin quoted five years ago (in Anthony's preferred 2009 article) writing:
Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory cautioned that the new findings were based on a single, fairly simple simulation and said that while the results matched well with the seabed evidence, they lacked the precision needed to know what will happen over short periods.
"This new study illustrates once more that the collapse of West Antarctica and parts of East Antarctica is not a myth." he said. "It happened many times before when the Earth was as warm as it is about to be. In terms of time scales, I do not think the results of this study are relevant to what will be happening in the next 100 years and beyond. The problem is far more complex. But this is a step forward."

Western Antarctica has already started to collapse, but it will take time

The long and short of it is that in denier land, it's an "abuse" to have a factual headline about new research findings:
Western Antarctic ice sheet collapse has already begun, scientists warn

That Guardian headline was mild compared to the NASA headline about the paper, which was:
West Antarctic glacier loss appears unstoppable

Anthony, for a change, not only included the title of the paper, which is:
Widespread, rapid grounding line retreat of Pine Island, Thwaites, Smith and Kohler glaciers, West Antarctica from 1992 to 2011.
...he even copied and pasted the abstract. Though he didn't go as far as providing a link to it. (My paras & bold italics)
We measure the grounding line retreat of glaciers draining the Amundsen Sea Embayment of West Antarctica using Earth Remote Sensing (ERS-1/2) satellite radar interferometry from 1992 to 2011.
Pine Island Glacier retreated 31 km at its center, with most retreat in 2005–2009 when the glacier un-grounded from its ice plain.
Thwaites Glacier retreated 14 km along its fast-flow core and 1 to 9 km along the sides.
Haynes Glacier retreated 10 km along its flanks.
Smith/Kohler glaciers retreated the most, 35 km along its ice plain, and its ice shelf pinning points are vanishing.
These rapid retreats proceed along regions of retrograde bed elevation mapped at a high spatial resolution using a mass conservation technique (MC) that removes residual ambiguities from prior mappings. Upstream of the 2011 grounding line positions, we find no major bed obstacle that would prevent the glaciers from further retreat and draw down the entire basin.

Below is a map showing a couple of these glaciers. (Click to enlarge it.)

Source: Rignot13, Science

Anthony Watts doesn't usually go beyond newspapers and press releases. Scientific papers are a bit too deep for deniers. Anyway, he was comforted by Andy Revkin's 2009 headline, made especially for the scaredy cats like Anthony Watts and other science deniers:
Study: West Antarctic Melt a Slow Affair
Andy's latest headline on the subject was similarly aimed at calming the scaredy cats:
Consider Clashing Scientific and Societal Meanings of Collapse When Reading Antarctic Ice News

He's right of course. But deniers go way too far in the other direction.  They don't realise that only a couple of centuries from now, there could be a massive collapse causing a big rise in sea level. It might be later (I guess it might be sooner, too.)

Rabbet Run has the scary science

Eli Rabett has written about the study and what it means. It means that sometime in the next few centuries - maybe as soon as 200 years ahead (that is, it could be the children of your children's children who have to cope), the ice in West Antarctica could, over a matter of decades, cause a sudden large rise in sea level. Not something you would wish on your children or theirs.

Where are all the fake sceptic fact-checkers?

I don't know where all the fake sceptic fact-checkers have gone. They are quick off the mark if they see a similar mistake here, but a worse mistake at WUWT eludes them.  See if you can spot it.  Anthony wrote the following and put up a chart:
And there’s not any significant warming over the entire continent, as it is nearly flat as well (from 70S to the pole):
Source: WUWT
I think annual averages allow you to see the trend a bit better than monthly charts.

Data source: RSS

Did you see the main problem? Of course you got it. Anthony plotted a chart of the lower troposphere from the outer edge of Antarctica upwards to the equator. Antarctica is more like 70 south to 90 south. RSS doesn't show lower troposphere temperatures below 70S.

What happens near the surface is much more important

The other thing of course is that it's the temperature of the ocean that plays a very big role in melting the ice in West Antarctica. Probably much more so than the temperature of the lower troposphere.  There have been other papers about that. A reduction in snow cover can also speed up melting rather a lot.

From the WUWT comments

John Boles is optimistic and thinks the collapse will happen later rather than sooner, and says:
May 12, 2014 at 2:41 pm
It might be worse than we thought, well maybe in the distant future, our models suggest that it could happen perhaps in 1000 years.

Justthinkin doesn't do any thinking at all (or reading) and says:
May 12, 2014 at 2:49 pm
So what’s the problem? She writes a piece full of BS,gets paid,and doesn’t give a hoot about what others say. Until you take away her paycheck,same old,same old. And scientific or un-scientific facts will not stop that. And just what the heck is “several centuries” or a thousand years? To me,several could be 20,000years from now.

Martin C is relieved that the seas may not rise quite four metres until after he's six feet under and says:
May 12, 2014 at 2:51 pm
I think it’s great to see these extremely ‘alarmist’ headlines, followed by a bit less alarmist in the text. People will continue to see the ‘alarmism’ for what it is. And likely continued to get turned off by it. Especially when the same ‘journalists’ keep printing this crap. 

pablo an ex pat has been misled by Anthony, who recently made a big fool of himself, and doesn't realise how big Antarctica is (it's about twice the size of Australia ie around twice as big as contiguous USA), or that there are lots of mountains separating east and west, and says:
May 12, 2014 at 2:53 pm
So in two alarmist stories reported during the space of on one day on WUWT the Antarctic is getting colder and warmer all at the same time. It’s both gaining ice and it’s losing ice. And both these occurrences are issues that needs us to do something right now. What exactly ?

Ed P is not good at assessing relative risk but he values money, and says:
May 12, 2014 at 2:53 pm
Yellowstone could explode or meteors might wipe out most of humanity before the sea rises that much. All that is certain is that governments will steal your savings long before you need a boat. 

Jeff in Calgary doesn't have a clue what the new paper is about and yes, he's missing something:
May 12, 2014 at 3:22 pm
Isn’t this about a floating ice sheet? How is a floating ice sheet melting going to raise sea levels? Am I missing something? 

sadbutmadlad is sad and deluded and doesn't realise that climate is changing in the here and now, and says:
May 12, 2014 at 9:53 pm
The narrative works. Lie first, lie big. Just watching a BBC Breakfast item on the newspapers at 5:50am and they talked about not being able to do anything about global warming as its already here. No mention of the 1000 years, everything was couched in terms of immediacy. Even journalists don’t read the small print and are fooled by the article. Ultimate scaremongering

In all the 97 comments over 13 hours I didn't see one that picked up on Anthony's gaffe with his RSS temperature chart. There may have been one or two that discussed the science. The rest were pure unadulterated wails of denial.

E. Rignot, J. Mouginot, M. Morlighem, H. Seroussi, B. Scheuchl. "Widespread, rapid grounding line retreat of Pine Island, Thwaites, Smith and Kohler glaciers, West Antarctica from 1992 to 2011".. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL060140

Rignot, E., S. Jacobs, J. Mouginot, and B. Scheuchl. "Ice-shelf melting around Antarctica." Science 341, no. 6143 (2013): 266-270. DOI: 10.1126/science.1235798

Peter Kuipers Munneke, Stefan R.m. Ligtenberg, Michiel R. Van Den Broeke, David G. Vaughan. "Firn air depletion as a precursor of Antarctic ice-shelf collapse". Journal of Glaciology, 2014; 60 (220): 205 DOI: 10.3189/2014JoG13J183

Huybrechts, Philippe. "Global change: West-side story of Antarctic ice." Nature 458, no. 7236 (2009): 295-296. doi:10.1038/458295a

Naish, Timothy, R. Powell, Richard Levy, G. Wilson, R. Scherer, Franco Talarico, L. Krissek et al. "Obliquity-paced Pliocene West Antarctic ice sheet oscillations." Nature 458, no. 7236 (2009): 322-328. doi:10.1038/nature07867


  1. That graph of what Anthony thinks is Antarctic temperature anomalies is a real hoot. How can anyone be that dumb? No, seriously, I'm asking.

    1. The way that WUWT has shifted almost exclusively to using RSS lower troposphere temperatures to monitor global warming, you'd have thought that the blog owner would have learnt something about it by now.

      But then, Anthony doesn't read his own articles.

  2. Stephen BirminghamMay 14, 2014 at 2:40 AM

    It's comforting to know the most detrimental effects of human caused climate change are many years off into the future. I won't be here. But time keeps moving forward regardless. President John F. Kennedy established the goal of landing a man on the lunar surface over half a century ago. Climate scientists have a difficult task. How do they sound the alarm and convey a sense of urgency today, about severe events that will occur over 100, 300, 700 year timescales, without being dismissed as alarmist?

    1. It's not clear that rising sea level will be the *most* detrimental. There's lots of detriment to go around, during this coming century ;(

    2. Is there some kind of time limit on ecocide that I am not aware of?

    3. Millicent: i believe that for many people it's "far enough away that someone else gets to deal with the consequences". HTH, HAND.

  3. "And there’s not any significant warming over the entire continent, as it is nearly flat as well (from 70S to the pole):"

    There's a further mistake here, although not so astonishing as Anthony and his fans believing 70S to 0 latitude means 70S to the pole, or none of them knowing that RSS does not even cover the poles. The further mistake is that the RSS warming shown in Anthony's graph actually is statistically significant, whether calculated from annual or monthly data.

  4. Sou, there seems to be a certain amount of conflation between the results of the two papers. I have yet to read them, but my impression is that the obs paper (Rignot) doesn't set a limit on the speed of the process. That leaves the modeling paper (Joughin), and based on the history of attempts to model AIS collapse, with the modelers, once they got past their big-blocks-of-ice-that-will-just-melt-in place-slowly phase, being a little too enthusiastic (IMO) in mistaking the upper limit of a modeled process for the real one (as with Deconto and Pollard 2009), I'm not so confident about that.

    Revkin is a parody.

    1. Yes, I'm sorry about that Steve. There are two recent papers and two older papers plus I've thrown in a couple of others. I didn't really write about the U Washington paper by Joughin except for the reference to timing, and I neglected to reference it.

      I recommend people read the source articles by Goldberg, NASA, Revkin and Eli Rabett - and the papers themselves.

      It's the new Rignot paper that talks about what has actually been happening.

    2. As is made clear here just after 16:30, the Rignot paper says that it would take about 200 years for the studied glaciers (a limited area containing about 1.2 meters SLR equivalent) to completely retreat "at current rates.* Unfortunately, that rate is noted to be continuing to increase, and they set no speed limit on the process.

      It sounds like the Joughin paper does project a minimum 200 year timescale, albeit possibly much longer, for an abrupt transition to rapid collapse of the bulk of the WAIS. I have to say this seems optimistic in light of the Rignot results.

    3. That press conference recording is BTW very much worth a complete listen.

  5. Credit where due. When Eli pointed to the 0 to 70S figure, Tony pulled it. Tols demons doing night work no doubt.

    However the real giggle here is that Tony got sucked in by Revkin's rant on Suzanne Goldenberg, misusing "Collapse" on what he took to be a prediction of centuries-long ice loss in W. Antarctica when what the Science paper predicted was a a long induction period.followed by a rapid catastrophic collapse.

    Andy also appears to have messed up the difference btw the two papers

  6. I touched on it at Eli's but it's worth repeating... whether 200 years, 500 years, a thousand years or two thousand years, the loss of the West Antarctic ice and the more general loss of ice globally, along with the heating of the planet that is causing the melt in the first place, is happening at a pace that is extraordinary in ecological and evolutionary contexts. Many species and ecosystems will not be able to adapt, and this includes species, ecosystems, and ecosystem services on which humans inescapably rely.

    Fools such as Revkin with his pedantic semantic tunnel-vision, and the Wu
    wtian types who believe in magickery and sky fairies rather than being successfully able to grasp basic science, are missing the Big Picture - humans are emulating super-vulcanism and large asteroid strikes in terms of the damage being wrought on the biosphere.

    Stephen Birmingham above is relieved that it's not coming to fruition in our (insignificant) lifetimes. I can understand where he's coming from but it's a Pyrrhic comfort... at least, it is for anyone who is not psychopathic, sociopathic or otherwise completely egocentric.

    Anyone who has any concern for their kids and for the biosphere should be worried...

    Very worried.

    And splitting hairs on personal interpretations of the word "collapse" is worse than fiddling whilst rearranging angels on the point of a sinking needle.

    1. Our lifetimes... This WAIS addition could actually end Holland by the end of this century. Delta retreat. We can't keep pumping out the water of two major European rivers.

      (captcha 'epasain theology', wtf?)

  7. First time ever I got scared. So let's party.

  8. Anthony blamed his use of the 70S-0.0 graph to represent the Antarctic continent on a "typo". When I do something like that, and I occasionally do, I call it a "slip of the brain".

    It helps to have a track record of reliable work in order to have the confidence to admit such errors -- and in my own field, I'm known as someone who works hard to get things right. I hasten to add that they're not particularly important things, but at least they're right.

  9. Hi Sou ,a far more imminent event is the collapse of the south coast of Palma in the Canary Islands ,reckoned to be anytime between now and the next 100 years , a half a mountain is going to fall off and cause a Tsunami ,500 ft high over North Africa and with waves traveling at 500 mph and 140 ft high towards the Eastern seaboard of America , Can I borrow your surf board?

    1. "...the level of support for the megatsunami hypothesis is, shall we say, somewhat lacking within the scientific community."

      Did you actually read the article of the link you provided? Apparently not, as you seem to have missed the main thrust of it, as typified by the above quote.

    2. missed literally the entire point of the article, from the title ("Killing off the Canary Islands landslide megatsunami scare") all the way down to the concluding sentence ("There is no reason to believe that a future event will behave differently, so this scare should be consigned to the garbage can once and for all").

    3. I'd surmise the Cometh of Niburu is even more imminent.

      I'd also surmise your comment actually acknowledges that the upcoming total global disaster is simply too big for your mind to handle. This I can understand though.

    4. Ernest quoting a blog page that says the opposite of what he thought it said (meaning, apparently, that he didn't read it) might be the same as Bengtsson not reading the GWPF web page before signing up.

      The trick is how to save face afterwards. In Ernest's case, an apology might work, otherwise he looks like HotWhoppery material.

  10. Breaking news
    Lennart Bengtsson Resigns from GWPF.
    Apparently fear and derision , intolerance and the threat of exclusion from his scientific work have led him to resign.
    How very sad that a person can no longer express an opinion without being vivisected by the warmists. This is seriously bad news all round.

    1. Lie down with dogs; get up with fleas.

    2. See Stoat

      Brave Sir Robin

    3. How very sad that [Mann, Hayhoe, insert climate scientist name] cannot present their scientific work without being vivisected by denialists financed the fossil fuel industry.

    4. hahahahaha you guys are hilarious , I wrote a reply to Marco as well
      "Yeah real funny Marco , did you get a lot of kicks pulling off spiders legs when you were a kid?
      What has happened is shameful and you should hang your head.
      But I guess the Nazis still let the bands play right up until the Russians were on there doorstep and you are too stupid to appreciate that could quite clearly turn in to a “J’accuse” moment .
      Never let science interfere with your sixth form intellect is your motto I believe and my motto is Fuck you !"
      Just saying as it were.

    5. how sad that a person can align himself with a misinformation-spreading lobby group, say some frankly idiotic things, and then get all upset when your colleagues criticise you as a result.

    6. viz. complaining about the politicisation of climate science immediately after joining a political organisation, founded and led by a retired politician with the goal of influencing climate policy.

    7. I see Ernest doesn't understand one yota. Supposedly people should respect Bengtsson's willingness to join a misinformation organization, but oh dear when his colleagues then tell him that they no longer want to work with him under those circumstances.

      Using your own reference to the nazis, it's actually akin to the jewish friends of Mr X distancing themselves from Mr X because Mr X joined the nazi party...and then Mr X starts whining that they did this and decided not to join anyway.

    8. Spot on, Marco, and it probably happened a few times, too.

  11. He was only affiliated with GWPF for a week. No-one forced him to resign. He expressed an opinion, basically "I support the goals of GWPF." His colleagues apparently expressed an opinion that they didn't want to be affiliated through Bengtsson to GWPF. Seems reasonable to me.

    Nobody is suppressing contrarian views; they just either (a) show why they are stupid or (b) ridicule them.

    1. And for once ,maybe the truth will come out , I look forward to the expose of the leaches who conspired to bring about this resignation . Should be some very interesting emails , what do you reckon?

    2. Oh yes, very interesting.

      Probably stuff like "Sorry, Lennart, but joining a political thinktank which distorts the science looks bad on you, and therefore also on me. For that reason I cannot continue my collaboration with you" and "Lennart, seriously? You are concerned about politicization, and then you join that lot? What were you thinking?"

    3. "what do you reckon?"

      I reckon you have constructed a fantasy world in which fossil fuel shills are the heroes.

    4. cry my a fucking river, ernest

    5. Already Ernest Hurley knows that there was a conspiracy and looks forward to evidence of it emerging,presumably via some valiant hacker. Note how the knowledge precedes any evidence; the existence of evidence is inferred from the knowledge.

      Of course, if everybody moves away from you on the bench it does not imply conspiracy.

    6. Paging Stephan Lewandowsky.

      Stephan Lewandowsky...

    7. You say "valiant hacker " like its a bad thing ?
      The existence of evidence is inferred from the comments of the Professor and the knowledge is only what he has said.
      "Dear Professor Henderson,

      I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety. I see therefore no other way out therefore than resigning from GWPF. I had not expecting such an enormous world-wide pressure put at me from a community that I have been close to all my active life. Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship etc.

      I see no limit and end to what will happen. It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy. I would never have expecting anything similar in such an original peaceful community as meteorology. Apparently it has been transformed in recent years.

      Under these situation I will be unable to contribute positively to the work of GWPF and consequently therefore I believe it is the best for me to reverse my decision to join its Board at the earliest possible time.

      With my best regards

      Lennart Bengtsson "

      As i said previously , I look forward to hearing more about the pressure put on this man . It will make interesting reading . Perhaps you do not agree , good for you .

  12. I think Stoat has it right. He didn't realize what he was getting into. When some colleagues clued him in, pride made him deflect the blame instead of admitting he misjudged.

    1. Stoat's comment about: "sounding somewhere between very naive and emeritus" seems close to the mark too.

      It's hard to see what Bengtsson was thinking. Either he failed to do his due diligence into GWPF, in which case his parting hand grenade at is entirely uncalled for, or he still supports its aims but is unwilling to stand up to the negative reactions of his colleagues. At 79 and at the tail end of a long research career you'd think he'd know better one way or the other.


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