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Science Names Research on Ice Sheet Melting One of Year’s Top Breakthroughs

22 December 2006

The journal Science has named research on the accelerating melting of the great ice sheets as one of the runner-ups to the top scientific breakthrough of the year. Science heralded the proof of the Poincaré conjecture as the top breakthrough of the year (if not the decade).

The journal noted that different teams of glaciologists confirmed via techniques and measurements that span decades that the world’s two great ice sheets—covering Greenland and Antarctica—are losing ice to the ocean at an accelerating pace.

The future of the ice sheets is still rife with uncertainty, but if the unexpectedly rapid shrinkage continues, low-lying coasts around the world—including New Orleans, South Florida, and much of Bangladesh—could face inundation within a couple of centuries rather than millennia.

Different techniques and even different analyses of the same data disagree about just how much ice volume is changing. All of them, however, now show that both Greenland and Antarctica have been losing ice over the past 5 to 10 years. In the north, Greenland is shedding at least 100 gigatons each year. In the south, the figure is less certain but lies in the range of tens of gigatons per year or more.

Current ice sheet losses aren’t raising sea level faster than 0.1 meter per century, but researchers fear that the rate could rise to a meter per century or more in the near future.

...it turns out the ice isn’t just melting faster, it is moving faster. Radar mapping shows that in recent years, glaciers carrying ice away from the sheets have sped up by as much as 100%. In West Antarctica, warming ocean waters seem to have attacked the floating tongues of ice that hold back the ice sheet’s outlet glaciers. Around southern Greenland, something else seems to be quickening the pace of outlet glaciers...

The other breakthroughs named as runner-up to the proof of the Poincaré conjecture are:

  • The sequencing and analysis of fossil DNA;
  • The discovery of the fossil fish Tiktaalik;
  • The development and demonstration of the first “invisibility” cloak;
  • Progress against macular degeneration;
  • Advances in understanding biodiversity;
  • The development and application of new microscopy techniques that get around the “diffraction limit”;
  • New research on the mechanisms of memory; and
  • The discovery of Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs).

December 22, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink | Comments (34) | TrackBack (0)

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"Siberia's permafrost is melting: Why is this an important story? Because Arctic permafrost, which in Siberia covers endless miles, contains massive amounts of methane. The melting soil releases the methane into the air, where it is now expected to massively and irrevocably accelerate global warming..."
http://www.commondreams.org/views06/1221-30.htm

Don't expect much help from the incoming Dem congress.

"Dingell Minded"
Interview with Congressman John Dingell on climate change.
http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2006/12/20/dingell/

More the world is ending crap!

Why do you suppose they never tell you how long it will take to all melt? Yet they quote some ridiculous high number of tonnes of ice that melted.

Could it be that it will take millions of years at this rate to melt the ice sheets? No one accepts just how much land ice there is locked up, and the enormous inertia of that tremendous amount.

When is the next congressional appropriation for these "disinterested scientists" coming up?

What phoney nonsense!

Why do you suppose they never tell you how long it will take to all melt?
Because the rate is changing?
Yet they quote some ridiculous high number of tonnes of ice that melted.
Because that's what they measured.  You got a problem with that?
Could it be that it will take millions of years at this rate to melt the ice sheets?
Do the calculation yourself:

Greenland ice sheet volume: 630,000 cubic miles
Mass loss rate: 248 cubic kilometers/year (59.5 cubic miles/year)

So even at the current rate it would take only about 10,000 years to disappear completely.

Problem is, it's accelerating.  Ice loss in some places allows glaciers to flow faster.

No one accepts just how much land ice there is locked up, and the enormous inertia of that tremendous amount.

You mean, you don't accept that meltwater flowing through fissures in the ice can transmit the effects of a warmer climate down to the ice/rock interface in 15 minutes.  But that's exactly what's been found to be true.

Thanks for your FOX news style editorial Stan!

As usual, hysterical interpretation in popular media has nothing to do with the actual scientific article. For short revue look at:

http://www.co2science.org/scripts/CO2ScienceB2C/articles/V9/N51/EDIT.jsp

Claims about Antarctica melting, as usual, are just shameless lie. See the abstract of the article:

J. L. Chen
Center for Space Research, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA
C. R. Wilson
Center for Space Research, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA
D. D. Blankenship
Institute for Geophysics, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA
B. D. Tapley
Center for Space Research, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA
Abstract
We estimate mass trends over Antarctica using gravity variations observed by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission during its first 3.5 years (April 2002–November 2005). An image of surface mass trends is constructed from 1° × 1° pixels over the entire continent, and shows two prominent features, a region of mass loss along the coast of West Antarctica, and one of accumulation in East Antarctica. After adjusting for bias due to smoothing and to GRACE's limited spatial resolution, and removing post glacial rebound (PGR) effects, the rate in West Antarctica is −77 ± 14 km3/year, similar to a recent estimate of ice mass loss from satellite altimetry and remote sensing data. The prominent East Antarctic feature in the Enderby Land region has a rate of +80 ± 16 km3/year. Published snow/ice mass rates from remote sensing measurements indicate approximate ice mass balance in this region, suggesting that this feature is either from unquantified snow accumulation in this region or more likely due to unmodeled PGR.
Received 29 March 2006; accepted 5 May 2006; published 9 June 2006.

You can see from satalite photos that the artic ice cap has gotten much smaller over the last 25 years. There are lots of articles there that will tell you how much has melted.

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/arctic-climate-impact-assessment.html#Observed_changes

The abstract that Andrey posted does seem to be at odds with the report in Science, at least over the past 3.5 years and perhaps depending on the correct handling of PGR. Is the journal Science guilty of Shameless Lying?

I'm familiar with the credibility of Science. Let's go take a peek at http://www.co2science.org/, and see what we might glean regarding possible biases. Hmmm. What's this on the sidebar?

Is carbon dioxide a harmful air pollutant, or is it an amazingly effective aerial fertilizer?

Explore the positive side of the issue in two half-hour documentaries -- The Greening of Planet Earth and The Greening of Planet Earth Continues.

George:

If you will follow the link provided in this GCC news release, you will eventually find references to four articles in Science, three concerning Greenland ice sheet and one – Antarctic ice. The abstract I posted is of exactly this article about Antarctic ice measurements (by the way reportedly using very inaccurate gravitational measurements technique), notably claiming “approximate ice balance in the region”.

I do not have qualification to dispute the scientific findings of the article, but it is clear enough that its popular media interpretation IS a shameless lie.

For further reference of Greenland ice sheet dynamics (which is far from what GW zealots are claiming) take a look at scientific articles compilation at:

http://www.co2science.org/scripts/CO2ScienceB2C/subject/i/icesheetgreen.jsp

Sheer amount of scientific articles indicate that despite substantial warming of Antarctic Peninsula and diminishing ice sheets of Western Antarctic, ice sheet of Eastern Antarctic (representing most of the ace mass) is growing, and total effect is of increased ice mass in Antarctica, leading to substantial mitigation of ocean level rise due to thermal expansion of ocean water:

http://www.co2science.org/scripts/CO2ScienceB2C/subject/e/eais.jsp

Claims of increased speed of ice movement is sheer urban legend, not even discussed in scientific literature.

As for carbon fertilization effect, welcome to the real world. Tons of scientific publications report significant increase in biomass grow rate due to elevated CO2 levels in Amazon rainforests, Russian Taiga, and N.America forests, along with substantial increase of agricultural productivity all around the world.

As a matter of fact, all greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers we eat this winter are grown using artificial CO2 content increase in greenhouses of 1.5 – 2 times from atmospheric levels. In practice it means that tomatoes and cucumbers we eat during the winter are almost exclusively composed of fossil carbon.

how good of you, you ignore facts.
you even doubt the credibility of science and the IPCC.
you come up with some stupid link refering to a documentary made in 1992 and 1998.
And that proves it all???

Great.

Senoir NASA scientists
http://neptune.gsfc.nasa.gov/csb/personnel/pdf/Parkinson/2004_Comiso_Parkinson_Arctic.pdf

GFDL and NOAA
http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/~kd/KDwebpages/NHice.html

You better talk to the kids, Dr Spock. They are easier to manipulate.

I am very careful to refer to most current and most comprehensive scientific findings, as in the links I supplied.

As for IPCC, I do admit that I do not value these soft-fingered bunch of eco-nazis, feasting on hateful losers and illiterate politicians.

where I live we had the
warmest july ever measured
summer was abnormal, meaning occurs 1 out 100
Autumn was the warmest ever measured, occurs 1 out 500

statistics...

the carbon fertilization effect seems quite logic to me, but i can't find the link with the primary consequences: climate is chancing and earth is heating up.

Eastern Canadian Arctic permafrost is progressively turning into vegetable soup lakes. GHG (methane +) from a few million Km2 of this special soup will eventually accellerate climate change. It may have started already.

This is going to be the second recorded non-white Xmas in our area. Today is +6C with rain. Overnight +2C and tomorrow (and the next 5 days) will be much the same.

No reindeers around this year. Personnally, I like this warmer weather but all ski places are having hard times. At his rate, we may need interior artificial ski slopes (like in Dubai) within a few decades or find another sport like 'trekking' etc.

The grass was greener.

Unfortunately, the main effect of all this will
probably be to incite the public to approve more
inefficient "green" energy production methods simply
because they exist and can be constructed, and politicians can claim to have done something (e.g. wind turbines, which never produce power when its needed, meaning peak demand capacity must be met by other, controllable power sources (e.g. natural gas, almost always). There are times when it's much beter to keep the public and politicians in the dark, so they don't screw everthing up trying to be helpful.

i guess an honest and scientific correct answer would have been:

"the grass was greener but this is merely a temporary effect. In the long run, this increased absorption capacity of plants and soil will diminish, thereby creating a carbon source instead of a carbon sink. Human activity is slowly filling all the carbon sinks (oceans, plants) on this planet which should normally protect us from CO2-swings. Even today his contribution as a carbon source is larger than the capacity of the carbon sinks: about 50% (as proved by the y-o-y increase of the CO2-concentration in our atmosphere). When all sinks are complety filled over time, an acceleration of global warming can be expected"

Dr.:

Sounds scientific, except it has nothing to do with reality.

Carbon sink is not a garbage can, it is a dynamic process.

Humankind share in global carbon cycle is less than 3%.

Increase of atmospheric CO2 happens after climate warming.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you and your family.

Oh but it has got everything to do with reality...

Of course most processes in nature are dynamic, but they aren't linear are they? If i drink 1 litre of water every day, i'm a healthy person. If i drink 10 litres of water, i'm death...I'd rather call it a dynamic balance with different timeconstants and non-linear respond characteristics.

The human share in the global carbon cycle is a non-issue, what does make sense is his contribution in the current non-balance: 6 gigatons carbon every year due to human activity, only 50% of that amount is absorpted by the carbon sinks (oceans and terrestrial ecosystems), the other 50% ends up in the atmosphere...

And did you know that only 0,03% of the atmosphere is made of GHG? Did you know that the atmosphere contains now some 750 GtC? And that roughly one third of this amount comes from human activity so far? And that GHG capture the energy of the sun?

merry X-mas.

Dr:

Get a bigger picture. It is quite interesting:

http://www.co2science.org/scripts/CO2ScienceB2C/subject/c/graphs.jsp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greening_Earth_Society

http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=24

Ever heard of astro-turfing? It is when a group is funded by corporate interests while purporting to be a "grass-roots" organization.

Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has received $90,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.

1998
$10,000 ExxonMobil Corporate Giving
Source: ExxonMobil 1998 grants list

2000
$15,000 ExxonMobil Foundation
project support
Source: ExxonMobil Foundation 2000 IRS 990

2003
$40,000 ExxonMobil Foundation
Climate Change Activities
Source: ExxonMobil 2003 Corporate Giving Report

2005
$25,000 ExxonMobil Foundation
Source: ExxonMobil 2005 DIMENSIONS Report (Corporate Giving)

You could stop all co2 output this second and global warming would still happen the same day it was already going to happen.

You could kill every human on earth and stop everything and global warming would STILL happen on the same year it would happen if you didnt.

We are ants tap dancing on a bug red button and after ceturies of us and everything else poking the button this is the time it clicks.

Wgar do we REALY have to do.

We have to get off the damn button as soon as we canfigure out how.

We need to see exactly what that button is going to activeate or already has ctiveated and what that can do to us and everything we care about and depend on.

We need to figure out how long it takes for that damn buitton to go back up abnd what if anything we can do to speed that up.

We need to live through the big read button and birng with us everything we can manage to.

www.co2science.org is a fossil fuels industry sponsored site. "Science", the journal, and the IPCC are independent and operate according to scientific peer review.

A half metre of sea level rise by 2100 may not scare too many people (but it should if you are in Florida or Bangladesh). But what about the year 2300 or 2400 with accelerating ice loss? By then the ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica may have melted most of their mass and sea level rise of 6 to 15 metres may put many of the world's great cities under water. We'll all be gone but our great-great-grandchildren will be faced with the consequences of our actions and inactions.

Here in Australia there is already an example of the effects of our ancestors' actions of 150 years ago. Australia's farmland is now disappearing under drought but also because actions of early farmers in the 19th century treated the land as though it were Europe and over ploughing and over grazing has turned millions of acres of once fertile land is now semi-desert or desert.

Ruckrover:

The only thing CO2science is doing is compiling scientific articles on the subject around the world, understandably mostly from IPCC sponsored researches and particularly from Science magazine, with direct references to the sources. But unlike IPCC and other crooks parasailing on our tax dollars and atavistic nightmares, they do not twist and lie about what actual science articles are discovering. Investigate it by yourself, if you can.

So let me see if I can properly sum up Audrey's comment.

------------
co2science uses good sources to draw conclusions. (IPCC and Science journal, etc)

IPCC and Science journal are not reliable source of information and waste tax-payers money.

If you could read for yourself, you would agree with me.
------------

How does this address the conflicts-of-interest co2science has due to being funded by fossil fuel industries?

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