A newly released study from the Research Council of Norway has climate change alarmists abuzz. One of the things the alarmists have been pushing for is to halt warming at a 2°C increase at any cost (and they mean that literally). In the Norwegian study, much to the alarmists' dismay, researchers have arrived at an estimate of 1.9°C as the most likely level of future warming. The report also recognizes that temperatures have stabilized at 2000 levels for the past decade even though CO2 levels have continued to rise. Meanwhile, a reconstruction of the Eemian interglacial from the new NEEM ice core, published in the journal Nature, shows that in spite of a climate 8°C warmer than that of the past millennium, the ice in Northern Greenland was only a few hundred meters lower than its present level. This finding casts doubt on the projected melting of ice sheets and resulting sea-level rise.
Something happened this year that has become rare in recent times, much of the United States has had a white Christmas. As of December 28th, 64.4% of the US was covered by snow with an average depth of 6.2 inches (15.7 cm). This compares with last month's coverage of only 19.8%. My own town of Conway, Arkansas, received 10 inches on Christmas day and a winter storm advisory is in effect as another storm makes its way eastward. For Arkansas, this has been the snowiest Christmas ever, breaking the old record set in 1926, and the 7th snowiest day overall since 1875. But North America is not alone in feeling winter's bite—record cold continues in Siberia, while a vicious cold snap across Russia and Eastern Europe has claimed nearly 200 lives. What does all this say about global warming?
A new “comprehensive” report about the melting of Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets is being touted by climate alarmists as “grim news” but in fact says no such thing. This latest estimate, published this week in Science, combines data from many sources including 20 years of satellite data and 32 years of ice-sheet simulations to arrive at a mixed conclusion. It estimates that, between 1992 and 2011, the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets lost 1350 ± 1010 and 2700 ± 930 Gt of ice, respectively. That is equivalent to an increase in global mean sea level of 11.2 ± 3.8 mm, less than 1/2 an inch. Moreover, while some areas were losing ice mass others were gaining mass from snowfall. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), which occupies over 75% of Antarctica, experienced mass gains during the final years of the study.
Over the past 50 years or so, the Antarctic Peninsula, the northernmost part of the mainland of Antarctica, has experienced rapid warming and the collapse of a number of ice shelves. A new temperature record derived from an ice core drilled on James Ross Island, has triggered a reassessment of what triggered the recent warming trends. This new core provides the best record of climate events on the peninsula going back at least 20,000 years, and may extend back as far as 50,000 years. From this new data a team of researchers has constructed the most detailed history of climate on the Antarctic Peninsula known to science and it has revealed a number of interesting things. Most important of these is the fact that this area undergoes bouts of rapid warming periodically and that things were at least as warm on the peninsula 2,000 years ago. So much for “unprecedented” warming on the Antarctic Peninsula.
There has been a wave of triumphal announcements by climate change proponents recently, almost giddy over the summer shrinkage of the Arctic ice sheet. “Lowest level ever!” they proclaim, thought that is not quite true. Nonetheless, The Arctic pack ice has been receding over the last decade or so, but that is only natural. You see, there is a well known, if poorly understood, linkage between the ice at the north pole and the ice in and around Antarctica—and the ice around Antarctica is doing quite well. Satellite radar altimetry measurements indicate that the East Antarctic ice sheet interior increased in mass by 45±7 billion metric tons per year from 1992 to 2003. This trend continues today, reinforcing recent scientific investigations into this millennial scale oscillation between the poles. According to studies, this is how things have been for hundreds of thousands of years.
Melting glaciers are once again in the news, along with the associated threat of rising sea levels. NASA satellites have reported wide spread melting across Greenland which has the climate change alarmists all atwitter. But the NASA satellites are providing data never before available, so it is hard to say if the summer melting pattern is unusual. Meanwhile, some 80 year old scientific data has revealed that this is not the first time that there has been a period of glacial retreat in Greenland. This formerly lost data shows that many land-terminating glaciers underwent a more rapid retreat in the 1930s than in the 2000s. Even more interesting is that the two periods of retreat were interrupted by a period of widespread advance from 1943 to 1972. Greenland's glaciers seem to be oscillating with a period of around a century.
The last interglacial period (LIG)—the Eemian—is commonly believed by scientists to have been warmer than the current Holocene interglacial. Along with that balmier climate there is evidence that sea levels were significantly higher than today. Previous studies have pegged Eemian sea levels at 4 to 6m higher than today. Recently, a new investigation raises that estimate, reporting that ancient sea levels peaked between 6.6 and 9.4 m (~20 to 30 feet). Modern day accounts of flooding in low lying coastal areas and tropical islands abound, with ominous suggestions of links to global warming. How high the oceans will rise is a topic of debate for IPCC members, the news media and assorted climate alarmists, but they are asking the wrong question. Instead, they should ask why are sea levels so low?
Between 15 and 20 million years (Myr) ago, Earth's climate took a pause during its long slide into the Pleistocene Ice Age for a period of real global warming. During this relatively brief time glaciers around the world retreated and there are indications that, at least around the edges of the continent, there was significant vegetation on Antarctica. Temperatures may have been as high as 11°C higher than today. Scientists say this global warm spell took place under under CO2 levels in the range of 190–850 ppmv, both significantly higher and lower than today's 390 ppmv. It is hoped that studying conditions during the Miocene warming can provide constraints on the fundamental laws governing the climate system. Why? If the Pleistocene Ice Age is truly coming to an end, as some have said, this may be the climate of the future.
Many of the more strident reports regarding runaway global warming center on rapid ice loss from the glaciers of Greenland. During the early 2000s the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced the largest ice-mass loss since accurate instrument readings have been kept. This was largely caused by the acceleration, thinning and retreat of large outlet glaciers in West and southeast Greenland. Now a new study in Nature Geoscience confirms that ice loss from the Helheim Glacier between 2003 and 2005 was the worst recorded—at least since the last period of rapid ice loss during the late 1930s.
An iceberg the size of Berlin is forming in Antarctica and is expected to break off from the Pine Island Glacier soon. As sure as night follows day, climate change alarmists will pronounce this a result of anthropogenic global warming—and they will be dead wrong. NASA scientists have already predicted the event and proclaimed it a part of a natural, ten year cycle that they have been studying for decades. The sad state of climate science is underlined by the fact that the researchers felt compelled to state that global warming is not the cause of the ice-shelf collapse.
In the debate over climate change one of the most misunderstood and misused terms is sensitivity. Climate sensitivity is usually defined as the change in global mean surface temperature following a doubling of atmospheric CO2 once equilibrium is reached. The concept seems simple but there is a catch: the definition of 'equilibrium', which depends on the timescale employed. As it turns out, the timescales that nature uses—which can encompass thousands and even millions of years—cannot be compared with the century long timescale used in climate models. A recent online article, published by Nature Geoscience, states that accurate prediction of Earth's future warming hinges on our understanding of climate sensitivity. Moreover, only by studying climate change in the past, the paleoclimate, identifying all the factors involved and how they interacted can our understanding of climate sensitivity be improved.
Scientists have always thought that the vast majority of ice contained in the Antarctic ice cap was formed from frozen precipitation. Recent research has revealed that this is not totally correct. Over a large fraction of East Antarctica, the deepest part of the ice sheet contains ice that did not originate as surface snow but developed when subglacial meltwater was frozen onto the underside of the ice sheet. The amount of ice involved is much larger than the estimated volume of Antarctic subglacial lakes and may even exceed the volume of all glaciers on Earth outside of the two polar ice sheets. Current computer models predict that subglacial water escapes toward the ocean. These new findings indicate that water from areas of basal melting actually migrate to areas of basal freezing, something not accounted for by current ice sheet models. To scientists' surprise, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is getting thicker from the bottom up.
Fluctuations in surface melting are known to affect the speed of glaciers and ice sheets, while the contribution of glaciers and ice caps to global sea-level rise is uncertain at best. Much has been made of the “accelerating” loss of ice from the Greenland glaciers. Over the past decade, Arctic sea ice retreated substantially during the summer months, and some predicted that the ice loss could be irreversible, a tipping point that would boost global warming. A number of new papers in Nature, Geophysical Research Letters and Nature Geoscience, shed new light on these subjects, and the answers are not the ones usually heard in the media.
Climate alarmists have been slow to learn that their over-reliance on computer models and unproven theories has harmed their public credibility. In an attempt to counter the richly deserved bad press that climate science has been garnering these days, a number of global warming true believers are trying a different, more fact based approach to scaring the public. One such attempt recently appeared in the journal Science—not as a paper describing original research but as a perspective article. In it, a Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, attempts to “weave together” some carefully selected “threads in the discussion of climate” to arrive at a very familiar and unconvincing conclusion.
Much concern has been raised by climate scientists regarding ice loss from the world's two remaining continental ice sheets. Rapid loss of ice-mass from the glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica are cited as proof positive of global warming's onslaught. The latest measurements involve the use of satellite gravimetry, estimating the mass of terrain beneath by detecting slight changes in gravity as a satellite passes overhead. But gravity measurements of ice-mass loss are complicated by glacial isostatic adjustments—compensation for the rise or fall of the underlying crustal material. A new article in Nature Geoscience describes an innovative approach employed to derive ice-mass changes from GRACE data. The report suggests significantly smaller overall ice-mass losses than previous estimates.