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December 29, 2006

Thin Ice

And Magical Melting Continents

The Earth's climate has always been changing in some way or another, and always will be. During the 20th century the 1930s were relatively warm, with ice thinning and lots of open water in the Arctic regions--pretty much like what's being reported now. Then, around 1940, a mild cooling set in until the early 70s, when it reversed and became a mild warming again until 1998 or so. Since then, if anything, there seems to have been the beginnings of a decline again, but the voices of those who have been trying to point that out are drowned in the clamor over extrapolations of continued warming, based on computer models that failed to reproduce any of the swings that the real-world record shows. What's left at the end of it is that the Earth's mean temperature appears to have undergone an increase of around 0.6oC, just about all of it occurring before 1940.

One of the more bizarre claims that we hear--dutifully given plenty of space by the media--is that the ice caps are going to melt, raising sea levels, inundating the coasts, and turning Florida into a huge rice paddy. Now, the mean temperature of the Antarctic ice mass is about -60oC, and over the inland regions its thickness reaches two to three miles. Exactly how is a temperature rise of the order we're experiencing supposed to raise it from -60 to zero? And even if that happened, the latent heat of fusion of water--i.e. the additional heat that has to be supplied in order to liquefy it once it's at the melting temperature--is 80 times the heat needed to raise it through every degree. Or to put it another way, the heat needed to melt all that ice would be 133% again on top of what you'd need to raise it through 60 degrees. This is elementary physics. Why the silence from so many who call themselves scientists?

In any case, real-world observations as opposed to computer games tell a different story from the politically motivated agenda. The mass of ice sheets such as those of Greenland and the Antarctic is naturally replenished from the interior and moves outward to the margins, where it is depleted by melting and runoff into warmer surrounding waters. Since both Greenland and Antarctica are, in fact, predominantly cooling, not warming, the alarmists focus upon marginal areas of melt--for example, the Antarctic Peninsula, most of which isn't even inside the Antarctic Circle--and ignore the other 98%. Here are some samples of studies you don't hear so much about, that restore some objectivity and balance.

(1) RECENT COOLING IN COASTAL SOUTHERN GREENLAND AND RELATION WITH THE NORTH ATLANTIC OSCILLATION
By Edward Hanna, Institute of Marine Studies, University of Plymouth, UK., and John Cappelen, Danish Meteorological Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark. Published in GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 30, NO. 3, 1132, doi:10.1029/2002GL015797, 2003. Online at http://ww w.shef.ac.uk/geography/staff_cms/hanna_edward/grl_2003_30_3.pdf

Data for eight stations in coastal southern Greenland, 1958-2001, show a significant cooling, as do sea-surface temperatures in the adjacent part of the Labrador Sea.

(2) GREENLAND'S SECRET
By Pat Michaels, at http://ww w.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2004/03/15/greenlands-secret/

"The recent hype in Nature notwithstanding, Greenland has been cooling for the better part of two generations.
It's hot news: Temperatures in Greenland have been rising like a rocket during the past 10 years or so--returning to the temperatures that characterized the 1930s, '40s, and '50s."

(3) RESEARCHERS FIND ANTARCTIC ICE IS THICKENING
http://www.usatoday.com/news/science/cold-science/2002-01-18-wais-thicker.htm

(4) ANTARCTIC ICE SHEET MASS BALANCE
http://www. co2science.org/scripts/CO2ScienceB2C/articles/V9/N45/C2.jsp

Mass gains from accumulating snow, particularly on the Antarctic Peninsula and within East Antarctica, exceed the ice dynamic mass loss from West Antarctica, resulting in a net extraction of water from the global ocean.

(5) THE BREAK-UP OF ANTARCTICA'S LARSEN-B ICE SHELF
CO2 Science Magazine, 13 December 2006
http://www. co2science.org/scripts/CO2ScienceB2C/articles/V9/N50/C1.jsp

"[T]he greatest extent of the Larsen ice shelf during the current interglacial likely occurred only a few hundred years ago, and that the portions of it that recently disintegrated (Larsen-A and Larsen-B) were probably created about that same time. In addition, it would appear that some 2000 years ago the Larsen-A and B ice shelves likely were altogether absent, and that temperatures of that time were likely as warm as, or even warmer than, they have been recently. Furthermore, there was approximately 100 ppm less CO2 in the air of that time than there is in the air of today; and this fact suggests that something other than anthropogenic CO2 emissions was the cause of the earlier "balmy" conditions of northeast Antarctica, which implies that that same something else, or something different yet, could well be responsible for the current warmth of the region."

The above were taken from Benny Peiser's CCNet newsletter and CO2 Science Magazine. Both sources recommended for some regular inputs of sanity as to what's really going on.

 
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