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August 31, 2002

Ice Man Cometh?

Antarctic Thickening

I've noted previously, a bit tongue-in-cheek, the hysteria we were hearing back in the early 70s on the imminence of a new ice age, and commented that the bandwagon changed its mind when it discovered that warming makes a better scare, because it's easier to find popular villains to blame. Well, maybe the suggestion wasn't so way-out after all -- or more people than I realized are reading this web site.

Earlier in the year, a big hullabaloo went up when the Larsen B ice shelf on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula broke up. The long-awaited global warming "signature" had arrived at last (again), and we were on our way to the great continental meltdown. But it turns out that the panic was premature once more, and misinformed, as usual. An ice shelf is simply a glacier that reaches the coast and pushes its way out into warmer waters, floating its extent farther from land until the forces of tides and currents beneath and sunlight from above finally cause it to fall apart. The peninsula is not even considered part of the continental ice system proper by some researchers--the part where the ice shelf is located isn't even inside the Antarctic Circle but extends into the Southern Ocean. An eventual breakup in such circumstances is inevitable, and this one has been expected for years.

But actual measurements on the continent itself -- as opposed to numbers churned out by computer games tweaked to fit the officially dispensed theory -- show a pronounced cooling that's very real. According to the supporters of the Kyoto circus, temperature monitoring in the northern hemisphere was impeded by circulating smog and smoke particles, and the true measure of what's happening to the planet is to be found in the pristine Antarctic. Well, by their own criteria, the verdict is in. The January 14 issue of Nature reports a comprehensive study covering all regions of the Antarctic continent that shows significant cooling at the rate of 1.2 degrees F per decade. Three days later, Science published results showing the ice sheet to be not melting but thickening at about 27 billion tons per year.

Further details:

The National Center for Public Policy Research report # 388, February 2002, New Research Indicates the Earth May Be Cooling (Thanks to Lisa Liel for this one).

Environment & Climate News (see earlier BB posting), Issues March, 2002 and May 2002, accessed via www.heartland.org.

See also the web site of John Daly, author of The Greenhouse Trap, Bantam, 1989.

Even if the claims put out by the doom lobby were true, I've never understood how a warming of 0.5 to 1 degree C was supposed to melt an ice sheet with an average temperature of -60. But then, I suppose, if you're saving the world and claiming the high ground of moral righteousness , trivial details like that aren't important.

 
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