Wilkins Ice Sheet Lost to Climate Change

Sun, 2009-04-05 22:14Mitchell Anderson
Mitchell Anderson's picture

Wilkins Ice Sheet Lost to Climate Change

The latest massive piece of evidence of climate change appeared this weekend - about the size of Jamaica.

The Wilkins ice shelf off the coast of Antarctica finally disintegrated after decades of melting due to global warming. Last year it shrank by 700 square miles of area or about 14% of its size. This huge shelf was held in place by a thread of remaining ice only 500 metres wide.

The Wilkins is by far the largest ice shelf to break away so far and scientists naturally worry that this is a sign of things to come. The southern continent has warmed by 3 degrees Celsius in the last 50 years and the pace is picking up steam

The collapse comes the same weekend as a new study from the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) showing one third of all Antarctic sea ice will disappear by the end of the century.

The report found that ice coverage on the Antarctic Peninsula alone has decreased by 27,000 square kilometres in the past 50 years.

Early numbers put out by SCAR suggest the collapse of Antarctic sea-ice not only pushes up anticipated sea level rises but will threaten the numbers of native animal species including emperor penguins, humpback whales and several fish species.

Their research also shows sea temperatures in the Southern Ocean are rising faster than in other oceans, and that ice melts in the Antarctic Peninsula and Western Ice Shelf will be greater and more rapid than expected.

“Ice shelves the size of small countries are crumbling away and the latest evidence from the Antarctic is showing that the effects of global warming there are increasing in magnitude,” said Rob Nicoll of the Antarctic and Southern Oceans Initiative of the WWF.

Scientists were clealry surprised by how fast Wilkins fell apart. “It’s amazing how the ice has ruptured,” said David Vaughan, a glaciologist with the British Antarctic Survey. “Two days ago it was intact.” Wilkins

The connection with climate change is obvious to researchers who have been studying the area for years. Dr. Vaughan said the breakup up of Wilkins was a “really strong indication that warming is having an effect”.

Wilkins was already floating so the latest breakup will not directly affect global sea levels. However researchers believe that land-based glaciers that were held back by the Wilkins ice sheet will now advance more quickly into the ocean.

Researchers last month doubled their estimates for global sea level rise by the end f the century. Places in Northern hemisphere like New York City will be particularly hard hit due to uneven distribution of rising waters and changing ocean currents in the Atlantic.

The new Obama Administration is taking a refreshingly frank view of these changes rather than the years of delay and denial that defined the Bush Whitehouse.

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar released a statement about the Wilkins collapse saying it “demonstrates once again the profound effects our planet is already experiencing, more rapidly than previously thought, as a consequence of climate change”.

This urgent sentiment is echoed by his boss. President Omaba told cheering throngs gathered at Prague Castle this weekend:

“To protect our planet, now is the time to change the way that we use energy. Together we must confront climate change by ending the world’s dependency on fossil fuels by tapping the power from the sources of energy like the wind and the sun and calling upon all nations to do their part. And I pledge to you that in this global effort the US is now ready to lead.”

What a difference an election makes. Lets hope its not too late for Antarctica, or the world.

This month we’re giving away FREE copies of Thomas Friedman’s bestselling book Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America.

Go here to find out more details about DeSmogBlog’s monthly book give-away.

Previous Comments

We have been here before with the collapse Of Prince Gustav Ice Shelf….

This is what appeared in the popular press then as the usual suspects reported breathlessly “Rapid warming has led to the loss of seven ice shelves during the past 50 years.” 

However in their paper the authors also state that, “sediment cores reveal that from 6000 to 1900 years ago, the Prince Gustav Channel ice shelf which recently collapsed was absent and climate was as warm as it has been recently.” This did not appear in the popular press!

I suspect that this will bwe true of the Wilkins Ice Shelf

Vaughan, D.G., Marshall, G.J., Connolley, W.M., King, J.C. and Mulvaney, R.  2001.  Devil in the detail.  Science 293: 177-179

we should let Vaughan speak for himself.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7983955.stm

 

Nice one Richard…Always best to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

Nice one Mitchell…Always best to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

You presumably had a point to make with that link. What was it?

Whoa. Caught me off gaurd there. I was expecting a an update from Ian on all my assorted character flaws. :-)

It just strikes me funny that so many people have such a black and white view of the Wilkins ice shelf-i.e. the only possible explanation is that there is 0.0001 more co2 in the atmoshere than there was 100 years ago. There are obviously many complex matters involved and Vaughan himself has shown one here.

“we should let Vaughan speak for himself.”

The published researched of scientists is the established method for scientists to communicate.

So scientists shouldn’t be allowed to talk now?

That’s going to make conferences and lectures pretty dull.

The scientist’s study was non-alarmist and the scientist speaking was non-alarmist. Whenever possible though, one should refer to the scientist’s actual study.

What doesn’t get mentioned in the hysteria and dramatic reporting is that the Wilkins sheet accounts for a mere 0.39% of the entire antarctic ice sheet and that the piece actually breaking off represents less than 1/10th of the Wilkins ice sheet. In other words, if you’ve witnessed an icicle falling off your house, then you’ve seen this “shocking” event. Also, USGS reports that increased earthquake activity in the region may be partially responsible for this break. In addition, the Wilkins sheet is part of the Antarctica peninsula which protrudes into the South Atlantic, making it much more susceptible to ocean currents and wind, making this breakaway, although spectacular, rather meaningless in terms of ice mass decline and sea level rise.(D’Aleo) Even the IPCC in its 2007 assessment said that ice dynamics in relation to sea level rise were poorly understood.

In fact, there seems to be a lot about climate science that is poorly understood. And it isn’t so much that the debate regarding AGW is over … there never really WAS a debate.

Elements such as the Wilkins ice being a tiny part of the Antarctic is never mentioned in the popular press Geoff.

Either the reporters can’t be bothered to inquire or the climate scientists are not giving the public the proper perspective on these matters.

The same thing happens when we get the latest hysterical reporting on Greenland ice loss.

Are you joking, Paul?  What “hysterical reporting on Greenland ice loss”?  I haven’t heard any such reporting, though I have heard a few things about maps having to be redrawn as a result of the declining areal extent of the ice cap.  New islands being discovered and the like.

If anything, the reporting is too skeptical.  However, it looks as if that’s changed significantly in recent months or years, which is a positive sign in that the public is being informed about this urgent matter.  Hopefully they aren’t paying attention to the PR hacks or bankrolled “denier-for-hire” crowd, though, or else they’re being brainwashed.

Why would he joke about comments that come directly off this site? Take a look at Jeremy Jacquot’s comments in Tipping Points: http://desmogblog.com/tipping-points . Hmmm, what would happen “if” temperatures rose 2-4 degrees? How about 4-8 degrees by 2200? Hey … why stop there!! What would happen if temperatures rose (gasp!!) 20-30 degrees??!! Always if, if and if with the alarmist-for-hire crowd … well, Stephen, pardon the expression, but if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle.

Would you not call comments such as: “the complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet” hysterical? Nothing skeptical about that comment.

And you couldn’t help parrotting that old “bankrolled denier-for-hire” phrase, could you? Why not have a look here for a rebuttal to that tired argument: http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/06/global-warming-payola/

Or how about something in a little more depth regarding the red herring of funding. Oops, sorry … it’s from Inhofe’s site … you guys aren’t allowed to look at his comments, are you?: http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=38D98C0A-802A-23AD-48AC-D9F7FACB61A7

I echo Tierney’s comments: “Do the critics really think there’s more money and glory to be won by doubting global warming than by going along with the majority?” Why don’t you ask all the professionals who have put their reputations on the line only to be smeared again and again. How about those who are afraid for their careers if they so much as utter a peep of opposition? Ask Joanne Simpson, who actually believes we should act on cutting emissions, who had the sheer audacity to question the reliability of the GCM models in predicting warming. For the heretical act of questioning and asking for more complete information, she is presented at desmog as a denier.

Lost amongst the hysterical screams of AGW Alarmists about the breakup of the Wilkins Ice Shelf are some “inconvenient facts”:

1) Antarctic sea ice is about 1 MILLION square kilometres above “average”

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.365.south.jpg

 

2) Antarctic sea ice has been INCREASING over the last 40 years- by almost 5% per decade

http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/s_plot.png

 

3) There has been both an increase and REDISTRIBUTION of sea ice over the last 40 years- The Wilkins Shelf has gone because of this redistribution. And what is more when you go to this link the Wilkins Shelf would be too small to see.

http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/S_daily_extent.png

 

4) Global ice is above the 40 year mean by about 0.5 MILLION square kilometres.

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/global.daily.ice.area.withtrend.jpg

 

Please get things in perspective and stop cherry-picking!

 

The fact is that this is just another bad step following numerous collapses of ice shelves in recent times. It seems likely that the Wilkins ice shelf will collapse in the near future as a result of losing this pinning. As is well known, the cryosphere acts as an integrator of the local climate. Repeated ice shelf collapses would certainly indicate that the conditions which formed them thousands of years ago and that enabled their continued existence for thousands of years, are no longer extant. This is especially true of the Antarctic Peninsular.

World wide the cryosphere is declining. As is perfectly obvious to anyone with eyes, Global Sea Ice is declining. Phlogiston-troll  (who cited this link and simultaneously accused the non-trolls of cherry picking literally cherry picked this one herself) she should know by now that the trend line is used, not the noisy data, because that’s what  cherry-picking trolls do. Phlogiston-troll-hypocrite clearly has problems with honesty and telling the truth, but hey Phlogiston-troll-hypocrite is a troll and a hypocrite to boot.

Global Sea Ice Area

Nobody with any sense is claiming in such a complex set of circunstrances that climate change is the only factor, it is but one of a number. Clearly the vulcanisn will have a localised effect, which will exacerbate the local warming, but the science is clear, there is regional warming and warming and ice don’t mix. Please note, the warming started well before the recent vulcanism.

To simply ignore climate change as part of the process is just dishonest.

I do not deny “Climate Change”, as the climate has always changed, sometimes many times greater than at present. What I am sceptical about is the THEORY- and it is just a theory- of Anthropogenically-induced catastrophic climate change. Apart from GIGO GCMs- which again are not proven- they couldn’t even predict the Global cooling we have seen over the last 10 years, so Heaven help them over the next 100!

 

What I object to is greedy, scientists, prostituting themselves for grants, greedy Governments hungry for the money that “green” taxes will bring, a disaster-obsessed media which reports every minor climatic event as another sign of impending doom and a rag-tag band of self-loathing middle-class idiots who jump onto every anti-capitalist and anti-Western bandwagon going.

 

Fine if you guys want to go back to the Dark Ages, then go ahead. Just don’t expect me and the silent majority of “deniers” (try looking at some public opinion polls) to go with you. Pol Pot tried going back to “Year Zero” and we all know what happened next.

 

As for me, I’m loading up the Porsche Cayenne, driving the wife and excessive number of children, a few 100 miles on an off-road, camping and hunting holiday. We’ve got the patio heaters and crossbows. The only thing I’m dreading is those stupid wind turbines that are spouting like giant, toxic (and useless) mushrooms just about everywhere.

 

Phlogiston-troll-hypocrite,

AGW isn’t a THEORY, It’s a CONCLUSION, based upon the EVIDENCE.

But disinformation is part of your job description, isn’t it. So carry on telling lies about the science as long as they continue paying you.

The AGW community sure gets their hackles up when challenged. What comes through in CCs post above is a lot of ANGER and HOSTILITY. I would think that if this issue was “settled” that you people would simply shrug off any opposition. But no … you seem very intent on stomping and ridiculing until absolutely no semblence of opposition remains. When an issue of science is settled, their is virtually no opposition to it. They become self-evident; The earth revolves around the sun. The earth is a globe. The crust of the earth is broken and in motion, causing disturbances resulting in vulcanism and earthquakes. There is virtually NO opposition to these claims. I consider myself a pretty level-headed individual, and yet as I look around, I see a wealth of opposing information to the theory (yes, its a theory, regardless of how many times we are hammered over the head with it) of AGW. I am dumbfounded by the sheer magnitude of the hostility against any form of opposition and criticism.

Excuse me now … I’m off to Exxon headquarters to pick up my cheque.

Geoff,

AGW is a conclusion based upon observation, evidence-based models and science.

If you want to argue about the science, fine, although DeSmogBlog is not the correct venue. Just stop using emotive language and spouting propaganda. There is ample proof regarding the lies and disinformation from the deniers. 

Where is your wealth of peer-reviewed evidence that refutes all that science? Remember, you are the one making these ridiculous claims, therefore the burden of proof lies with you. FYI, it doesn’t exist!

Remember, that to undermine climate science would require an equivalent quantity of P/R science. To cause such a paradigm shift, you would need to find significantly more science that refutes existing science.

It is true that a very few peer-reviewed articles have questioned various aspects of the science. Some of these are genuine, but most are deeply suspect. Typically these are published in journals far from the specialties needed. Therefore the available referees are working well way from their speciality. 

FYI: The error strewn Gerlich and Tscheuschner won’t make the greenhouse effect go away.

Nobody said science  is perfect, neither is peer-review.

In-fact, peer-review is the worst possible means of ensuring scientific quality, apart from all the others.

Paraphrased from Winston Churchill

And one more thing. The definition of hypocrite: “a person who pretends to be what he or she is not”

By this definition, you believe that Phlogiston is actually a proponent of AGW. He should be your good buddy. You can’t even get your expletives right.

I love you guys. I make a post that is absolutely, irrevocably and completely true and I get a thumbs down. Check the definition for yourself. I may be wrong on AGW … yeah, I’m willing to even say that; but on this definition I am completely correct.

It just shows me that this community will never be open to debate.

The debate was open.  However, the debate is over.  AGW is happening and must be prevented as much as possible.

Your side lost.  Get over it.

refresh my memory.

When exactly did this debate take place?

You have a selective memory, Geoff.  Read the IPCC reports, NAS report, and others.

Geoff,

You are being deliberately obtuse and using a STRAWMAN argument.

Phlogiston pretends to be persuaded by the science which is clearly untrue.

Therefore she is a hypocrite.

I was correct and you are being dishonest. How typical of a denier.

Jamaican me crazy! Rocket German don’t do that.

Because of the climate change, the ice bergs are slowly but very strongly melting itself. The water level of the sea is now increasing up to 0.59 m. It may increase 20 feet in future. just imagine, most of the land will disappear. Who will save the earth and us? Acai

So we will need to change our maps because of a climate change and continents’ borders changes? :)