As accurately reported, a huge 2,240 square mile region of a floating ice shelf nearly the size of the state of Delaware recently split off of the Western Antarctic Peninsula. The new iceberg accounts for about 12% of the total shelf called “Larsen C.”
It should be no surprise that this event is being cited my many in the mainstream media as more clear evidence that human smokestacks and SUVs are overheating the planet and raising sea levels. Stoking this fossil-fueled fire and brimstone, they can blame President Trump for failing to jump aboard the sunbeam and windmill-powered Paris Climate Accord hybrid train to salvation.
At the risk of ruining a really good and scary campfire story, there are some important reasons for less concern and guilt.
For starters, consider that the entire West Antarctic ice sheet which has truly been experiencing modest warming contains less than 10% of continent’s total ice mass.
That other 90% has been getting colder, with no decline in polar ice extant since satellite recordings first began in 1979.
Researchers from the University of Maryland, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and the engineering firm Sigma Space Corporation reported satellite data showing that between 2003 and 2008, the continent of Antarctica has gained ice mass.
As summarized by Jay Zwally, a NASA geologist and lead author of the study, “We’re essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge in other parts of the continent,” adding that “Our main disagreement is for East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica; there we see an ice gain that exceeds the losses in other areas.”
Overall, the West Antarctic ice sheet has been melting at about its recent rate over thousands of years, a condition that will likely continue until either it entirely disappears or the next Ice Age intervenes to enable global warming alarmists to relax. As their domiciles and rose gardens become buried under miles of ice, those worrisome sea levels will likely drop about 400 feet again, just as they did during the last Ice Age.
Meanwhile, the latest iceberg won’t contribute to sea level rise, which has been occurring without acceleration at the rate of about 7 inches per century over the past several hundreds of years, long before the Industrial Revolution. Just like a melting ice cube in a glass of water (or whatever), the level won’t change at all.
Can the calving be confidently attributed to climate change (global warming) at all? As quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Kelly Brunt, a glaciologist at the University of Maryland and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, doesn’t believe so. She said that while the calving event was “way outside the average size,” it lacked telltale signs such as melt ponds.
Dr. Brunt went on to observe that while the collapse of an entire ice shelf could contribute more problematically to sea level rise by helping to prevent ice from the continent’s interior from creeping toward the edge and into the sea, this shouldn’t be a major concern in this instance. Since glaciers originating from a mountain range blocked by Larsen C are relatively small, the potential effects of an entire collapse would be “nothing to lose sleep over.”
Major West Antarctic ice sheet calving is nothing new. A similar event occurred at neighboring Larsen B in 2002. From a scientific perspective this can be expected to continue for reasons none of us, not even by bicycling our pets to the vet or electric carpooling, can control.
There is strong evidence indicating that the West Antarctic ice sheet isn’t melting due to warming surface temperatures, but rather because of natural heating from below.
In 2012 some experts from the University of Aberdeen and British Antarctic Survey discovered a huge 1-mile-deep rift valley about the size of the Grand Canyon located beneath the ice in the Western Antarctica. Since this previously hidden ice-filled basin connects directly with the warmer ocean, they think it might constitute a major cause for much of the melting in this region.
It might also be worth mentioning that a chain of active volcanoes has recently been discovered under that West Antarctic ice sheet as well. While it is believed that eruptions are unlikely to penetrate through the up to more than mile-thick overlying ice, researchers conclude that they could generate enough melt water to significantly influence ice stream flow.
So what does all of this really mean? It depends upon who we ask. Al Gore and the mainstream media will continue to tell us that it means more fossil fuel regulations and wind power subsidies are urgently needed to prevent catastrophic coastal flooding. Others will say that those who spread such nonsense are already in way over their heads.